Book Review: Looking into Elton John's life

Rocketman is a pretty good movie. It has received a number of award nominations, including a Golden Globe win for Taron Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John.  But the movie isn’t strictly speaking a biography of Elton John, and it wasn’t really designed to be. It’s definitely a fictionalised version of his life.  Lots of liberties were taken at the full approval of Elton John himself, who was a producer of the film.  The story is as much about themes in his life rather than the actual events, though many were recreated relatively faithfully. As good as it is, if you want a more accurate story, you could read Me by Elton John himself. 

I love Elton John’s music.  I’m too young to be an original fan but I’ve been aware of his music for my whole life, though there were certain songs and eras that just made him seem like a joke.  It wasn’t until The Lion King and its soundtrack that I realized how good he was.  In Me, John really explains why this was the case.  He pulls no punches about his rampant drug and alcohol addictions, how they affected his life and his relationships, and how he didn’t really care about anything at all after years of fame and success.

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Elton John is a cantekerous man. He’s petty, he has a short temper and he’s a prima donna.  He knows he’s a great performer, a brilliant songwriter, and he knows he’s rich and famous, and doesn’t take nonsense from anyone.  He doesn’t hide from any of this.  Never in this book does he pretend to be anything other than he is.  He knows where to put the blame for the awful things he’s said and done to people, and that’s firmly on himself. 

Me is shameless in its name dropping.  John has a lot of famous friends and by later adulthood almost everyone he associates with is as famous as he is.  It’s almost strange to read about so many celebrities, up to and including Queen Elizabeth herself, in contexts that are almost normal. Sometimes reading about a famous person ruins the experience of listening to their music or watching their movies.  This didn’t happen for me, largely because Elton John is famous for being a difficult person.  If anything, I appreciated him more for the fact that he was honest about it.

Read Me, by Elton John.  It’s a fascinating story, and it’s a little bit funny.

Steven McCreedy is a library technician at the Cambie Branch of the Richmond Public Library

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