Tonight I went to a small listening party for Elton John’s new album, “Diving Board.” It’s a beautiful, sumptuous album that really highlights Elton’s magnificent piano playing.
I don’t really remember a time in my life when Elton’s music wasn’t a part of it and he’s still one of my favorite artists. They say it’s a bad idea to meet your childhood idols and, to be sure, I’ve been disappointed in a few that I’ve met, but Elton would not be one of them. I first met him eight years ago when I interviewed him for a Billboard story and we hit it off.
I’m not in his inner circle by any means, but when we see each other, it’s always warm and wonderful. When I got laid off from Billboard, Elton was one of the first people to call me and tell me it would be alright. That’s how kind he is. He didn’t have to do that, but he knew it meant the world to me. I told my mom that Elton had called to say everything would be fine and that’s when I think she breathed a deep sign of relief and thought if Elton had said it, it most be true. And it was.
I’ve visited him in the studio for the last two albums and interviewed him numerous times now. He’s as friendly, funny, and gracious as can be, but there’s no getting around the butterflies when I realize I’m talking to Sir frigging Elton frigging John. I still, nearly 10 years later, can’t get over the fact that he knows my name. Sir frigging Elton frigging John....
Tonight, after producer T Bone Burnett led a playback of five songs from the album, Elton came out and played three songs live, which was as great as you’d think it would be.
Then, he admitted that he had butterflies. He said he was a “nervous wreck” to play the new material for us. It was an endearing moment. He seemed to delight in the fact that after all these decades of being a superstar, he still got a little nervous when it came to debuting the new stuff. Maybe, then, it’s just fine that I still get butterflies when I talk to him and other superstars. Maybe it’s just a sign that I still am growing and loving what I do and I’m not jaded. I really still care about how I do my job. That’s how I’m going to look at it from here on out. If it’s good enough for Elton, it’s good enough for me.
As much as Elton’s music will be his legacy, his legacy will also be his tremendous work he’s done for AIDS research. In its 20 years, The Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised more than $300 million and its goal is to create an AIDS-free future. Elton is a tireless advocate for the foundation, traversing the globe in search of a cure, speaking at AIDS conferences, speaking to anyone who will listen about this horrible disease. I’m proud to call Elton one of my heroes, even more so now than when I was growing up.
April 11: Elton John AIDS Foundation
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