SIR Elton John is to embark on a three-year farewell world tour as he bows out of live performing to spend more time with his children.
The 70-year-old hitmaker – who has been touring for almost 50 years – announced his retirement on Wednesday evening ahead of a celebratory concert next week at Madison Square Garden in New York.
He will kick off a mammoth 300-date Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in the US in September before arriving in the UK and Europe in April 2019.
It is a journey that has taken him from students’ unions to cathedrals and from Las Vegas and even to Halifax.
His current residency at the Planet Hollywood resort in Las Vegas, is the fifth highest-grossing in the town’s history, outstripping that of Elvis Presley.
The announcement that his next world tour will be his last came four days before he is due to collect the President’s Merit Award at the annual Grammy Awards, where he will perform alongside the singer Miley Cyrus. A tribute concert, Elton John: I’m Still Standing, will celebrate his career next week and will feature performances from a pantheon of present-day stars.
His retirement from the road was not a complete surprise. Last year, nearing 70, he was forced to cancel a series of shows when he contracted a bacterial infection. A few months later, his mother died – shortly after they had reconciled following a long feud.
His troubles did not prevent him appearing twice in Yorkshire during the summer. Clad in a red dress shirt and purple robe emboldened with diamond sequins, he had returned in June to Leeds Arena for the first time since having officially opened it four years earlier.
“It’s great to be back in Yorkshire, in this wonderful city,” he said to an adoring crowd who had come to hear the hits but would probably have settled for him reciting names from the phone book. A few days earlier he had performed for the first, and now probably last, time in Scarborough.
His first gig in the county had been in 1970, at the Yorkshire Jazz Folk and Blues Festival near Halifax. His second album, self-titled, had just been released. The following year, he could be seen playing at Leeds University.
Yet within three more years, his star was so stellar that he was joined on stage in New York by John Lennon, and the two duetted on Whatever Gets You Thru the Night and the Beatles’ hit I Saw Her Standing There. It would be one of Lennon’s last live performances.
However, the most famous Elton John appearance was an invitation-only affair, when in 1997, he sang Candle In The Wind at the funeral of his close friend, Diana, Princess of Wales.
His association with royalty dated back much further, and in the early 1970s he could number Princess Margaret and even the Queen Mother among his fans. At a party at Buckingham Palace, he reportedly jived with the Queen to Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock.
Born plain Reg Dwight, but changing his name later to Elton Hercules John, he was a grammar school boy who earned a place at the Royal Academy of Music but started the hard way, playing at 15 in the pubs and hotels of Pinner, where his mother had a maisonette.
Within three years, he and Taupin, the son of a Lincolnshire farmer, had signed a songwriting deal and forged one of the great music partnerships of the 20th century.