Elton John Biography: Later Years (1977-Today)

In 1977, Elton John retired from live performing; however he was soon back in concert venues. He began working with different lyricists and musicians than he had during the early part of his career, and though he still had a number of hits, his success waned. After a brief marriage to his female sound engineer, John revealed his homosexuality and became an important fundraiser for AIDS research. He finally quit drugs, and experienced a comeback in 1994 with the soundtrack to “The Lion King.” His biggest hit ever came three years later after the death of his friend, Princess Diana. Today, he is still touring, creating music and making his mark on the world. In this video, WatchMojo.com takes a look at the later years of Elton John’s career, from 1977-today. Check out Part 1: The Early Years.

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Biography of Elton John: The Later Years (1977-Today)

He’s still standing. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re looking at the later years of Elton John’s life and career, from 1977 to the present.

Musical Struggles

Frazzled and burnt out from drug abuse and a hectic touring schedule, Elton John retired from live concerts in 1977, and began releasing only one album annually. He also turned to lyricists other than Bernie Taupin, and issued some relatively forgettable albums.

Huge Concerts

But soon, John made his performing comeback by becoming one of the first western artists to tour the Soviet Union. He also reunited with the original Elton John Band for a huge free concert in Central Park in September 1980.

Taupin Back on Lyrics

Two years later, he released Jump Up!, which included the John Lennon tribute “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny.)” 1983’s Too Low for Zero marked the permanent return of Taupin on lyrics, and was another hit.


John started another partnership in 1984: he married sound engineer Renate Blauel. Of the albums released during his four-year-long marriage, all had charting singles, most notably 1985’s “Nikita.”

“That’s What Friends Are For”

That year also had John team up with other stars to raise funds for the American Foundation for AIDS Research with the hit single “That’s What Friends Are For,” and he won a Grammy for his trouble.

Vocal Surgery

However, he soon got a wake-up call: his ongoing smoking and drug abuse caused so much damage, he required throat surgery in early 1987 that left his voice forever changed.

Reg Strikes Back

The last few albums of the ‘80s pleased fans, but only 1988’s Reg Strikes Back charted in the U.S. top 20. To support that record, he filled Madison Square Garden for five shows.

Quits Drugs and Alcohol

1988 included another defining moment for John: he symbolically sold his old costumes at auction, and began combating his demons. By 1990, he quit drugs and alcohol.

Sleeping with the Past and Duets

Meanwhile, 1989’s Sleeping with the Past kept the singles coming. In 1991, a live duet with George Michael of his already-huge song “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” came out, and was eventually featured on the album Duets along with other Elton John musical match-ups.

Elton John AIDS Foundation

1992’s The One proved Elton John was still relevant. That year, he also established the Elton John AIDS Foundation after losing friends Freddy Mercury and Ryan White to the disease, and began donating all proceeds from his single sales to the cause.

“The Lion King”

However, 1994 marked his true comeback: he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and teamed up with Tim Rice to pen the soundtrack to Disney’s “The Lion King.” Of the film’s several hit songs, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” earned John both a Grammy and an Oscar.

“Candle in the Wind 1997”

In 1995, he paid tribute to his roots with Made in England, and released Love Songs the next year. The Big Picture hit stores in 1997, just months after John lost his friends Gianni Versace and Princess Diana. He performed a reworked version of “Candle in the Wind” in moving tribute to Lady Di at her funeral, and this song became his biggest hit ever. It also won him another Grammy.

Sir Elton John

Elton John then transitioned to theatre by adapting “The Lion King” into a stage show in 1997, and by penning the Tony and Grammy Award-winning Aida with Tim Rice the following year. 1998 also saw John knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Relationship with David Furnish

Between releasing albums, pioneering “Billy Elliott the Musical,” and tackling Las Vegas stage shows, Elton John stayed busy. In 2005, he entered a civil union with his longtime partner David Furnish, and the couple later had baby Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John via a surrogate.

Recent Successes

John also toured with fellow piano man Billy Joel, performed with Lady Gaga, lent his music to the soundtrack of “Gnomeo & Juliet” and collaborated with Leon Russell on 2010’s The Union.


Elton John has boasted over 50 hit songs through his career, and has sold over 250 million albums, making him one of history’s most successful musicians. He’s known for his outspoken diva personality, eccentric costumes and blend of varied influences; but it’s his genius as a pianist, songwriter and vocalist that keeps this bitch coming back.

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