March 24, 2012 at 8:03 PM ET
In his 1972 hit “Crocodile Rock,” Elton John nostalgically sung that he “remembered when rock was young.” As the iconic British rocker turns 65 on Sunday, March 25, it’s now John himself that millions remember from when rock was young, since his music has provided a soundtrack for every generation since the 1970s.
John, who was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, was never as beloved by critics as the '60s performers who came before him. But as the decades rolled on and the hits kept coming, he became an unlikely survivor from the crash-and-burn world of '70s rock. His influence is now so wide it can be seen in Lady Gaga (the godmother of his son) and heard in Billy Joel and even post-grunge acts like Fuel, who covered his 1973 smash “Daniel.”
John emerged as a singer-songwriter in the late 1960s, but made his name burning up stages dressed in outlandish costumes, singing glam rock-inspired songs like “Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting” and “The Bitch is Back.” When the ’70s ended, it seemed like his career would as well. But he staged a major comeback in the 1980s, arguably equaling his earlier music with rockers such as “I’m Still Standing” and ballads like “Sad Songs Say So Much.” He also took a daring career risk, coming out as bisexual (and eventually gay), and advocating early on for AIDS awareness.
In 1997, when John re-wrote his 1973 song (and 1987 hit) “Candle in the Wind” as a tribute to the late Princess Diana, Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards cracked that John had a thing for “writing songs about dead blondes.” Funny, but John had the last laugh, since the re-recording, also known as “Goodbye England’s Rose,” became the second biggest selling single ever, according to Guinness World Records. Not what you’d expect from a veteran performer, but exactly the kind of surprise success for which John is known. He’s currently touring and plans to release his 31st studio album, “The Diving Board,” this fall.
Check out some of John's greatest hits in the videos below, and vote for your favorite song. And join us on Facebook to discuss the music icon's life and career.
'Benny and the Jets'
'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me' (with George Michael)
'Candle in the Wind 1997'