EltonJohn.jpg

Elton John, Freedom Fighter

Elton John is a complicated guy (just ask his florist). As rock stars go, he’s relatively apolitical. And when he is tempted to weigh in on current events, he’s no less prone to head out to the fever swamps of the left than a lot of his rock n’ roll brethren.

In 2008, at a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, he cited misogyny as one of the barriers to her political success. He’s publicly repeated the pernicious falsehood that Ronald Reagan was a villain in the AIDS crisis. He’s even claimed, without bothering to offer any substantiation for his beliefs, that Jesus “was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man.”

The Rocket Man is no down-the-line partisan, however. He’s famously forged a friendship with Rush Limbaugh. After being one of his critics, he grew fond of George W. Bush after meeting him and being impressed by his efforts against AIDS. That Sir Elton defaults to the left is self-evident. But he at least seems to retain an open mind.

What’s most impressive, however, is how he’s been consistently unafraid to use his global celebrity to support freedom. In 2010, he performed in Israel while other artists (among them, Elvis Costello and The Pixies) were boycotting the country over its policies towards the Palestinians, declaring that artists should not “cherry-pick our consciences.” He’s repeatedly refused to cancel concerts in Muslim nations because of threats from Islamists. He even went to Poland and praised Lech Walesa and Solidarity at the height of the Cold War, for which he was recently honored by the Polish government.

EltonandAi.jpgNow, he’s at it again. And the courage is no less impressive. From the UK Guardian:

Chinese authorities have hardened their line on foreign musicians, after Elton John infuriated them by dedicating a performance to outspoken artist and activist Ai Weiwei, according to industry sources. Police arrived to interview the singer shortly after he announced that the performance, which took place in Beijing last November, was dedicated “to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei”, according to two sources. One said officers wanted John’s manager to sign a statement saying the dedication was inspired only by admiration for Ai’s art. John’s spokesman declined to comment when contacted by the Guardian.

Ai and John met briefly before the Beijing show, with Ai subsequently announcing to fans on Twitter: “I super like him.” John was allowed to go ahead with a scheduled concert in Guangzhou in early December. But the English language edition of state-run newspaper Global Times attacked John. It said the singer was “disrespectful” when he “forcibly added political content to the concert”, adding: “If they had known that this concert would be dedicated to Ai Weiwei, many in the audience would not have come.”

As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy to indulge Sir Elton’s penchant for occasionally outlandish leftism on matters domestic as long as he’s willing to lend his prominence to issues like this overseas. Way to earn that knighthood.

  1. Stephen Bishop

    Troy if you are happy to read the leftist Guardian then I would expect you to be  “happy to indulge Sir Elton’s penchant for occasionally outlandish leftism”.

  2. Whiskey Sam

    Praise where praise is due, but I’m still going to blame you for having “Tiny Dancer” stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

  3. flownover

    News of Elton John criticizing Chinese oppression !

    Exclusive to selected internet sites . 

    Read all about it – quickly.

  4. FloppyDisk90

    If Nordlinger over at NRO isn’t already aware you might want to forward this on.

  5. Douglas LeBlanc

    Judith, I saw it last year on HBO (I think) and it appears that a DVD should be rolling out soon.

  6. Judith Levy, Ed.
    C
    Douglas LeBlanc: Judith, I saw it last year on HBO (I think) and it appears that a DVD should be rolling out soon

    Glad to hear it. Thanks, Douglas.

  7. Aaron Miller
    Whiskey Sam: Praise where praise is due, but I’m still going to blame you for having “Tiny Dancer” stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

    Saturday night’s alright for fighting!

    Another reason to look forward to the weekend.

  8. Wylee Coyote

    I recently saw a show of Ai’s work at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Gallery in DC.  Abstract political art normally leaves me cold, but this guy’s stuff is really compelling, and a lot of it is simply flat-out beautiful.

    Lots of artists think they’re “challenging” when they’re really just jerks.  This guy is the real deal.

  9. Casey

    I’ve always super liked Elton. Sure he’s abnormal but he seems to be a really normal sort of abnormal. And let’s face it, isn’t that the best sort of company to keep? Good bless him. And I look forward to hearing him again on Lite FM in 5…4…3….2…

  10. Troy Senik, Ed.
    C
    Casey: Sure he’s abnormal but he seems to be a really normal sort of abnormal.

    I think the clinical term for that is “English.” And I mean that fondly.

