Working in a band called Bluesology throughout the mid to late 1960s, his first international hits came in 1971 on his second album, a self-titled release, including "Your Song." The lyrics, then and since, were written by chief collaborator Bernie Taupin.
He went on to be one of the 1970s most successful recording artists, with globally-successful singles including "Rocket Man," "Crocodile Rock," "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," and, notably "Candle In The Wind" (a song about Marilyn Monroe) and the equally well-known B-Side "Bennie And The Jets."
His 1980s hits included "Nikita," "Sad Songs," and "I'm Still Standing," amongst others, most featuring his distinctive piano playing.
In 1997, he updated the lyrics of "Candle In The Wind" for a special version mourning the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and this became the fastest selling single of all time.
He has also done work both for and in films. In 1971, he wrote original songs for the movie Friends. In 1975, he appeared as the Pinball Wizard in the movie version of the rock opera Tommy. Then, in 1994, he (along with Tim Rice) wrote the songs for the Walt Disney animated film The Lion King (John and Rice subsequently won a Best Original Song Oscar for "Can You Feel The Love Tonight"). Five years later, he wrote the score for The Muse, and a year later composed songs for another animated film, Dreamworks' The Road To El Dorado. His most recent movie song was "The Heart Of Every Girl" (the end title song from 2003's Mona Lisa Smile).
In 2003, he reached number one in the United Kingdom with a rerelease of the single "Are You Ready For Love" which had been only a minor hit when first released in 1979.
He continues to release new material to commercial success and tours extensively, despite being fitted with a pacemaker.
Elton has had a complicated personal history. Coming out first as bisexual in 1976, he married (1984) and quickly divorced (1988) Renate Blauel. He subsequently stated that he was gay and has lived with his partner David Furnish, for a number of years. He has occasionally battled addictions to cocaine and financial difficulties caused by his profligate spending.
Elton has long been associated with AIDS charities after the death of his friend Ryan White, raising large amounts of money and using his public profile to attract attention to the disease.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, a list of 150 songs circulated on the Internet, purported to be from radio conglomerate Clear Channel Communications to its subsidiaries, with the recommendation that these songs be pulled from airplay (it was later revealed that the list was originally the work of a few specific station program directors, was not an official Clear Channel missive, and changed over time as it was distributed). Three Elton John songs were listed: "Benny & The Jets", "Daniel", and "Rocket Man".