Photo: LEWIS JOLY/AFP/Getty Images
Elton John & Emmanuel Macron
Elton John Is Celebrated With France's Highest Civilian Honor
"Like music, the fight against AIDS has been my passion for many, many years," the GRAMMY-winning pop icon said during the ceremony in Paris on Friday
There are plenty of reasons to describe GRAMMY winner Sir Elton John as legendary: his timeless music, avant-garde fashion, LGBTQ+ advocacy and all-around philanthropic efforts. On June 21, French President Emmanuel Macron recognized the decades of greatness and service of John, as he presented him with the country's highest civilian honor, the Légion d'Honneur.
Congratulations to Elton for being honoured with the Légion d’honneur for his @ejaf work Awarded by President @EmmanuelMacron, the pair also discussed the Global Fund replenishment so essential to defeat and #EndAIDS. pic.twitter.com/TtvzVFAu8i— Elton John (@eltonofficial) June 22, 2019
Macron presented John with the prestigious award at a private ceremony held at the Élysée Palace in Paris, calling him "an icon that knew how to set an example," the Associated Press reports. It took place, fittingly, during the annual "Fete de la Musique," which began in France in 1982 and is now celebrated worldwide as Make Music Day. "To receive this decoration the day of the Fete de la Musique makes it even more special," John said.
The pop music great established The Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 to help fund HIV/AIDS research and prevention around the world, which, according to its website, had raised over $400 million by its 25th anniversary. For more information on how to get involved with The Elton John AIDS Foundation, visit its website.
"Like music, the fight against AIDS has been my passion for many, many years," John said during his speech on Friday. "Like music this fight reminds me every day of the extraordinary power of the human spirit. And that things that bind us are stronger than those that divide us. It is this magical human spirit I will carry with me as a proud member of the Legion d'Honneur."
Macron used the moment to make a call to action to world leaders (and their constituents, to push them to do so) to give more money to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, ahead of a leadership summit to take place in Lyon, France in October. According to the AP, "he said that 27 million people have been treated and saved through the Global Fund that raised about 13 billion euros in 2016."
John echoed Macron's request to support the Global Fund, adding, "Success is essential. It is of great importance to me."
EJAF is committed to keep fighting this disease. We have the tools to #EndAIDS and we will.— Elton John AIDS Fdn (@ejaf) June 22, 2019
The @GlobalFund will give us the chance to reduce AIDS related deaths by half. Now more than ever a cooperation from all sides is crucial to make this reality. #StepUpTheFight https://t.co/xGXxxXFNvw
The night before the ceremony, John performed in Paris, as part of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour. You can catch his magic live as he continues the tour. Additionally, Rocketman, the biopic depicting the star's glittering rise to fame, starring Taron Egerton, is in theaters now.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: David Redfern/Redferns
Elton John's 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' Turns 50: A Track-By-Track Breakdown
Half a century on, Elton John's GRAMMY Hall Of Fame-winning, double-disc masterpiece is a glitzy, emotional, sprawling thrill ride for the ages.
When you hear Elton John's name, what do you think of? Perhaps glitzy showmanship, down-home rakishness, a very '70s opulence. (Oh, and about a dozen song songs implanted in our brains from birth.) For the five-time GRAMMY winner, only sweeping will do.
But that's not a studio-conjured mirage, a mere feat of technology. Because if you listen to John sing "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" alone with a piano — as you can on 2019's quietly issued Live from Moscow 1979 — John's signature hit still buries you like a ton of bricks.
On this astonishing version, John doesn't sound like a rock god; he sounds more mortal than ever, beseeching the heavens from below.
"When are you going to come down/ When are you going to land?" goes his signature intro; in this naked setting, hearing the words reverberate and fall over the audience is enrapturing.
And in the chorus, when he leans into the word blues in "singing the blues," the hair on the back of your neck might stand up. What follows is that cascading, wordless tag, a whirlpool of pure feeling. All the cultural trappings of John evaporate; you can only behold that sound.
John recently concluded his final tour, and it was named after "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" — "goodbye" switched for "farewell." In its wake, John's career — forged in tandem with his legendary lyricist, Bernie Taupin — increasingly looks like an enterprise to look back on.
And your communion could start with that piano, that voice, that song — and the classic 1973 album it named, which turns 50 on Oct. 5.
Featuring all-time knockouts from said title track to "Candle in the Wind" to "Bennie and the Jets" — as well as inspired deeper cuts ("Grey Seal") and a double album's requisite oddities ("Jamaica Jerk-Off"), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an all-timer of AOR and arguably John's most sprawling, eclectic, memorable album.
