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Elton John: 7 Of His Best Songs From The Screen & Stage
With moving tribute performance by some of the biggest names in music, including Ed Sheeran, Alessia Cara, Lady Gaga, Miranda Lambert, John Legend, Little Big Town, Maren Morris, Sam Smith, SZA, and many more, the program was a unique retrospective on the GRAMMY-winner's illustrious career.
Along with penning some of the most beloved pop and rock hits of all time, John has garnered wide acclaim as a prolific composer for film and musical theater. Writing for all manner of live-action and animated films, as well as internationally-touring theater productions, he has been responsible for some of the most recognized musical numbers of a generation. Take a look back at seven of his most iconic pieces written for the stage and screen.
"Friends": Friends (Film)
The official soundtrack to the 1971 teen-romance drama Friends was John's earliest foray into composing for film, and also just the fourth album he released in his long career. Though critics at the time panned the film for its (in their opinion) lurid portrayal of the sexual awakening of two runaway youths set against the backdrop of the idyllic countryside of southern France, the title song from the soundtrack managed to climb into the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. The soundtrack also earned John his fourth career GRAMMY nomination — Best Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special — at the 14th GRAMMY Awards.
"Electricity": Billy Elliot (Musical Theater)
Producers for the 2005 stage adaptation of the dramatic film Billy Elliott tapped John to compose new musical numbers that chart the title character's journey of self-discovery as he puts down his boxing gloves in favor of ballet slippers during the 1984–1985 English coal miners' strike. The stage musical received near-universal acclaim in the U.K. upon its opening. John's recording of "Electricity," written as Billy Elliott's climatic final solo number of the play, was released as a single and peaked at No. 4 on the U.K. Singles chart.
"Written In The Stars" feat. LeAnn Rimes: Aida (Musical Theater)
Elton John And Tim Rice's Aida was a 1999 concept album centering around music the duo had written to soundtrack the forthcoming stage musical adaptation of the classic Giuseppe Verdi opera Aida. The album's lead single "Written In The Stars," featuring LeAnn Rimes, climbed into the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album itself won John and Rice the GRAMMY for Best Music Show Album at the 43rd GRAMMY Awards. It was John's fifth overall win of his career, and also the same year he was recognized with the prestigious GRAMMY Legend award.
"Friends Never Say Goodbye": The Road To El Dorado (Film)
The soundtrack to the 2000 animated family comedy The Road To El Dorado was another notable collaboration between John and Rice, this time with the added support of Hans Zimmer. The song "Friends Never Say Goodbye" perfectly captures the lighthearted sentiment of this buddy film, and actually featured uncredited backing vocals by none other than the Backstreet Boys, whose names had to be left of the official track credits for unknown reasons. Nevertheless, John made sure to thank the band the liner notes for the soundtrack, and their voices can be clearly heard in swelling harmony on the song's chorus.
"The Muse": The Muse (Film)
The music for writer/director Albert Brooks' comedic existential-crisis film The Muse marked a departure of sorts for John in terms of film composing, in that all but one of the songs he wrote for the movie were solely instrumental. The title song "The Muse" constitutes the only vocal track on the complete film score, and was co-written by John's longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin. The album release of the score also contains a notable remix of "The Muse" orchestrated by GRAMMY-winning producer/songwriter Jermaine Dupri.
"Hello Hello": Gnomeo & Juliet (Film)
The Beatles-esque "Hello Hello," from the official score to the 2011 animated family comedy Gnomeo & Juliet, is the opening track for the album release of the film's soundtrack, and one of just two new compositions that John contributed to the film – his other seven offerings being new renditions from his classic songbook, such as "Rocket Man," "Tiny Dancer" and "Bennie And The Jets." The version of the song used in the film itself is actually a duet sung with Lady Gaga; however, the official audio release of the film's soundtrack features on John himself.
"Can You Feel The Love Tonight": The Lion King (Film & Musical Theater)
Handing out the honors for "best-known" and "best-loved" soundtrack among the works written by an artist whose creative output is as vast as Elton John's is difficult, but in the case of the official score for The Lion King — both the 1994 animated film and 1997 stage musical adaptation — the decision to pick a favorite is easily made. Once again collaborating with frequent writing partner, Tim Rice, John composed a hugely acclaimed soundtrack that generated a total of five GRAMMY nominations at the 37th GRAMMY Awards, with "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" ultimately taking home GRAMMY gold for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.