  11. Aaron Miller

    If he wrote his own lyrics, I’d be more impressed.

    Good post, Troy. We don’t need perfect people.

  12. Douglas LeBlanc

    See also Cameron Crowe’s exquisite documentary The Union, which shows John recording an album with his longtime friend Leon Russell. John’s generosity overflows throughout the film. Producer T-Bone Burnett remarks on how John has reached the other side of fame, in which a star no longer has anything to lose and extends kindness simply out of a kind heart.

  13. Troy Senik, Ed.
    C
    Aaron Miller: If he wrote his own lyrics, I’d be more impressed.

    Let’s put it this way: if you had read any of the few attempts he’s made, you’d be tempted to hand write a thank you note to Bernie Taupin.

  14. Duane Oyen

    I’m fine with  reflexive, artistic leftists who have open minds and find human value in people on the other side.  I have friends who are lefties, and, despite frequent failure to think and the fact that they are dangerous in the voting booth, are good people.

  15. Mister D
    Troy Senik, Ed.

    Aaron Miller: If he wrote his own lyrics, I’d be more impressed.

    Let’s put it this way: if you had read any of the few attempts he’s made, you’d be tempted to hand write a thank you note to Bernie Taupin. · 2 hours ago

    Agreed. He still writes his own music, still plays sold out venues, and his recent albums have been relatively good (if not on par with his very early classics). I am anxiously awaiting his next album, which has been repeatedly delayed, as he’s gone back to playing in a 3 piece band. Anyway, big fan of Elton, and given that he’s English and gay, its hard to expect him to be a conservative. But he’s done good works and generally has been smart enough not to piss off his aging audience.

  16. Mister D
    Whiskey Sam: Praise where praise is due, but I’m still going to blame you for having “Tiny Dancer” stuck in my head for the rest of the day. · 5 hours ago

    Sounds praise worthy to me. Tiny Dancer is possibly my favorite song ever, but at least its not Solar Prestige a Gammon.

  17. Severely Ltd.
    Mister D: Anyway, big fan of Elton, and given that he’s English and gay, its hard to expect him to be a conservative. But he’s done good works and generally has been smart enough not to piss off his aging audience. ·

    It is very uncanny. Not ten minutes ago my son and I were discussing how few Conservative musicians there were and then I run across this post.

    Any way, my rationale is similar for Becker and Fagen of Steely Dan. If you are Jewish, came of age in the 60′s in New York and are in the the music business, what are your politics? It’s lucky they weren’t bomb-throwing Weathermen.

  18. Troy Senik, Ed.
    C
    Mister D

    Whiskey Sam: Praise where praise is due, but I’m still going to blame you for having “Tiny Dancer” stuck in my head for the rest of the day. · 5 hours ago

    Sounds praise worthy to me. Tiny Dancer is possibly my favorite song ever, but at least its not Solar Prestige a Gammon. · 40 minutes ago

    Wherein Mister D attempts to separate the men from the boys in terms of fandom.

    I always thought it was like The Beatles’ “Sun King” taken to its logical (and surreal) extreme.

  19. Mister D
    Troy Senik, Ed.

    Mister D

    Whiskey Sam: Praise where praise is due, but I’m still going to blame you for having “Tiny Dancer” stuck in my head for the rest of the day. · 5 hours ago

    Sounds praise worthy to me. Tiny Dancer is possibly my favorite song ever, but at least its not Solar Prestige a Gammon. · 40 minutes ago

    Wherein Mister D attempts to separate the men from the boys in terms of fandom.

    I always thought it was like The Beatles’ “Sun King” taken to its logical (and surreal) extreme. · 1 hour ago

    Weirdly stupid song, but its fun and I like it.  It is no Ticking or Ballad of Danny Bailey, though.

  20. Mister D
    Severely Ltd.

    Mister D: Anyway, big fan of Elton, and given that he’s English and gay, its hard to expect him to be a conservative. But he’s done good works and generally has been smart enough not to piss off his aging audience. ·

    It is very uncanny. Not ten minutes ago my son and I were discussing how few Conservative musicians there were and then I run across this post.

    Any way, my rationale is similar for Becker and Fagen of Steely Dan. If you are Jewish, came of age in the 60′s in New York and are in the the music business, what are your politics? It’s lucky they weren’t bomb-throwing Weathermen. · 1 hour ago

    Now you name another of my music idols.

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