When it comes to working hard and playing even harder, few did it better than Sir Elton John .
But the superstar once famed for his extravagance is a changed fellow.
The 68-year-old legend’s lavish spending habits have been transformed by his love for his two sons – but he says he will not be leaving them every penny of his estimated £200million fortune.
Instead the star and his husband, David Furnish , insist the boys, Zachary and Elijah, must stand on their own two feet.
Sir Elton says: “Having children changed everything about my life. I’ve learned that the simplest things in life – like having a minute with them – are worth more than any painting, any photograph, any house or any hit record.
“Before we had the children we just had our lives, and would spend money because we didn’t have anything else to focus on. We have really toned things down because we have enough stuff. There is nothing else we need.”
Sir Elton has sold more than 300 million records worldwide in a career spanning five decades.
With fame have come the houses, yachts, artwork, designer wardrobes and jewellery.
But the couple are resolute in their desire to bring up their children to be as grounded as is
Sir Elton goes on: “Of course I want to leave my boys in a very sound financial state
“But it’s terrible to give kids a silver spoon. It ruins their life.
“Listen, the boys live the most incredible lives, they’re not normal kids, and I’m not pretending they are. But you have to have some semblance of normality, some respect for money, some
respect for work.”
The couple are currently drafting their wills and David cites US tycoon Warren Buffett , who is leaving half his £53billion fortune to charity and considerably less to his children, as their inspiration.
He says: “We’re still working out the details and it’s about finding the balance.
“Warren Buffet, the third wealthiest man in America, has a really cool model in that he leaves his children enough money so that they have a house, a car and all their basic needs covered and cared for so they never need worry. But it’s not crazy, silly, go-wild money so that they could be buying Picassos or private jets.
“Anything beyond the basic, they have to go out and earn it themselves.
“If they want a Picasso, they have to go out and earn it. I think there’s real sensibility in that.
“The greatest joys, everything Elton and I have created, have come from hard work and that’s where your self-esteem comes from.”
The couple also agree with comments made in 2014 by Sting, who said his children will not inherit his £180million fortune. Instead, the musician likened his wealth to “albatrosses round their necks”.
Adds Elton: “I think what Sting said is very right, it’s a good idea. I came from a very working class family and was born in a council estate house. I earned everything I did from hard work and that’s the way they’ve got to do it as well.
“They have to do chores in the house – take their plates to be cleaned, help in the kitchen, tidy their rooms and help in the garden, and each time they do they get a little star to put on these charts they’ve made. They understand they need to do these things, and they enjoy it.”
The all-new pragmatic Elton is a far cry from the Rocket Man of old – a man who once spent £290,000 on flowers. But since settling down with David, 53, and the birth of Zachary, five, and Elijah, two – both from the same surrogate and egg donor – the extravagance has gone and life revolves around his “joyous” family.
While interview time with one of music’s most in-demand superstars is obviously scarce – a female publicist pointedly checks her watch every 30 seconds of our chat – get him on the subject of little Zach or Elijah and, like any other proud parent, it is hard to shut him up.
Whereas Elton BC – Before Children – would “just go out shopping”, now, he claims, his biggest extravagance is a £12 Hawaiian from their local Pizza Express in Windsor.
Oh, and perhaps a “few flowers when I’m in England… and some clothes”.
He is, though, still working like a demon. After handing over the day-to-day control of the Rocket business empire to David, whom he married in December 2014 following their 2005 civil partnership, the company has been streamlined.
The move, which has led to Canadian film-maker David being dubbed “Yoko Ono” by his detractors, is to ensure Elton can gradually reduce his workload and spend more time with the family.
But he isn’t slowing down any time soon. His latest album, Wonderful Crazy Night shot to number three in the UK charts on its first week of release. And his latest gig – a free street concert in Los Angeles – saw its famous Sunset Strip overrun by fans.
Later this month, Elton turns 69 – the same age at which both David Bowie and Alan Rickman died from cancer earlier this year.
Another one of his friends, Sir Terry Wogan, also recently died from the disease.
Does this slew of celebrity deaths make him aware of his own mortality?
“You never know when you’re going to pop off,” he says with a wry smile. “We get checked out twice a year in the States and funnily enough we’ve both just had our blood work done this week, and I am in the peak of fitness. I had the best results I’ve ever had, so I’m very happy about that.
“They are making great progress against Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes now and so it’s worth being checked out even though British people don’t do that, we don’t like going to the doctor’s.”
Whilst he leaves the “boring” gym stuff to super-buff David, Elton credits thrice-weekly tennis sessions with keeping him fit and healthy. A full-time coach accompanies him whenever he goes on tour.
Chatting backstage over mineral water in a makeshift dressing room, Elton certainly looks the part, clad head to toe in a black and gold-lamé Adidas tracksuit.
Unlike so many stars, especially ones based in LA, the six time Grammy winner doesn’t sport a trout pout, bottom implants or a weirdly smooth, shiny forehead.
With David looking on, joined by various other members of Team Elton, I ask if he has ever had Botox. There is a gasp of horror from behind, and someone mutters “moving on, please”.
Panicked, I await the hairdryer treatment from a man supposedly with a notoriously short fuse. Instead, Elton smiles benignly and grins,
“No, I’m not a needle person and I don’t like my blood being taken,” he says. “The craziest treatment I’ve ever had is probably just cupping on my back but it did absolutely nothing for me. Nothing.”
Back on safer ground, we briefly discuss the Elton John Aids Foundation which he set up 24 years ago, a cause he is passionately vociferous about.
In addition to his annual EJAF Oscars party – this year’s was attended by stars including Mariah Carey, Charlie Sheen and Caitlyn Jenner – the charity has raised over £300million in the fight against Aids.
It has helped more than 150 million people, including 900,000 HIV-positive women in Africa.
With so many celebrity pals, and with those glasses and that hair, it is not always easy being Elton John.
Yet the singer refuses to let fame define him.
Or, as he puts it, “I’m not a hermit”.
But, I ask, it’s not as if he regularly nips down to his local Waitrose for a pint of milk, is it?
“Actually, I’m more of a Sainsbury’s man,” he quips, quick as a flash.
“I go to the big one on the Cromwell Road in London… I do love a British supermarket.”
He really is Living Well For Less…
A laughing Elton John reveals he will not be having any more children because he has had the snip. Ouch!
The singer, 68, and his husband David Furnish , 53, have two sons, Zachary, five, and Elijah, three, born to a surrogate mother.
Elt told of his vasectomy at his Aids Foundation Oscar-viewing party on Sunday night in LA, adding: “No, I won’t be having any more children.”
And film producer David said: “Our family is complete.”
The couple also said they had left their beloved boys at home in the UK for the first time as they could not miss going to school.
The proud dad said: “We normally bring them with us to this but didn’t this year as they are in school now.
“They’re not at all interested in dressing up like us, though.
“They couldn’t care less – only if they have Star Wars on them.”
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