Few rock legends loom as large in pop culture as Sir Elton John, who is the most successful male solo artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. But there's more to the man than the music that made him famous. In honor of his 70th birthday today, here are 7 things you probably didn't know about Sir Elton John - one for each decade he's spent on earth.
1. Session Man
Before making it big, Elton John made ends meat like many other musicians - working as a session man hired to play with various groups in the recording studio. His contributions during this period in the late 60s include playing piano on The Hollies' 1969 hit He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.
2. The Godfather
Paul McCartney will always be John Lennon's best and more famous collaborator. But Elton John worked with Lennon on a number of songs over the years. He even sang along with Lennon and played piano on Lennon's 1974 solo hit 'Whatever Gets You Through the Night.'
He is also the godfather of John and Yoko's son Sean.
3. Breaking Racial Barriers
In 1975, Elton John became the first white rock star featured on the iconic music show Soul Train. Dressed like a sparkly leprechaun, John performed two hits that night -- 'Philadelphia Freedom' and 'Bennie and the Jets.'
4. Sports Discography
Speaking of 'Philadelphia Freedom,' the song was written as a tribute to tennis legend Billie Jean King, who amazed tennis fans like Elton John by winning a slew of titles on courts around the world in the 70s. John was so impressed that he met up with Jean in 1974 to pitch the idea of writing a song for her.
Here's how King later recalled the meeting.
"In the summer of 1974 we were driving to one of his concerts and he looked over at me in the back of the car (I can remember, he was on my right) and he said, 'I want to write a song for you.' Of course I didn’t think I heard him right. I turned scarlet red, I’m sure, and went, 'Oh please. What??' And he goes, 'No, I want to write a song, what are we gonna call it?' And I said , 'I don’t know!' Then he went, 'How about ‘Philadelphia Freedom’?' Because I played for the [World Team Tennis] Philadelphia Freedoms and he used to come watch our matches."
5. Football Fanatic
Elton John is a big tennis fan, but when it comes to sports, his top pastime is football (or soccer, to us North Americans). In 1976, he bought his favorite English team - the Watford Football Club. And he helped them climb up from the Fourth to the First Division of British football. He doesn't own the club anymore, but he remains an honorary president and has helped fundraise for them.
And in 2014, the team honored John by dedicating a stand in their home stadium to him.
6. Elton's Heraldry
During a 2003 interview, Dylan Jones asked Elton John, "If you had a coat of arms,what would be on it?" It turned out to be a stupid question.
"I have a coat of arms, thank you very much," John said. Then he recited the motto on his heraldry. "Elton es buena. Someone gave it to me for a birthday. It means, 'Elton is good.' Or Elton is a lesbian, one of the two."
7. The Greatest Thing in Life
Elton John has had no shortage of highlights in his life thus far, but he considers fatherhood to be the among his very greatest accomplishments.
"It’s the greatest thing you’ll ever know," he told Entertainment Tonight earlier this week. "If I was 15 years younger, I’d have two or three more. Without question."
Last year, he told Ellen about his love for his children, which transcends their odd taste in music.