'Awards Chatter' Podcast — Elton John ('Rocketman')

One of the all-time greatest singer-songwriters reflects on his rocky childhood; his 53-year relationship with Bernie Taupin; how drugs almost destroyed him; and revisiting all of the above in a 2019 film and book.
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Elton John

"I love music so much," says Elton John, the iconic and legendary singer-songwriter, as we sit down in the dining room of his art-filled Beverly Hills home to record an episode of The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast. The 72-year-old "Liberace of Rock 'n' Roll" — whose mantelpiece holds six Grammys, an Oscar, a Tony and a Kennedy Center Honor; who was knighted by the Queen of England in 1988; and who was a 1992 inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a 1994 inductee into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame — continues, "Music, from the age of 3 or 4, was my comfort blanket. And when I was doing terrible things to myself in the '70s and '80s, it was also my comfort blanket. And so it kept me alive. Music has been everything to me. And if I hadn't have had that love of music, I would have died, without question. Because even when I was at the depths of despair, I used to play music all the time."

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LISTEN: You can hear the entire interview below.

Past guests include Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Lorne Michaels, Barbra Streisand, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, Gal Gadot, Warren Beatty, Angelina Jolie, Snoop Dogg, Jessica Chastain, Stephen Colbert, Reese Witherspoon, Aaron Sorkin, Margot Robbie, Ryan Reynolds, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Jimmy Kimmel, Natalie Portman, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Gervais, Judi Dench, Quincy Jones, Jane Fonda, Tom Hanks, Amy Schumer, Justin Timberlake, Elisabeth Moss, RuPaul, Rachel Brosnahan, Jimmy Fallon, Kris Jenner, Michael Moore, Emilia Clarke, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Helen Mirren, Tyler Perry, Sally Field, Spike Lee, Lady Gaga, J.J. Abrams, Emma Stone, Al Pacino, Julia Roberts, Jerry Seinfeld, Dolly Parton, Will Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Carol Burnett and Norman Lear.

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The quality and longevity of John's output of popular music is virtually unparalleled. Over more than a half-century career, he has had 71 songs land on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, 58 in the top 40, 27 in the top 10 and nine that reached No. 1. He has had 17 studio albums land in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart and seven that reached No. 1. His Princess Diana tribute, "Candle in the Wind 1997," is the best-selling single in the history of the U.S. and U.K. charts. And he is still going strong.

In 2018, John embarked on a three-year journey to retirement with his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" tour, which has sold out arenas around the world. In 2019, his dishy autobiography Me, co-written with Alexis Petridis, became an instant best-seller. And also in 2019, he contributed original songs to two hit films, Jon Favreau's The Lion King and, even more personal to him, Dexter Fletcher's musical portrait of John's life up until 1990, Rocketman, which John also produced with his husband, David Furnish.

One of John's songs from each of those 2019 films landed on the shortlist of 15 songs from which the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is currently selecting its five best original song Oscar nominees: "Never Too Late" from The Lion King, which he co-wrote with Tim Rice, and "(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again" from Rocketman, which he co-wrote with his collaborator of 53 years, Bernie Taupin.

On Sunday night, "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" was awarded the best original song Golden Globe over tunes by, among others, Beyonce and Taylor Swift, marking the first time that John and Taupin have shared a major award for their work.

"I wanted to show the whole journey and the perils of it and the redemption," John says of Rocketman, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was released stateside last May. "And, [impressively] for an R-rated film, it did $100 million in America. I actually can honestly say I wouldn't change a thing about it. Taron [Egerton, who plays John in the film and was awarded the best musical/comedy Golden Globe for his performance] — I mean, when I was looking at him, I was thinking, 'That's me! That's me!'" John adds, "I just think it's phenomenal, and I really think he deserves the Oscar above anyone I've seen this year."

Over the course of our conversation, John and I discuss his tumultuous childhood; the evolution of his treasured friendship with Taupin; the stories behind his greatest hits; how substance abuse almost derailed his life and career; what it was like revisiting all of the above in Rocketman and Me; plus, much more.