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Love is Revolutionary: Can You Feel the Love Tonight? Sofia Ribeiro Willcox reminds us why Elton John matters

Love is Revolutionary: Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

Sofia Ribeiro Willcox reminds us why Elton John matters

by Sofia Ribeiro Willcox, Cultural Exchanger and Explorer
first published: June, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

Elton at Glastonbury reflected on the 'circle of life', and how he paved the way for other artists...

This week everybody is m mourning the Farewell Yellow Brick Road that brought the perfect end to Glastonbury 2023, as well as Elton John’s retirement from the stage. Although this is a controversial topic, over the last forty years, he announced his departure at least five times. Either way, Rocket Man’s journey remains remarkable.

Elton John is one of the most successful British songwriters, singers and musicians of the 20th century. His musical pedestal is due to several factors. His unique blend of pop and rock styles. Over the course of his career, his songs always hit near or on top of the pop charts. A diverse career with Academy Awards and Grammys. His incredible journey is reflected quite deliciously and scandalously in the biopic Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher, 2019) featured a captivating performance by Taron Egerton as Elton.

On stage, he is well-known for his exaggerations in terms of costumes and accessories. A flamboyant stage persona. There is no doubt that he was influenced by glam rock. However, these elements aged well like fine wine, and became powerful weapons for him in the spotlight, as a gay icon for many generations of music fans.

Even if his lyrics did not specifically discuss LGBT+ subject matters, most of them were composed by a straight man, Bernie Taupin.

Every era is still a difficult era for gay people in Britain, and for while in the 70s Elton was not overtly out. The pressures from the music industry and society were too intense. However, he broke the taboo and talked openly about bisexuality in 1976. In advance of the AIDS epidemic and the post-Stonewall Riots. He bravely declared to Rolling Stone “There’s nothing wrong with going to bed with somebody of your own sex. I think everybody is bisexual to a certain degree. I don’t think it’s just me. It’s not a bad thing to be. I think you’re bisexual. I think everybody is.” Since coming out as as a gay man, he has been the strongest of advocates for gay rights, his life and performances a resistance act. 

In 1992, John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation. This has raised over $450 million to support HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and advocacy programs around the world.

He is likely to be one of the first stars to publicly proclaim gay marriage. It is a revolutionary act, as it normalizes homosexuality in a society that is prejudiced against it. Elton John and the filmmaker, David Furnish, were among the very first couples to have a civil partnership in the United Kingdom in 2005.

So for some, reductively he will be a jester, a song and dance man. But over the many decades of his career, Elton John has been unwavering in his advocacy for LGBT+ rights and HIV/AIDS awareness. He took advantage of his influential platform to break down barriers, inform people, speak out against discrimination, and fight for equality. He embraces neglected members of the LGBT+ community.

Elton at Glastonbury reflected on the “Circle of Life”, and how he paved the way for other artists. He paid tribute to George Michael, who would have turned sixty this year. Elton’s inspiration is subtle in Michael’s challenge to traditional gender roles. Music videos wearing eyeliners, tight clothes, and earrings. He even dared more and played against the hyper-masculinity type with an iconic black leather jacket, steel-toed cowboy boots, gold aviators and blue jeans. In contrast, his sexuality was present in his lyrics, and he openly discussed it in 1998.

Elton John’s special guests reflect his legacy on stage with vibrant and exaggerated costumes that connote power. For example, Jacob Lusk, who wore a bright pink suit, suggests a break from taboos; the colour implies femininity, and he is straight. Along with him, Brandon Flowers also drank from the same fountain. It was exciting to see Elton share the stage with the Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama, performing Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. Sawayama had just called out 1975s Matt Healy for minimising pornographic racist tropes. She rather than Healy understands the zeitgeist of these times. Last but not least, Stephen Sanchez, the voice of the current generation made viral on TikTok with his romantic song “Until I Found You”, the song was followed by Elton John's famous beloved “Your Song”.

This sequence represents what connects the 60-year career with the newborn one, and the generations in the middle is pure love, regardless of hate and prejudice in between. Love is the most powerful gun, which always wins any battle and is the driving force of life.

Sofia Ribeiro Willcox
Cultural Exchanger and Explorer

Sofia has a BA with Hons in Creative and Professional Writing and Film and Television Studies from the University of Wolverhampton (2020-2023). Born in Brazil, Sofia is an enthusiast of pop culture (cinephile and melophile), social sciences (snowflake generation), and poetry (lusophone).


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