Elton John, the iconic rock sensation, has had a rollercoaster journey of fame, success, and struggles throughout his legendary career. While the world celebrated his music and flamboyant persona, behind the curtains lay a profound battle with the trappings of stardom.
The Illusion of Success: A Suicide Attempt
As Elton John’s career reached new heights with the impending release of his album “Rock of the Westies” and sold-out shows at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, the pressures of fame began to take a toll on him. In October 1975, amidst the seemingly celebratory atmosphere, the weight of his lavish lifestyle and the Elton Hercules John persona he had crafted became unbearable. In a harrowing moment, he attempted suicide by ingesting a staggering 85 Valium pills. As friends and family rushed to his side, he was pulled back from the brink of tragedy by an emergency medical team who pumped his stomach.
The Struggle Within: Balancing Fame and Identity
For Elton John, the thin line between the dazzling showman “Elton” and the vulnerable Reginald Kenneth Dwight became increasingly blurred. His immense success and fame left him grappling with an identity crisis and an overwhelming sense of self-loathing. The lavish lifestyle, drugs, alcohol, and flamboyant outfits were a stark contrast to the shy suburban London boy he once was. He confessed that he had no idea how to live offstage and lacked balance in his life.
“I would only know how to be ‘Elton,'” he lamented. The imbalance led him to live a life of excess, with erratic habits, bulimia, and self-destructive behavior that further deepened his internal struggles.
“I wouldn’t know how to live offstage. There was no balance in my life. … The self-loathing I had, walking around the house, not bathing for three or four days, staying up watching pornography all the time, drinking a bottle of scotch a day. And I was bulimic as well, so I wouldn’t eat for three days, then gorge on six bacon sandwiches and a pint of ice cream and throw it up. And then have a shower and start the whole procedure all over again. There was no self-respect there whatsoever. It was just fucking horrible. You look back and think, How on earth could I have done that? But I did.’
The Descent into Darkness: The Resilient Spirit
Elton John’s tenacious spirit, the same force that pushed him to stardom, helped him confront the darkness that loomed over him. Despite the depths of despair, he found the resilience to pull himself together and take the stage at Dodger Stadium just days after the suicide attempt. The strength of his performance and the joy it brought him offered glimpses of hope even in the bleakest moments.
Reflecting on those turbulent times, Elton John acknowledged the incredulity of his past actions, wondering how he could have endured such a destructive lifestyle. The haunting lyrics of his hit song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” written by Bernie Taupin, also reflected an earlier suicide attempt in 1968. These moments revealed the profound emotional struggles that lurked beneath the glamorous facade.
“Bernie walked in on Elton trying to commit suicide when he was about to marry a woman named Linda Woodrow,” David Buckley wrote in Elton: The Biography. “Elton had stuck his head in the oven. But Bernie couldn’t stop laughing. Elton had set the gas on low with all the windows open. What’s more, he was resting his head on a pillow.”