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PHOTO BY: Val Wilmer/Redferns/Getty Images
In his first photo shoot, in 1968, Elton John had a full head of hair but no hits. His debut, “I'll Be Loving You,” tanked, but before fame struck, he did sing on Tom Jones’ hit “Delilah” and earned $9.60 by playing piano on the Hollies’ “He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother."
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PHOTO BY: Chris Walter/WireImage
From Folkie to rocker
John's first record sounded quiet and sensitive, but after he accidentally kicked over his piano stool onstage and the crowd roared, he started doing it on purpose, rocking out and winning instant fame.
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PHOTO BY: Chris Walter/WireImage
Dress for excess
John grabbed attention with eye-catching costumes like this 1974 Minnie Mouse outfit. He also performed as Donald Duck, Amadeus, the devil, a giant chicken and Chopin — though audiences thought he resembled Marie Antoinette. “I thought I was Chopin; to everybody else I was Marie Antoinette,” he said. “Story of my life!"
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PHOTO BY: Popperfoto/Getty Images
Dancing with royals
The outrageous singer was catnip to royalty: He danced to “Rock Around the Clock” with Queen Elizabeth at Prince Andrew's 21st-birthday party. But he was closest with Princess Diana, whom he honored with history's best-selling song, “Goodbye England's Rose.” And in 1998 the Queen dubbed him a knight, Sir Elton Hercules John.
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PHOTO BY: Steve Morley/Redferns/Getty Images
John Lennon and Elton John
John befriended the Beatle during Lennon's drunken 1972 L.A. “Lost Weekend.” After Lennon recovered and John became an addict, Lennon said, “Look, I always admired you. Don't do this to yourself.” The Rocketman has been happily sober since 1990.
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PHOTO BY: Michael Putland/Getty Images
Rod vs. Elton
John and Rod Stewart started out in the same obscure band and became lifelong rivals, as in this 1973 footrace at the soccer club that John owned. When John advised Stewart to spurn a film role in the Who's Tommy, then took the role himself, John recalled, “Rod was absolutely furious: ‘You bitch!’ ”
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PHOTO BY: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Elton John and Freddie Mercury
John, partying with his dear friend Freddie Mercury and Mercury's pal Peter Straker in 1977, thought that Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody” would flop, but it hit No. 1, and the film earned four Oscars and over $900 million — raising hopes for Rocketman's success.
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PHOTO BY: Dave Benett/Elton John AIDS Foun/Getty Images
Happy at last
For Elton John, Saturday night used to be for fighting, drinking and promiscuity. But in 1993, after decades of romantic disasters (with a pickle heiress, Linda Woodrow; his former manager, John Reid; and a record engineer, Renate Blauel, who was married to him from 1984 to 1988), he met ad executive David Furnish (now 56) and married him in 2014. The couple has two kids, Zachary and Elijah (Lady Gaga is their godmother). Now they write each other love notes every Saturday — because that's the day they met.
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PHOTO BY: Mike Marsland/WireImage
Duet of the Rocketmen
John celebrated Rocketman's world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival by performing the title tune with Taron Egerton, who plays him in the film. “Even if the movie doesn't make one penny,” Elton told the crowd, “it is the movie I wanted to make."
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