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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25, 1947

Hey, guys and gals!  I hope you're prepared for the final Tuesday Timeline of March.  And, boy has March been a cruel month, hasn't it?  Colder than normal temperatures, snow still on the ground.  Makes you wonder if Spring will EVER get here.

Fortunately, I've got a topic selected that will hopefully provide you with a little bit of warmth.  Or at the very least, I hope it will get you moving on your feet enough that you can generate some body heat.

It's the twenty-fifth of March.  Let's see what happened on this date, shall we?

421 - According to legend, the city of Venice, Italy was founded on this date at exactly twelve o'clock

1584 - Sir Walter Raleigh is granted a patent to colonize Virginia

1634 - The first settlers arrive in the area that will later be called the state of Maryland

1655 - Christiaan Huygens discovers Saturn's largest moon - Titan

1807 - The Slave Trade Act abolishes the slave trade in the British Empire

1811 - Percy Bysshe Shelley is expelled from the University of Oxford after he publishes a pamphlet entitled "The Necessity of Atheism"

1911 - The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City kills 146 garment workers

1918 - Sportscaster Howard Cosell (d. 1995) is born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

1931 - The Scottsboro Boys are arrested and charged with rape in Alabama

1938 - Singer/actor Hoyt Axton (d. 1999) is born in Duncan, Oklahoma

1947 - One hundred and eleven people lose their lives following an explosion in an Illinois coal mine, near Centralia

1957 - Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" is confiscated by United States Customs on grounds of obscenity

1958 - Canada's Avro Arrow makes its first flight

1965 - Civil rights activists lead by Martin Luther King Jr. complete a four-day, fifty mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama

1966 - Singer-songwriter Jeff Healey (d. 2008) is born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

1969 - John Lennon and Yoko Ono begin their first "Bed-In for Peace"

1990 - Eighty-seven are killed in the "Happy Land fire" in which an arsonist torches an illegal nightclub in The Bronx, New York

1992 - After spending ten months aboard the Mir space station, cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev returns to Earth

1996 - The export of British beef is banned by the European Union's Veterinarian Committee following several cases of "mad cow disease"

1999 - Famous baseball player Cal Ripken Sr. passes away at the age of 63

2006 - A gunman storms Seattle's Capitol Hill neighbourhood, killing six people before taking his own life

And celebrating a birthday today...we have some famous faces!  Happy birthday to Gloria Steinem, Tom Monaghan, Aretha Franklin, Paul Michael Glaser, Bonnie Bedelia, Maizie Williams (Boney M), Thom Loverro, Susie Bright, James McDaniel, Haywood Nelson, Steve Norman, Brenda Strong, Fred Goss, Marcia Cross, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cathy Dennis, Kari Matchett, Sheryl Swoopes, Lark Voorhies, Melanie Blatt, Natasha Yi, Sean Faris, Danica Patrick, Katharine McPhee, Jason Castro, and Ryan Lewis.

And today's Tuesday Timeline entry is also celebrating a birthday today.  Birthday number 67 to be exact.

Making his date of birth March 25, 1947.

Now, today's Tuesday Timeline subject has been just as influential with the music scene as he is with the fashion scene...particularly in the accessory department.  For four and a half decades, this man has brought forth dozens of albums, and countless singles on the radio, and has delighted fans at his epic concert tours over the years.

He recorded singles for Disney movies, he came out to Barbara Walters nearly twenty years ago, and since then has become a father of two children with his partner of almost a decade, David Furnish.

Sure, in recent years, he has focused less on recording music and apparently brought more attention towards his views on Madonna.  But I suppose that we can give him a pass.  After all, Madonna had just turned ten when this man was recording his first singles!

And today, we wish Reginald Kenneth Dwight a very happy 67th birthday!  Though, most of you probably know him best as Sir Elton John!

Yes, I thought that for today, I would dedicate this blog towards the man who said farewell to the yellow brick road, lit candles in the wind to both Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, and when it comes to duking it out with other people, prefers to do it on a Saturday night.

But which songs were considered his BEST songs ever?

Granted, the opinions are all subjective.  After all, my favourite Elton John song might be the one that other people hated.  But, in celebration of Elton John's sixty-seven years on this Earth (at least two-thirds of which was spent making music), I've hand-picked ten that I feel tell a great story, be it through my personal experiences with the song, or some random trivia about each song.

I'll start with number ten and progress to my favourite Elton John song.  Did any of my picks make your list?

Date Released:  June 1988

Funny story.  For years, I thought the title of this single was "I Don't Want To Go With A Girl Like That"!  Given that his sexual preference was officially broadcast six years after this single was released, I suppose that title might have fit.  But the reason why I picked this song was because I have memories of listening to this song in some of the weirdest places when I was a child.  Whether it be getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist, or shopping for Oreo cookies at the supermarket, or blaring from someone's car radio as I walked to school, this song was a big part of my childhood...and a big hit for Elton John too.  It reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary Charts in the summer of 1988.

Date Released:  January 1974/September 1997

This was one of the only songs that Elton John released twice, both with different lyrics.  And as it turns out, both versions were recorded for deceased pop culture legends.  The version I posted above is the original one that was released in the early 1970s, and it was written for Marilyn Monroe.  But when Diana, Princess of Wales, died from injuries sustained in a Parisian car crash on the last day of August, 1997, Elton John reworked the song to pay tribute to the woman who he had been friends with for years.  Elton's tribute to "England's Rose" peaked at #1 in several countries, and was declared the biggest-selling single since records began in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007.

