© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

In 'Me,' Elton John Pulls Back The Curtain On A Storied Life

The year 2019 has been a busy one for Elton John — and a revelatory one for his fans, who have been graced with a biopic, Rocketman; a tour, "Elton John: Farewell Yellow Brick Road"; and now a memoir, simply titled Me.

In an interview with Weekend Edition, Sir John shared that at 72 years old, he's finally ready to look back.

"It all changed with having children," John told NPR. "Ten years ago [...] I had nothing planned for the rest of my life except making music and touring, and then we had two fabulous little boys. [...] And as much as I love playing, I want to be with my boys now. This is the new part of my life."

And to usher in this new era, John is first pulling back the curtain on his storied career, and on the constellation of drugs, celebrities, and disappointments that both plagued and pushed him.

In one instance, he recalled, he was high on cocaine at a barbecue in Los Angeles and insisting to Bob Dylan that he needed to get new clothes.

"How I had the nerve to tell Bob Dylan how to dress, I don't know," said John with a laugh, "But that's what drugs do for you. And I didn't care."

His drug-induced behavior wasn't always a laughing matter, though. Now famously sober for nearly three decades, John tells of how he had to seek treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, and attempted suicide three times before getting clean. But through it all, he had his music.

"Even during my addiction, I worked," he told NPR. "Because music was my touchstone [...] it was my pillow, it was my teddy bear."

Today, John has been directing his energy elsewhere: to his family; to championing the fights against AIDS and HIV; and, even, to sticking up for his friends.

"I admire Ellen for standing up and saying what she said," said John, in response to recent criticisms of Ellen DeGeneres, who sat with former president George Bush at a football game and later commented that she has friend who don't necessarily share the same beliefs as she has.

"George Bush has made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes. Ellen DeGeneres has made a lot of mistakes," said John. "People need to come together [...] They need to respect people's view on life. Except when it's heresy, and I don't think George Bush is that kind of guy."

And while he shied away from diving too deeply into his opinions on American politics (claiming that England has enough problems of its own at the moment), he noted that President Trump has kept PEPFAR — the President George W. Bush-era emergency plan for AIDS relief — "so that's a good thing."

Also of importance to Sir John? Privacy. Or more specifically, the right to privacy from the press. Addressing controversy from earlier this year, John spoke briefly about his friends, British royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and their recent lawsuit against several papers in Britain.

"I like the press. There's a need for the press," insisted John, "But sometimes they step out of their bounds, and hacking phones is not acceptable."

But phone hacking is likely something John doesn't have to worry about himself as, he told NPR, he doesn't own a cell phone.

Elton John's new memoir, Me: Elton John Official Autobiography, publishes on October 15.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
Andee Tagle
Andee Tagle (she/her) is an associate producer and now-and-then host for NPR's Life Kit podcast.