Well my year’s reading list is off to a good start – I just completed the first book of 2020, the much-publicized Me by Elton John. I’ve been a fan of John since I was a small kid (which coincided with the peak of his chart domination in the early-to-mid-’70s) so it held obvious appeal to me. Happily the kiddo got me a copy for my birthday late last year and once I started into it, I couldn’t put it down. Well, technically I did put it down, many times, but still, reading the 340-ish page autobiography in a week was fast work for me and an indication of how interesting it is.
Elton reveals many surprises about himself in the book but perhaps the biggest surprise to the reader is how little he actually talks about his music. Although he does mention briefly the inspirations for songs like “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, he spills very little ink actually analyzing his records or giving detail into the writing or recording process. What he does do though is give the reader great insight into what his life was like during the various time periods – and he pulls no punches.
The flamboyant singer hides little if anything of his troubled life, from his rocky relationship with his temper-tantrum throwing mother (whom he credits for his own bad temper) to his cold and distant father to the years of trouble caused by cocaine and over-drinking. He admits to feeling lucky he didn’t catch AIDS and succumb to a fate like Freddie Mercury (one of a number of close friends in music he shares stories about) and is able to mock his own lavish lifestyle which very nearly drove him to bankruptcy despite being one of music’s most successful and biggest-selling artists. The book is part anecdote, part cautionary tale.
Happily it’s also part redemption story. It might have taken him 60 years or so, but John (now 72) seems to have put his life together quite well and sort his priorities better than he did when young. He’s married, sober and a doting father to a couple of boys, for whom he apparently wrote the book.
Definitely a worthwhile read for any Elton fan, or for anyone looking to see what lifestyles of the rich and famous were like in the disco era.