As an incredibly influential figure in both music and global health activism, Elton John is the embodiment of the pop-in-hand-with-policy model at the heart of Global Citizen.
After smashing through the 1970s and 80s with hit after hit, the singer and pianist went on to set up the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) in 1992 after Freddie Mercury, his friend and frontman of the band Queen, died from the disease. In doing so, John used his star power to help put defeating HIV/AIDS on the global agenda and made an enormous difference in the process.
The foundation has since raised $450 million for HIV/AIDS programs across four continents. This funding has gone towards research, advocacy, breaking down stigma, and supporting over 90 charities to provide health care across the world.
John frequently uses speeches to speak out and put pressure on governments and health leaders to do more to tackle the disease, such as calling on the UK last year to bring in wider testing to help eradicate new cases by 2030.
He’s also been an advocate demanding equality for the LGBTQ+ community over the years, including speaking out and raising funds to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage in California in 2011.
In recognition of his work with EJAF, Global Citizen awarded John the 2020 Global Citizen Artist of the Year award. “I’m extremely grateful for this accolade… but for me, it reminds me of all the work yet to do,” he told Miley Cyrus when she presented him with the award during the Global Citizen Prize award ceremony.
“We’ve got our foot on the accelerator, we cannot take it off,” he added. “We want the young people to pass the message on. And if I’ve got you by my side, then I think we can beat this.”
With his powerful vocals and trademark showmanship including outrageous outfits and iconic eyewear, John was catapulted to the world stage after releasing “Your Song” in 1970. He had spent his teenage years in the ‘60s playing piano with his band Bluesology and working as a session musician before meeting lyricist Bernie Taupin who became his long-time musical partner.
Sir @EltonOfficial wants to make sure that no one gets left behind because of HIV/AIDS or COVID-19, and that’s why he’s the winner of the 2020 Global Citizen Artist of the Year award. At #GCPrize, he spoke with @mileycyrus about the amazing work of his foundation, @ejaf. pic.twitter.com/84oZgGE6SV— Global Citizen (@GlblCtzn) December 20, 2020
Over the decades since he’s received multiple Grammy and Brit awards, two Oscars for songwriting, and sold more than 250 million records worldwide.
As a pop legend, John now boasts a song catalogue that has infused musical culture and been referenced many times over — with enduring favourites like “Tiny Dancer” name-dropped in songs by Lana Del Rey and David Guetta, and covered by Dave Grohl.
His songs speak so well to the human condition. Listeners will find a melodic ballad fit for the whole spectrum of emotions from falling in love to heartbreak, to just reflecting on life.
It was apt therefore that John chose his ode to surviving life’s challenges, “I’m Still Standing”, for his performance at Global Citizen’s One World: Together At Home, a broadcast and digital special that aired in April 2020 and raised $127.9 million for the global COVID-19 response.
John has since revealed that he spent the rest of lockdown in the US producing music with a string of high-profile collaborators.
The resulting album, The Lockdown Sessionsis due out on Oct. 22, and features Lil Nas X, Miley Cyrus, Charlie Puth, Dua Lipa, Nicky Minaj, Eddie Vedder, Stevie Wonder, and more. It will be John’s 32nd studio album.
“You can’t get a better bucket list than that,” the singer said of the artists he worked with in an Instagram message about the album, adding that many are personal heroes of his. “I never thought I would produce music during lockdown… but I had so much fun,” he said.
The range of music on the album — rap, country, blues, soul, and more — along with John’s desire to write and produce music with the stars of 2021 highlights his undimmed musical inspiration after decades in the game.
“I only look forward, I don’t look back,” John said in a 2016 interview with James Corden. “Whenever you hear something new that inspires you from the young, it makes you feel like ‘I’m going to do that, I want to do that.’”
We’re so pleased that Elton John will bring his talent to the stage at Global Citizen Live in Paris on Sept. 25.
He will perform in front of the Eiffel Tower, joining a lineup that includes Ed Sheeran, Doja Cat, Black Eyed Peas, Stormzy, and Christine and the Queens, as well as special guests Angélique Kidjo, Charlie Puth, and Fatma Said.
On Sept. 16, John announced that the European leg of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, delayed once already due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be pushed back until 2023 as a result of a hip injury, making it even more significant that he will still play live in Paris.
The show will be part of a 24-hour global broadcast of live events and programming across seven continents and is a once-in-a-generation moment of unity calling for worldwide action to tackle the climate crisis, defeat poverty, address famine, and push for equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.
You can find out more about Global Citizen Live globally here, and head here to find out more about the Global Citizen Live event in Paris and how you can get involved. For information about COVID-19 protocols and how we’re keeping people safe, click here.
You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defeat poverty and defend the planet by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.