Here’s a book I couldn’t wait to read.
It’s a grand time for Sir Elton John. Last year, Rocketman was released to big box office success. Me, his autobiography was a best seller, and he’s on the three-year farewell tour.
I found Me to be entertaining, but a patchwork study of his life. Whereas Rocketman covered only a section of his life, Me, is about everything up to the current point. If I want a film to be make of my life, I would take the route that Rocketman did. At key moments, breaking into song and dance, because, that’s how my life is as well.
Sir Elton is not a mystery to me or a lot of people, his life has been front page fodder for five decades. There was little that I found surprising in the book, although I knew less about some of his more recent health issues. For honesty, he pulled a lot of skeletons from the closet.
I’ll be honest, my main interest in the book was in finding out more about his music, the process and the details on albums and tours. This was my disappointment with the book. Overall, there was little new material on his music, especially the classic period of the 1970s. For example, there are one or two pages about Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and that information is available in the liner notes of the re-released version of the CD. He’s even skimpier on the music that followed.
The one project that he talks about in greater detail was his collaboration with Leon Russell, and I am thankful for that chapter. When Elton John arrived in America, where he was unknown, it was successful musicians like Russell, who embraced Elton’s and showed their support. Many years later, Elton remembered Russell and set out to find where he was. Elton was in Australia at the time and tracked Russell to his home in Nashville. Russell has having health and financial issues and even though he was in poor health, he had to tour to pay the bills. I remember seeing Leon Russell at a small venue about this same time, he rode between the stage and his trailer in a golf cart as he was not mobile. Still, he performed with every ounce of energy he had. That was the only time I ever saw him, and I’m glad that I did.
Elton thanked Russell for his kindness and helping him early in his career. After ending the call, Elton called him right back and asked that they do an album together, which would be The Union. In the book, Elton describes the difficulty Russell had in the studio, and in the subsequent world tour they did together, but Russell gave it his all. The Union, was a huge success, and allowed Russell to recover financially and tour in greater comfort during the last years of his life. That’s a heartwarming story.
Similar to the film, the focus is really what makes Elton, Elton. The book could really have been subtitled, Me: And My Mother, because the relationship between Elton and his mother takes up most of the mental energy in the book. As in the film, Elton did not have a very satisfying relationship with his mother, or his father. After his parents split up, he only saw his father a few times and was unsuccessful at fashioning a relationship. He realized it was not possible repair something that did not exist.
His mother on the other hand, was a constant source of frustration and pain. Through the years there were the battles and heartaches, but it seemed to fracture permanently when Elton married, his mother just not accepting someone who would be closer to her son, than she could be, even though she didn’t seem to try very hard. A very complicated relationship, the last years of her life there was little contact.
The point of the story, aside from describing his struggle with tremendous success, was in figuring out how to live with, and not be victim to, his demons and excesses. Famous or not, he would have struggled with some issues, that’s who he was and the environment Failed relationships, drugs, alcohol, depression and other addictions pushed him to ruin numerous times, but two things seemed to rescue and redirect his life. Getting clean and sober, and a healthy, nuclear family: a spouse and children. These two things forever changed him.
Me, is what Elton wants you to know about him. Fair enough. I just wanted to know more about his musical side, he might not have thought that was interesting, but I would have.