I’ve been listening to/watching Sir Elton John over the last couple of days. He really is a British National Treasure, a genius songwriter (as is Bernie Taupin, a genius lyricist). The Beatles and The Stones are grouped together as Britain’s ‘greatest’ and, of course, they are amongst our very, VERY best but Elton is surely up there with them (and so is, I believe, George Michael). The Beatles and The Stones were part of the soundtrack to change in the 60’s…political, musical, fashion, cultural, societal change and that adds weight to their importance and place in history, not just musical history but 20th Century British (and world) history.
I think Elton and Bernie’s “Your Song” was their first No.1, in 1970, and, of course, George Michael began as a 1980’s phenomenon. If they had been ‘in biz’ in the 60’s with The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Hollies, if they’d been around when Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan were brainstorming in 1960’s Greenwich Village, they’d have been right in there with The Stones’ and The Beatles’ input into that soundtrack of ‘change’.
Of course, Elton and George are recognised and acknowledged around the world as outstanding musicians but they aren’t mentioned in the same breath as The Beatles and The Stones because the 70’s and 80’s were not decades of cultural seismic change.
Couple of things to add:
I think that Elton’s involvement in Princess Diana’s funeral moved him out of ‘just’ the music section of the history books and into the ‘change’ in the 20th Century section. I also think that his work with AIDS charities and gay rights takes him beyond the music pages.
Also, I said above that the 70’s and 80’s were not periods of ‘change’. That’s not quite right because to say that would be to ignore the ‘Thatcher’ revolution and the ‘clash’ between the ‘Right’ and the ‘Left’. Of course, there was a soundtrack to that ‘change’…UB40, Billy Bragg/Red Wedge, The Specials to name just 3 bands/people/groups of the time…but the ‘change’ was not nearly as culturally wide-ranging as that seen in the 60’s.
I’ve included 3 great performances of 3 great songs – enjoy: