A duet with Luciano Pavarotti, "Live Like Horses", reached number nine in the UK in December 1996. A compilation album, Love Songs, was released in 1996. Early in 1997, John held a 50th birthday party, costumed as Louis XIV of France, with 500 friends. He performed with the surviving members of Queen in Paris at the opening night (17 January 1997) of Le Presbytère N'a Rien Perdu De Son Charme Ni Le Jardin De Son Éclat, a work by French ballet legend Maurice Béjart that draws upon the AIDS crisis and the deaths of Freddie Mercury and the company's principal dancer, Jorge Donn. Later in 1997, two close friends died: designer Gianni Versace was murdered on 15 July, and Diana, Princess of Wales died in a Paris car crash on 31 August.
In 1974, John collaborated with John Lennon on his cover of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", the B-side of which was Lennon's "One Day at a Time." In return, John was featured on "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" on Lennon's album Walls and Bridges. Later that year, in Lennon's last major live performance, the pair performed these two number-one hits, along with the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There", at Madison Square Garden in New York. Lennon made the rare stage appearance with John and his band to keep the promise he had made that he would appear on stage with him if "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" became a US number one single. Caribou was released in 1974, becoming John's third number one in the UK and topping the charts in the US, Canada and Australia. Reportedly recorded in two weeks between live appearances, it featured "The Bitch Is Back" and the orchestrated "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me". "Step into Christmas" was released as a stand-alone single in November 1973, and appears in the album's 1995 remastered reissue.More Info
With original band members Johnstone, Murray and Olsson together again, John returned to the charts with the 1983 album Too Low for Zero, which included the singles "I'm Still Standing" (No. 4 UK) and "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues", the latter of which featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica and reached number four in the US and number five in the UK. In October 1983, John caused controversy when he broke the United Nations' cultural boycott on apartheid-era South Africa by performing at Sun City. He married his close friend and sound engineer, Renate Blauel, on Valentine's Day 1984; the marriage lasted three years.More Info
To celebrate five years since he had first appeared at the venue, in 1975, John played a two-night, four-show stand at the Troubadour. With seating limited to under 500 per show, the chance to purchase tickets was determined by a postcard lottery, with each winner allowed two tickets. Everyone who attended the performances received a hardbound "yearbook" of the band's history. That year, he also played piano on Kevin Ayers's Sweet Deceiver and was among the first and few white artists to appear on the African-American television series Soul Train. On 9 August 1975, John was named the outstanding rock personality of the year at the first annual Rock Music Awards in Santa Monica, California. In May 1976, the live album Here and There was released, followed in October by the album Blue Moves, which contained the single "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word". His biggest success in 1976 was "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", a duet with Kiki Dee that topped a number of charts, including the UK, the US, Australia, France and Canada.More Info
John formed his own label, The Rocket Record Company (distributed in the US by MCA and initially by Island in the UK), and signed acts to it—notably Neil Sedaka (John sang background vocals on Sedaka's "Bad Blood") and Kiki Dee, in whom he took a personal interest. Instead of releasing his own records on Rocket, he signed an $8 million contract with MCA. When the contract was signed in 1974, MCA reportedly took out a $25 million insurance policy on John's life. In 1974, MCA released Elton John's Greatest Hits, a UK and US number one that is certified Diamond by the RIAA for US sales of 16 million copies.More Info
In November 1977, John announced he was retiring from performing; Taupin began collaborating with others. Now producing only one album a year, John issued A Single Man in 1978 with a new lyricist, Gary Osborne; the album produced no singles that made the top 20 in the US, but the two singles from the album released in the UK, "Part-Time Love" and "Song for Guy", both made the top 20 there, with the latter reaching the top 5. In 1979, accompanied by Ray Cooper, John became one of the first Western artists to tour the Soviet Union and Israel. John returned to the US top ten with "Mama Can't Buy You Love" (number 9), a song MCA rejected in 1977, recorded with Philadelphia soul producer Thom Bell. John said Bell was the first person to give him voice lessons and encouraged him to sing in a lower register. A disco-influenced album, Victim of Love, was poorly received. In 1979, John and Taupin reunited, though they did not collaborate on a full album until 1983's Too Low For Zero. 21 at 33, released the following year, was a significant career boost, aided by his biggest hit in four years, "Little Jeannie" (number 3 US), with the lyrics by Gary Osborne. In May 1979, John became the first Western rock act to play behind the Iron Curtain, playing eight concerts in the Soviet Union; four dates in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) and four in Moscow. At the same time, Elton collaborated with the French couple France Gall and Michel Berger on the songs "Donner pour donner" and "Les Aveux", released together in 1980 as a single.More Info
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