Elton John visits BR on heels of ‘most adult album’

Associated Press photo by LUIS HIDALGO -- Musician Elton John performs at the Vina del Mar International Song Festival in Vina del Mar, Chile, on Feb. 28. Show caption
Associated Press photo by LUIS HIDALGO -- Musician Elton John performs at the Vina del Mar International Song Festival in Vina del Mar, Chile, on Feb. 28.

The River Center’s January announcement of Elton John’s Friday, March 29, show at the arena stirred much excitement. It’s John’s first concert in Baton Rouge with a full band since 1992.

John, who turned 66 Monday, has a vast catalog of hits, more songs than he can play in a single show, unless he performs excerpts from them in a marathon medley.

In a solo career dating to 1969, the British singer, songwriter and pianist’s career statistics include 56 Top 40 singles, 35 gold albums, 25 platinum albums and 29 consecutive Top 40 hits. He’s sold more than 250 million records and played close to 3,000 concerts.

John’s latest U.S. tour follows the South American tour he performed in February and March. He goes to Europe and the British Isles in the summer. In the year since his 65th birthday, he’s given 100 performances, including an appearance at Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee concert.

John’s upcoming album, The Diving Board, is expected to be released in the fall. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of two of his classic albums, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player. The musician’s website also reports that a bio-pic about his life, Rocketman, is in the works.

John began collaborating with his longtime songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, in 1967. By the late ’60s, the prolific team was writing songs for John and other artists as well.

John’s career as a front man exploded in 1970 with the album Your Song and its title track. Many Americans saw him for the first time when he performed “Your Song” on Andy Williams’ TV variety show.

A swift succession of albums and singles followed, including the hits “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “The Bitch Is Back,” “Rocket Man,” “Honky Cat” and “Crocodile Rock.”

John also joined his friend John Lennon in the studio and onstage for the former Beatle’s 1974 hit “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.” After Lennon’s murder in 1980, John recorded a Beatles-esque tribute to him, “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny).”

More than a decade into his solo career, John remained a potent commercial force during the MTV era, releasing hits in the ’80s such as “I’m Still Standing,” “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” and “Candle in the Wind.”

The ’90s saw more success with John’s collaboration with Tim Rice for the Disney musical The Lion King. In 1997, John performed “Candle in the Wind” at the funeral of his friend, Diana, Princess of Wales. The song, released as a single, sold more than 33 million copies, raising millions for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

In 1998, John received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for “services to music and charitable services,” officially becoming Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE.

The British newspaper The Guardian quoted John describing his upcoming album, The Diving Board, as “the most piano-oriented album of my career.” American producer T-Bone Burnett helmed the project, the singer’s 30th studio album.

“It’s my most adult album,” John said last month. “It’s got everything I love about American music — gospel, soul, country.”