In 2003, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame; three years prior to that, John had been named MusiCares' Person Of The Year. On top of his five GRAMMY wins, John's been nominated for a whopping 35 golden gramophones.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, here's a breakdown of all 17 tracks.
"Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding"
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road's opening track begins with wind sounds and eerie trills; it then efflorescences into Robert Wyatt or Tangerine Dream-style synths — the kind of music John wanted to hear at his own funeral.
Then, as the "Funeral for a Friend" section gives way to "Love Lies Bleeding," the track reveals itself to be a moody, theatrical statement of intent. "The roses in the window have tilted to one side," John yowls; "Everything about this house was born to grow and die."
"Candle in the Wind"
Everyone knows John and Taupin wrote "Candle in the Wind" as an ode to Marilyn Monroe; many remember its 1997 retrofitting as a tribute to Princess Diana.
But despite being half a century old, and its association with two glamour icons of yore, "Candle in the Wind" could have been written this morning. Which is due to both its celebrity-age applicability and luminous, searching melody.
"Bennie and the Jets"
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is decidedly front-loaded; after one world-tilting banger, John casually drops another.
Time and ubiquity have not dampened the ebullience of "Bennie and the Jets": whichever PA you hear it piped from, it's practically illegal to not answer his "Benny!" with your own.
"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"
This article may have led with love for the solo "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," but that's not to brush off the studio version.
On the album cut, John is backed by his subtle, coaxing, perennially underrated rhythm section of bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson — plus Leslie-ed out electric guitar from Davey Johnstone and an Abbey Road-like orchestral arrangement from Del Newman.
Part of Taupin's appeal as a lyricist is how he could transmute goofiness into splendor — and who else but Elton could beseech you to get back to the farm, "hunting the horny back toad," with such gravitas?
"This Song Has No Title"
As if he didn't just drop "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" on you, the album continues unblinking with this gorgeously rolling, mellotron-laced deep cut. "Let me drink deeply from the water and the wine," John sings. "Light colored candles in dark dreary mines."
In a catalog filled with head-scratching lyrics, "Grey Seal" is especially inscrutable; reportedly, Taupin barely understood its meaning, but simply adored how the words linked to the music.
Indeed, "Grey Seal" is a multifarious marvel of a four-minute rock song, as John throws out iridescent images with abandon — such as "I never learned why meteors were formed/ I only farmed in schools."
The Beatles' The White Album forever laid the groundwork for sprawling, messy double albums, so Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is entitled to its own "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." (Especially since he initially started recording the album in Jamaica.)
"I've Seen That Movie Too"
After the tropical anxiety attack of "Jamaica Jerk-Off," Goodbye Yellow Brick Road pivots to downcast and philosophical with "I've Seen That Movie Too."
Therein, John considers the cyclical nature of everything, through the lens of actors on a soundstage — which, if we were to further the White Album metaphor, would make this his "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
"Sweet Painted Lady"
John hasn't performed this ode to a harbor prostitute many times; in fact, he hasn't performed it in 23 years. But as an interstitial piece, it works in a pinch; sound effects of waves and gulls drive home the atmosphere.
"The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-1934)"
John and Taupin sure loved their old-timey narratives, and "The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-1934)" is no exception; it traces the life and death of a two-bit gangster.
"Some punk with a shotgun killed young Danny Bailey in cold blood in the lobby of a downtown motel," reports Elton at the jump — and what unspools is poetic, cinematic glory.
"Dirty Little Girl"
If glammy misogyny isn't your jam, you may want to swerve around "Dirty Little Girl" — in John's heyday, everyone from the Rolling Stones ("Stupid Girl") to Neil Young (also "Stupid Girl") got one of these songs.
But if you come in well-advised, it might be fun to roll around in its Neanderthal energy; with lyrics like "I'm gonna get buckshot in your pants if you step into my yard," John essentially hands you the controller to Grand Theft Auto V.
"All the Girls Love Alice"
After "Dirty Little Girl," John shakes off the muck for the swinging, swaggering "All the Girls Love Alice." While it's about "a young girl who gets seduced by the naughty ladies," the tune feels less mean than dryly tragic.
"Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n' Roll)"
As Goodbye Yellow Brick Road races to the finish line, it picks up retro headwinds: here, Elton John nailed his attempt at "a cross between surfing music and Freddie Cannon records."
"Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)"
In that regard, "Your Sister Can't Twist" is only a ramp-up: if "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" doesn't get you shaking hips at your desk, we can't help you.=
Every TV-bound kid of John's generation remembers the King of the Cowboys. Although Roy Rogers was very much alive, John gorgeously eulogizes his run in film and TV, and weaves an Old West fantasia for the ages.
"My bulldog is barking in the backyard/ Enough to raise a dead man from his grave." So begins a self-effacing character study worthy of Randy Newman and John Prine, with a dash of hallucinogenic strangeness.
