Sunday, November 27, 2022

Farewell, Yellow Brick Road


I just finished watching Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium.
My heart is full and I shed more than a few tears as I watched. Elton John has been a huge musical influence in my life. 

I started playing the piano when I was six years old. A lot of little girls in my hometown took piano lessons, though only a few stuck with it for more than a couple of years or so. It just wasn't cool to play the piano.

Not that anybody teased me or bullied me for playing! But very few friends really noticed ... it's funny that, as important as piano was to me -- after all, piano lessons took up ten years of my life and by the time I was a senior in high school I was practicing up to six hours a day -- as important as piano was in my life, there have been former classmates who have been surprised to learn that I am a musician!

Elton John showed me that there was potential for a pianist beyond the classical concert stage or church musician or piano teacher. I've since realized that there were other examples all along: Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington became famous in the world of jazz long before I was born. Scott Joplin's brand of ragtime music was occasionally heard in old TV westerns and became wildly popular for a period because of "The Sting." There was Jerry Lee Lewis ... but I could never envision myself playing his style of music. 

It was Elton John, with his arpeggiated chords, and unconventional voicings and bass lines, and rhythms that helped me to better understand the piano as percussion instrument, who fired my imagination for possibilities. From the moment that I heard his first single, "Your Song," I was hooked. 

I'd never abandon all the Bach and Beethoven and Chopin that I'd studied for so many years. They are such an excellent foundation for any type of music that one may wish to pursue! And though Elton John was my first "piano hero" from the world of popular music, there are others ... right up there is Billy Joel, who incorporated Beethoven into one of his own songs; and to an extent Barry Manilow, who borrowed from Chopin to compose his hit "Could It Be Magic." Stevie Wonder and Freddy Mercury and Paul McCartney and Carole King and Alicia Keys have all since impressed me in their use of the piano.

But Elton John's my favorite. I've seen him in concert several times -- twice with Billy Joel, and what a treat for me! -- and I'll probably watch this Disney+ presentation a couple more times before they pull it into the vault. 

Thank you, Sir Elton. You'll never know me, but you've influenced me more than you could ever know.