Elton, John: Artist as the Ultimate Survivor

All artists, as famous and rich they may be, have moments of anxiety, uncertainty, issues of self-esteem, and acceptability by the public.

Elton John, whose life is being celebrated in a new musical biopic, Rocketman, is the first to admit that.

“I think every artist has self-doubt,” the singer told Variety in an  interview Thursday at the Cannes Film Fest. “Every creative artist does have doubt and has moments of, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Am I good enough?’ And that’s what turns us into monsters as well because I think you become unreasonable and of course the chemical substances and the alcohol doesn’t help anything, and you lose touch with reality.”

As Rocketman shows, the first half of his career led to multiple addictions — drug, sex, shopping — as well as bulimia and anger management issues. “The life I was leading, flying on the Starship (his legendary private plane), living in beautiful houses, buying things left, right and center — it was not a normal life, not the sort of life I came from anyway,” he said.

“I lost complete touch with that. I vowed when I did change my life that that would never happen again.”

The 72-year-old John did change his life — he’s been sober for almost 30 years.

There were moments, however, when he thought he wouldn’t survive. “There were times I was having chest pains or staying up for three days at a time,” he recalled. “I used to have spasms and be found on the floor and they’d put me back to bed and half an hour later I’d be doing the same. It’s crazy.”

He’s now happily married to David Furnish–they’ve been together for 26 years. They have two sons: Zachary Jackson Levon, 8, and Elijah Joseph Daniel, 6.

He’s getting ready to retire from touring in about two years. Rocketman will be followed by the release of his memoirs in October.

“I am a survivor,” John said. “I’ve survived a lot of things. Life is full of pitfalls, even when you’re sober. I can deal with them now because I don’t have to run away and hide.”

Communication Problems

He’s also learned to communicate. “What I couldn’t do when I was an addict was communicate, except when I was on cocaine I thought I could, but I talked rubbish,” John said. “I had a confrontation problem which I don’t have any more because I learned if you don’t communicate and you don’t talk about things then you’re never going to find a solution.”

Family Scars as Child

John’s father left when he was just a child after finding out his mother was having an affair.  In the movie, John watches his married mom making out with her new boyfriend in the car.  “I’ve come to understand–as you get older you understand–the circumstances they went through,” he said. “I’m not angry or bitter about that whatsoever, but it did leave a scar and that scar took a long time to heal — and maybe it will never heal totally.”