Only pages into Elton John’s new memoir, “it quickly becomes clear that few people are more suited to the celebrity autobiography genre,” said Hadley Freeman in TheGuardian.com. The 72-year-old pop legend knows that his life has been ridiculous, and his self-awareness, twisted sense of humor, and willingness to gossip about other stars make him a “deeply appealing” curator of his own story. Given his love-starved childhood, his belated acceptance of his homosexuality, and his struggles with addiction and rage, he could have been self-dramatizing. Instead, he treats even a 1970s suicide attempt as an amusingly transparent bid for attention: He put his head in an oven, resting on a pillow, and left all the windows open. “There wasn’t enough carbon monoxide in the room to kill a wasp,” he writes.
He’s not much easier on his famous friends, said Entertainment Weekly. He once played charades with Bob Dylan and became so exasperated by the songwriter’s incompetence at the game that he pelted him with oranges. About fashion designer Gianni Versace, he quips, “There were leather bars on Fire Island less obviously homosexual.” And as the book rolls on, John’s decades-long prank war with Rod Stewart proves to be “a gift that keeps on giving.” John has surprisingly little to say about writing music, said Andy Greene in Rolling Stone. He credits his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, with initiating most of the songs that fill the Elton John catalog. But in these pages, the landmark early albums “breeze by in a few scant paragraphs.”
“Hard-won self-knowledge is what the book’s really about,” said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. Raised in suburban London by foul-tempered parents, John wasn’t prepared for the fame that his songwriting (and flamboyant stage costumery) earned him, but he dove into the life and has somehow survived, overcoming his own mistakes and character flaws. The measure of his candor might be that after describing a recent bout with prostate cancer, he confessed to having to perform a concert while wearing adult diapers. For a rock memoir, that may be a first. ■