Elton John

A man who changes his name from Reginald Kenneth Dwight to Elton Hercules John cannot be anything but a showman. And Sir Elton John (the Queen granted him a knighthood in 1997) he of the flamboyant glasses, extreme shopping habits and multiple-platinum record sales - is certainly that.

Born in Pinner, Middlesex, on March 25, 1947, Reg signalled his intentions early on in life, winning a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music aged 11. Until he hooked up with lyricist Bernie Taupin, with whom he had some of the biggest hits of his career.

Elton had a plethora of jobs: he ran errands for a London publishing house, played piano in a hotel, and re-recorded cover versions of pop singles to be sold in supermarkets.

Although he released his first album in 1969, he did not taste success until the following year in America, where his eponymously-titled album picked up some airplay.

Between 1972 and 1976 there was no stopping the Bernie and Elton double act. The year after he helped co-write John Lennon's comeback single, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, Elton's Captain Fantastic album became the first LP to go straight to the Number One slot in the US.

Although his career seemed to decline at the tail-end of the Seventies, MTV helped propel the singles from his 1983 album Too Low For Zero back towards the top of the charts.

Some have said that by revealing his bisexuality - he later admitted that it was a compromise, because he was afraid to admit he was gay - Elton lost many of his fans.

In 1984, amidst much turmoil in his personal life he was heading towards treatment for bulimia, cocaine addiction and alcoholism Elton married German sound engineer Renate Blauel, but the union was short-lived and the couple divorced in 1988. Elton later admitted that he knew he was gay even before he tied the knot.

Fast forward a decade or so, and Elton is a changed man. He has been in a stable relationship for several years with film-maker David Furnish, who he has been in a civil partnership with since December 2005. On Christmas Day 2010 a surrogate mother gave birth to their son Zachary, who is a constant joy for them both.

The couple are now fully paid-up members of the Establishment. Elton sang at Princess Diana's funeral: the song, Candle In The Wind 1997, sold over three million in its first week and is the charismatic singer-songwriter's biggest hit.

He raises millions of pounds every year with his charity, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, hosting an annual ball at his Windsor mansion that is attended by the great, the good, and the terminally glamorous.
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