Date Released:  September 2001

Okay, I have another confession to make.  I actually thought Robert Downey Jr. was singing this song before Muchmusic put on the graphic stating that Elton John was the real chanteuse.  Very sneaky work on both of their parts!  At any rate, I love this particular single a lot, and it's definitely earned a spot on my iPod rotation.  And to Robert Downey Jr.'s credit, he lip-synched this song like a pro.  In fact, one could say that this video was the beginning of the absolutely amazing comeback he made in the 2000s as he cleaned up his act and landed the roles of "Sherlock Holmes" and "Iron Man".  The video was brilliant, and the lyrics were such that almost everyone could relate to them.  Might not have been the biggest hit of Elton's career, but it certainly is one of my favourites.

Date Released:  February 1975

It's too bad this single wasn't released just one year later.  It would have made the perfect soundtrack for America's bicentennial on July 4, 1976.  But in actuality, the song pays tribute to tennis ace Billie Jean King and her tennis team...which is kind of weird, since there's really no reference to love scoring, racket smashing, and fluorescent yellow tennis balls in the song at all.  Even Elton John's long-standing songwriting partner Bernie Taupin admitted that he couldn't write a song about tennis!  Still, the song did give Elton John a number one hit on the Billboard charts that April, and was heavily played throughout the next year.

Date Released:  February 1974

If Elton John had his way, this single would never have been released at all!  He didn't think it was powerful enough a single from "Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road" to make an impression on the charts.  Who knew that it would grow to become one of Elton's most requested songs to do in concert?  It all began when a radio station based out of Windsor, Ontario, Canada started playing the single on a constant rotation.  This made nearby Detroit radio stations take note, and it soon became the most requested song in that city.  It prompted other radio stations in America and Canada to add the song to their playlists, and the rest is history.  The song, about a fictional rock band during the glitzy 1970s, eventually peaked at #1 in April 1974.

Date Released:  July 1983

Can I just state right now that this song may as well be my theme song?  The song (which topped the charts in Canada and Switzerland) is all about self-esteem and rising above all of the stuff that one might go through during life.  Believe me when I say that I went through a lot when I was younger.  Heck, life isn't a cakewalk now!  What is interesting is the trivia that surrounds this song.  Apparently one full day of footage was lost after director Russell Mulcahy accidentally fell into the sea holding a very expensive video camera!  A guest who stumbled upon the video shoot was Duran Duran's Simon LeBon who shared martinis with Elton.  And you see that one dancer in that black Speedo like outfit with the studs on it?  You might recognize him as "Dancing With The Stars" judge, Bruno Tonioli!

4.  DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART - duet with Kiki Dee
Date Released:  June 1976

Now, I will state that while it was very rare for Elton John to do duets (he sang with both George Michael and Eminem in his past), this duet with Kiki Dee remains one of his best.  It certainly symbolizes the carefree love songs that dominated the charts in the mid-1970s, and it did become a huge hit.  But Kiki Dee wasn't the only one who sang this song with Elton.  I seem to remember watching a Disney special in which Elton sang the song with Minnie Mouse.  Funny how memories are evoked, huh?  And, of course, Elton John sang an updated version of the single in the 1990s with RuPaul.

Date Released:  October 1970

Many consider this classic to be the song that kicked off Elton John's brilliant career, and in many ways it was.  It certainly wasn't Elton's first single release, but it certainly was his very first Top 10 hit (it peaked at #8 on the charts in early 1971).  And it remains universally loved by many artists and songwriters.  Of course, the reason I have this song at #3 is because there are two songs that have more meaning to me.  But interestingly enough, this single was actually a B-side, and it was only played because disc jockeys liked the song a lot better than the A-side (Take Me To The Pilot)!

Date Released:  October 1972

Okay, so "Crocodile Rock" might not be the most memorable song to all of you reading this...but to me, it was the song that first introduced me to Elton John's musical talents.  For some reason, I recall this song being played a lot on the AM Radio station my mom liked to listen to, and the child in me loved the fact that there was a song about a crocodile (an animal that I was sort of obsessed with back then).  I suppose in some ways, this song could very well be a true testament to Elton John's own childhood, as a lot of the references to the song deal with some of the things that he enjoyed when he was a child.  And, certainly children could enjoy this song as well.  It was re-recorded by Elton and Nelly Furtado for the film "Gnomeo and Juliet".

Date Released:  May 1994

Maybe it's because I loved Disney's "The Lion King".  Maybe it's because it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.  Maybe it's because I cried when I first heard this song (and for someone who had just turned thirteen when this single was climbing up the charts, that's a big admission).  Whatever the case, this song is my all-time favourite Elton John song.  I absolutely love it very much.  Actually, the whole soundtrack from the film was wonderful (I would have put "Circle of Life" in my Top 15).  Interestingly, the backing vocals were done by other established musical acts/celebrities such as his former duet partner, Kiki Dee, Gary "Take That" Barlow, Rick "Never Gonna Give You Up" Astley, and even Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund!!!

Yeah, just picture that for a moment.  Freddy Krueger singing "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" with Elton John!  Yeah.

So, that's my list of personal Elton John favourite songs.  What are yours?

Oh, and happy birthday, Elton!

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