If you "dress in rags, smell a lot and have a real good time," you've found your personal anthem — complete with deliciously greasy sax and honky-tonk piano.
John concludes his wild, messy opus by raising a ragged flag, as the string section lifts the proceedings as if on balloons.
"I want to love you forever/ And dream of the never, never, never-leaving harmony," Elton sings at song's end, repeating the title until the song — and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road itself — evaporate in midair.
Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
9 Times Queer Artists Made History At The GRAMMYs: From Elton John's Collab With BSB To Kim & Sam's "Unholy" Union
In celebration of Pride Month, GRAMMY.com has collected nine of the most meaningful and thrilling performances by queer artists from the ceremony’s history, which helped uplift the global LGBTIQA+ community.
The 60-plus years of the GRAMMY Awards encompasses some of the most awe-inspiring and breathtaking moments in music history — and it should be noted that queer performers have produced some of the most dazzling highlights. From Elton John’s 1999 GRAMMY Legend Award to Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ 2023 performance of "Unholy," there is no shortage of iconic queer moments in GRAMMY history.
But more than merely honoring and showcasing queer artists, the ceremony is also the only major award to have moved beyond the outdated gender binary in its categories, an important step in ensuring that every artist feels welcomed. And as queer stars continue to deliver stunning performances in addition to award wins on Music's Biggest Night, young artists have meaningful representation and inspiration.
In celebration of Pride Month, GRAMMY.com has collected nine of the most meaningful and thrilling performances by queer artists from the ceremony’s history. These moments commemorate some of the most impressive artists of the last few decades and helped uplift members of the LGBTIQA+ community around the world.
Elton John & The Backstreet Boys - "Philadelphia Freedom" (2000)
When one LGBTIQA+ icon writes a song that honors another queer trailblazer, it’s bound to make for a special moment on stage.
Performed at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards — the same night the Rocket Man was honored as MusiCares Person Of The Year, and a year after taking home the Legend Award — Elton John performed the bright and swinging "Philadelphia Freedom." With backing from the Backstreet Boys, the performance filled the room with sunshine.
The song was inspired by John’s close friend, tennis icon Billie Jean King. His piano flanked by the five Boys, John delivers a rollicking take on the number one hit, the mythic megastar in top form from every swaggery vocal growl to each thumping piano chord.
Melissa Etheridge & Joss Stone - "Piece Of My Heart" (2005)
Melissa Etheridge has always been an incredibly vulnerable artist, but when she walked onto the stage during the 47th GRAMMY Awards, her head bald due to chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, her legend of raw strength reached a new level.
A loving grin plastered on her face and chopping out an explosive guitar riff, Etheridge didn’t waste a second, joining soul pop star Joss Stone for a tribute to queer icon Janis Joplin. Every syllable of "Piece of My Heart" coming out of Etheridge’s mouth shines sharply like a rough-cut gem, but her explosive howl as the song comes to its climax is the stuff of legend.
The fact that Etheridge made it through her cancer treatment and can still rock stages to this day is only further testament to just how powerful this moment of defiance turned out to be.
Lady Gaga - "Born This Way" (2011)
While the conversation surrounding Lady Gaga’s early ‘10s award ceremony run will always center on her extravagant and boundary-pushing attire and stagecraft, she made sure to put her queer advocacy at full volume during her take on "Born This Way."
Sure, she entered the 53rd GRAMMY Awards in an egg and took time in her performance to play a snippet of Bach made famous in "The Phantom of the Opera" on a keyboard topped with mannequin heads. But in the very next moment, she ensured that the whole track slowed to a righteous halt to deliver a core message: "No matter gay, straight or bi/lesbian, transgender life/ I’m on the right track/ I was born to survive."
The white latex and space egg are important, but Lady Gaga wants to make sure you understand that the art is all in support of a message of inclusion, that stripped down to our strangest basics we’re all human.
Frank Ocean - "Forrest Gump" (2013)
Frank Ocean has proven to be one of the most mercurial stars in R&B, releasing just two studio albums since 2011 despite some of the most rabid anticipation in the music world. His changed plans, canceled performances, and vague updates only fuel that fire — but it’s performances like "Forrest Gump" that encapsulate that whole fandom experience.
The 55th Grammy Awards were a big night for Ocean, with six nominations and two golden gramophones coming his way, but his tender, raw love song was perhaps the most memorable of a night full of impressive tributes and star power. Homosexual love songs don’t get televised too often, and that’s what "Forrest Gump" is: pure, unabashed and straightforward; a young, mesmerizing vocalist and songwriter laid bare, playing a keyboard and backed by a video screen. There’s nothing to distract from his voice and his words: "You run my mind, boy/ Running on my mind, boy/ Forrest Gump."
Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Madonna & Queen Latifah - "Same Love/Open Your Heart" (2014)
There may not be a bigger performance of queer love in awards history than Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ elaborate staging of "Same Love" from the 56th GRAMMYs. Their performance of the anthem included lesbian vocalist Mary Lambert and queer icon Madonna — oh, and Queen Latifah literally overseeing marriage ceremonies for 33 couples of varying sexual identities and orientations, when same-sex marriage hadn’t yet been federally recognized.
Macklemore and Lewis won big at the ceremony, thanks in large part to inescapable upbeat hip-hop like "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us." But instead of getting everyone in the room with some easy fun, the duo opted for "Same Love" — a track in support of marriage equality and a protest to a tendency towards homophobia in the genre. Together, they provided a powerful statement of acceptance and love that surely opened eyes for audiences around the world.
Kesha, Camilla Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Andra Day, and Bebe Rexha - "Praying" (2018)
The whole world was changing for Kesha on the runup to the 60th GRAMMY Awards. After years of struggle against her alleged abuser and an attempt to fully reclaim her career and life, she had not only taken powerful steps in that direction — she was doing so on Music's Biggest Night.
Her new album, Rainbow, had netted two nominations, and she was asked to perform. She opted for "Praying" (co-written by Ryan Lewis), a paean to the power of change and hope, even in the darkest hours. Surrounded by a cadre of powerful women and clad in white and embroidery of blooming flowers, Kesha’s performance shows a moment of new life and transformation, an inspirational moment that continues to grow with promise of even more new music.
Janelle Monáe - "Make Me Feel" (2019)
Janelle Monáe’s performance at the 61st GRAMMY Awards felt like a celebration of her quest to share her truest self. During a performance of the sensual, stylized, sci-fi epic take on "Make Me Feel," Monáe incorporated snippets of other Dirty Computer highlights into the breakdown — including the line "let the vagina have a monologue" from "Pynk" (probably the first time that request had been made on the GRAMMYs stage).
Her black-and-white clad synchronized backup dancers gave shades of Robert Palmer, but Prince (another Black icon comfortable in gender-fluidity) was the true touchstone. But that’s in no way to say that Monáe is anything but an unparalleled icon of her own, whether on the guitar, in her dance steps, or on the mic.
Lil Nas X - "Dead Right Now"/"Montero (Call Me By Your Name)"/"Industry Baby" (2022)
After years of controversy and criticism (notably from talking heads and members of the public who had or would not listen to his music), Lil Nas X’s performance at the 65th GRAMMY Awards had a real sense of catharsis.
Not that the Georgia-born rapper necessarily needed it — he’s proven plenty capable of pushing back and insisting on his identity on the daily, in social media and interviews. Still, the wide range of styles (both musical and visual) and performance versatility on display that evening felt special. His interstellar take on "Dead Right Now" proved he was capable of rising above all the noise; the hip-swiveling dazzle of "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" showed he was unafraid to show his sensual side; and the stomp-along "Industry Baby" (complete with an appearance from Jack Harlow) demonstrated that Lil Nas X is just flat-out one of the most exciting vocal talents in hip-hop.
Kim Petras and Sam Smith - "Unholy" (2023)
Trans representation on the GRAMMYs stage took a big step forward at the most recent ceremony, thanks to Kim Petras. Not only did the German-born pop star become the first openly trans woman to win a GRAMMY Award, but her blistering performance of "Unholy" with Sam Smith likely ignited more than a little bit of inspiration, intensity, and passion in the viewing audience.
Cast in a red glow, the duo embraced the fires of lust, Petras playing the fiery cage dancer to Smith’s devilish ringmaster. Every second of the performance dripped with sweat and sex, refusing to bow to any expectation or censure, Petras humping a corner of the cage as Smith gyrated around a cane. The smoking hot fever dream more than earned the FCC complaints and the zealous fans who went on to devour more of Smith and Petras’ music.
Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for LARAS, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images, Gustavo Garcia Villa
Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More
Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 with a 50-song playlist that spans genres and generations, honoring trailblazing artists and allies including George Michael, Miley Cyrus, Orville Peck, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande and many more.
In the past year, artists in the LGBTQIA+ community have continued to create change and make history — specifically, GRAMMY history. Last November, Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY Award when she took home Best MPB Album for Indigo Borboleta Anil; three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their sinful collab "Unholy."
Just those two feats alone prove that the LGBTQIA+ community is making more and more of an impact every year. So this Pride Month, GRAMMY.com celebrates those strides with a playlist of hits and timeless classics that are driving conversations around equality and fairness for the LGBTQIA+ community.