Elton John’s Story Of Awkwardly Meeting Stevie Wonder
Elton John covers The Beatles' " Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds" - Elton John / Youtube
You know what they say about meeting your heroes? That those people you idolize might disappoint and disenchant you when you finally meet them. Elton John experienced the opposite.
The Rocketman had just completed a disappointing show and was seeking solitude on a flight. However, his publicist persistently encouraged him to go to the bar, where Stevie Wonder was secretly waiting to perform “Happy Birthday”.
John eventually agreed after his publicist tearfully revealed the surprise plan. Reflecting on the memory, John admitted that it was an embarrassingly unforgettable moment, and one he’s not particularly proud of.
“Had I not been cruising at 40,000 feet, I’d have prayed for the ground to open and swallow me,” John shared.
Elton John nearly snubbed Stevie Wonder’s birthday serenade
With his demanding schedule and a significant amount of drugs in his system, John was beginning to crumble under the immense pressure of being one of the world’s biggest stars.
While aboard Led Zeppelin’s famous aircraft, The Starship, John locked himself in the bathroom for several hours and refused to come out.
In his autobiography, ME, The renowned musician described how he berated his American publicist, Sharon Laurence, when he inadvertently met his idol. He said, “[She] started knocking on the door and pleading with me to come out. I told her to fuck off. She kept coming back. Eventually, she burst into tears – ‘You have to come to the bar!’ – so I angrily opened the door and did as she asked, with a lot of huffing and eye-rolling en route.”
Upon reaching the bar, John noticed that none other than Stevie Wonder was seated at the organ, prepared to perform for them. A hyped Elton John listened to his new friend delight him with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” and a selection of the Rocketman’s own songs,
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A unique friendship in troubled times
Although John managed to mend his relationship with Wonder and remained friends over the years, this incident marked the beginning of his emotional descent.
During the latter part of the 1970s, John frequently struggled with his assessment of his own work, often engaging in cocaine-fueled endeavors that he later considered to have led to his worst album, Leather Jackets.
When you lose interest in a performance by a legend like Stevie Wonder, it’s a clear sign that something has gone seriously awry, even amidst the pinnacle of success.
On the other hand, Wonder had endured a harrowing and widely publicized car accident just a few weeks earlier. That evening, John supported Stevie’s return to the stage in front of 15,500 people at Boston Garden, kickstarting his journey back to public performances.
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I guess that’s why they call it the blues
By the early 1980s, Elton John and Stevie Wonder had known each other for about a decade without collaborating on any music together. However, this changed in 1982, leading to the creation of a timeless song that John continues to perform in his live shows.
“I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” marked a significant moment in John’s career and his enduring partnership with his longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin. It had been a few years since they had last written a song together when John finally composed a melody to complement Taupin’s lyrics.
Music critic Bill Janovitz, as noted on AllMusic, described the single as a poignant slice of self-aware, nostalgic sentiment, further elevated by Wonder’s contribution: a powerful harmonica solo that accentuates the song’s emotional climax.
This Elton John classic reached the fourth position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the fifth spot on the U.K. singles chart, maintaining its presence on both charts for several months. It has since achieved platinum status in the United States.