Thursday, February 13, 2020

Me by Elton John

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of all the music I've loved in my life, I come back most often to Elton John's songs, the tracks least likely to prompt me to change the dial or tell Alexa to skip. I'll listen to it the rest of my life, and I'm sure people will still be listening to it many lifetimes after I'm gone.

Maybe I enjoyed every page of his autobiography, Me, so completely because I'm a fan, but I don't think it's only that. The writing is simple, engaging and honest, with a thread of humor and self-awareness running through it like a clear, sparkling stream. It swept me along.

John starts in childhood and takes us to his life now, outlining the life, loves and music that led him to be the musician that he is. He gives us the good and bad, unflinchingly revealing his own mistakes and poking fun at himself (yes, he's aware his sense of style is over the top, but he loves having fun with fashion, as you may have noticed).

He's had a fascinating life and long career. I enjoyed the insight into his personal life and tales of the famous names he's encountered along the way, which included everyone from John Lennon and Katharine Hepburn to Sylvester Stallone and Michael Jackson. The stories are never mean or overly personal – he knows when to pull a punch.

What I didn't expect was to be in tears numerous times throughout the book. If I'd thought about it for half a minute I should've expected it, just from knowing of his friendship with Ryan White, Princess Diana and Gianni Versace if nothing else. It caught me off guard, but even with my reluctance to read sad stories, the tears were always worth it, always felt like they connected me more deeply to John's story.

And I should add, this book was not a sad story. Although there were many tragic moments in his life, a sense of fun and exuberance permeates these pages. I simply loved it.

Also, can I just say how great the simplicity of the title, Me, really is? Most celebrities draw on something they're known for when naming their memoirs, no matter how big a stretch it is in some cases, to remind readers of who that person is and why you might want to buy his or her book. But not Elton John, no siree. He's had enough hit songs to choke a horse, many of them that would've made a great book title (like "I'm Still Standing," for starters), but he said feck it, call it Me. People know who he is, no need to remind them of past hits. Brilliant.

He's also learned a few things about caring about others, about not being too punishing with yourself. There's one line I really loved that I hope I'll take with me through life, just like I'll take his music:

"There’s really no point in asking what if? The only question worth asking is: what’s next?"

Side Note: I listened to the audiobook AND read the ebook, switching back and forth between the two, sometimes reading while listening (thanks, Amazon Whispersync!) In the audio version, John reads the Prologue and Epilogue, while actor Taron Eagerton narrates the rest. Eagerton crushes it, just as he does his portrayal of John in the film Rocketman. I can't recommend one format over the other, however, as this book is equally fantastic whether you're reading or listening.

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