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.
Backed by former Spencer Davis Group drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray, John's first American concert took place at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on 25 August 1970, and was a success. The concept album Tumbleweed Connection was released in October 1970 and reached number two in the UK and number five in the US. The live album 17-11-70 (titled 11–17–70 in the US) was recorded at a live show aired from A&R Studios on WABC-FM in New York City. Sales of the live album took a blow in the US when an east-coast bootlegger released the performance several weeks before the official album, including all 60 minutes of the aircast, not just the 40 minutes selected by Dick James Music.More Info
John had other hits during the 1980s, including "Nikita", whose music video was directed by Ken Russell. The song reached number three in the UK and number seven in the US. In 1986, a live orchestral version of "Candle in the Wind" reached number six in the US, while "I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That" reached number two there in 1988. John's highest-charting single was a collaboration with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder called "That's What Friends Are For". It reached number one in the US in 1985; credited as Dionne and Friends, the song raised funds for HIV/AIDS research. His albums continued to sell, but of those released in the latter half of the 1980s, only Reg Strikes Back (number 16, 1988) placed in the top 20 in the US.More Info
In 1985, John was one of the many performers at Live Aid, held at Wembley Stadium. He played "Bennie and the Jets" and "Rocket Man"; then "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Kiki Dee for the first time since the Hammersmith Odeon on 24 December 1982; and introduced George Michael, still then of Wham!, to sing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me". In 1984, he released Breaking Hearts, which featured the song "Sad Songs (Say So Much)", number five in the US and number seven in the UK. John also recorded material with Millie Jackson in 1985. In 1986, he played the piano on two tracks on the heavy metal band Saxon's album Rock the Nations.More Info
In 1967, John answered an advertisement in the British magazine New Musical Express, placed by Ray Williams, then the A&R manager for Liberty Records. At their first meeting, Williams gave John an unopened envelope of lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, who had answered the same ad. John wrote music for the lyrics and then sent it to Taupin, beginning a partnership that still continues. When the two first met in 1967, they recorded the first Elton John/Bernie Taupin song, "Scarecrow". Six months later, John began going by the name Elton John in homage to two members of Bluesology: saxophonist Elton Dean and vocalist Long John Baldry. He legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John on 7 January 1972.More Info
On the advice of music publisher Steve Brown, John and Taupin began writing more complex songs for John to record for DJM. The first was the single "I've Been Loving You" (1968), produced by Caleb Quaye, Bluesology's former guitarist. In 1969, with Quaye, drummer Roger Pope, and bassist Tony Murray, John recorded another single, "Lady Samantha", and an album, Empty Sky. For their follow-up album, Elton John, John and Taupin enlisted Gus Dudgeon as producer and Paul Buckmaster as musical arranger. Elton John was released in April 1970 on DJM Records/Pye Records in the UK and Uni Records in the US, and established the formula for subsequent albums: gospel-chorded rockers and poignant ballads. The album's first single, "Border Song", peaked at 92 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second, "Your Song", reached number seven in the UK Singles Chart and number eight in the US, becoming John's first hit single as a singer. The album soon became his first hit album, reaching number four on the US Billboard 200 and number five on the UK Albums Chart.More Info
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