American Idol, and other countries’ versions of the show, frequently do theme nights where each contestant must perform a song of a single artist. There have been Michael Jackson nights, Whitney Houston nights, and, at least twice, Elton John nights.
The first Elton John night was disastrous (the second, many seasons later, was notably better – not sure why the difference). Contestants clearly found the songs too difficult: the rhythms too complicated, the range too large, the modulation between soft and powerful too elusive.
Watching those songs completely humble young men and women who were clearly very talented – who had beaten tens of thousands of other contestants to be there – reminded me just how impressive Elton John’s work is. His songs are hard, and he makes them look easy. And he just happens to be fun to watch. First and foremost, he’s an entertainer and has spent more time on the road than at home with his family, which makes me happy at hearing his announcement about retiring and, at the same time, sad that so many people will miss the opportunity to see him perform live on any given stage.
To be perfectly honest, I fell in love with Elton’s music many long years ago. In fact, I can tell you the exact song that sold me and what was happening when I heard it.
- Queen and the Eagles were formed.
- The 43rd Annual Academy Awards was held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles in the United States. Patton (a film about an American World War 2 general) won the Oscar for Best Picture. George C. Scott won the Oscar for Best Actor for Patton but became the first actor in history to refuse the award. British Actress Glenda Jackson won the Oscar for Best Actress for Women in Love.
- In South Africa Jim Fouche was the State President of South Africa and BJ Vorster was the Prime Minister of South Africa. The 269m (882 feet) Hillbrow Tower in Johannesburg was completed. It was then named the J.G. Strijdom tower. In 2005 it was renamed to the Telkom tower. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) lifted its ban on The Beatles. Winnie Mandela (former wife of Nelson Mandela) was sentenced to 1 year in jail. Arthur Ashe (the famous tennis player) was denied a visa to visit South Africa in the same year.
- A ban on radio and television adverts for cigarettes went into effect on the 1st of January in the United States.
- The first ever One Day International Cricket match between Australia and England was played.
- The Aswan Dam was officially opened in Egypt.
- In the United Kingdom, the vehicle manufacturer Rolls Royce went bankrupt and was nationalized.
- Apollo 14 landed on the moon.
- The Nasdaq index made its debut on Wall Street in the United States.
- The daredevil, Evel Knievel set a world record by jumping over 19 cars.
- The infamous Ed Sullivan show aired it last episode in the United States.
- More than 500,000 people in Washington DC and 125,000 people in San Fransisco marched to protest against the Vietnam War. In the same year The Harris Poll claimed that 60% of Americans were against the war.
- The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers (a top-secret United States Department of Defense history of US political / military involvement in Vietnam between 1945 & 1967).
- Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors was found dead in his bathtub in Paris, France.
- The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bangladesh and Bahrain became independent countries.
- The United Nations General Assembly admitted the People’s Republic of China and expelled the Republic of China (Taiwan).
- Mariner 9 became the first spacecraft to enter Mars orbit successfully.
- The Intel 4004 (the world’s first microprocessor) was launched. Texas Instruments released the first pocket calculator. The first soft contact lens became available commercially in the United States, and the UNIX Programmer’s manual was published.
- A Clockwork Orange (a movie directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Malcolm Mcdowell), Dirty Harry (starring Clint Eastwood), The French Connection (starring Gene Hackman), Diamonds are Forever (the last James Bond film featuring Sean Connery), Shaft (starring Richard Rowntree), Klute (starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland), Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Fists of Fury (starring Bruce Lee) was released in cinemas.
- Corey Feldman (famous for his roles in movies in 1980s), Luke Wilson (Actor), Rachel Weisz (British Actress), Antonio Banderas (Actor), Mark Wahlberg (Actor), Monica Potter (Actress), Johnny Knoxville (of Jackass fame), Kid Rock (Musician), Lance Armstrong (Cyclist), Mariah Carey (Musician), Sean Astin (Actor), Shannen Doherty (Actress), Snoop Dogg (Rapper), Tupac Shakur (Rapper), Winona Ryder (Actress), Minnie Driver (Actress), Ricky Martin (Musician), Mary J Blige (Musician), Bridget Moynahan (Actress), Gena Lee Nolin (Actress), Adriana Sklenarikova (Model) and Caprice Bourret (Model) were all born.
The year was 1971 and the Elton John’s hit single was Our Song.
Elton John and Bernie Taupin created this unforgettable melody with words that stuck in my brain and came out of my mouth every time it played on the radio. To this day, Elton performs this remarkable piece of music at every concert and he will no doubt wrap up his final tour in the United States with it as well. I’m just grateful that I received tickets to see him in Las Vegas in February, as there are so many amazing singers I missed the chance to see, including: Elvis Presley, Tina Turner, and Michael Jackson. In my book, Elton John registers right up there with them and will continue to be one of my all-time favorite artists…whether he’s tinkling the ivories on stage or not.