“I’m not the man they think I am at home. Oh no, no, no. I’m a rocket man.”
For more than fifty years, Sir Elton Hercules John has been delighting audiences around the world and providing the soundtrack to many people’s lives. A prolific artist and tireless performer, Elton John has sold more than 300 million records worldwide, has performed roughly 4,000 concerts in 80 countries, and has won six Grammys, an Oscar, and a Tony Award.
Chances are, at least one of Elton John’s catchy, piano-driven melodies has gotten stuck in your head before, and you probably remember a few of his outrageous stage costumes too.
In celebration of his ongoing Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert tour and the release of his new biographical film, Rocketman, we’ve decided to take a closer look at the personality type of this enduring music legend.
Life of a Rock Star
Before we dive into his personality type, let’s take a moment to review some of the highlights of Elton John’s rock-star life and career.
- In 1947, Elton John is born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in England. He is raised by his grandparents until he is six years old, and his grandmother encourages his interest in music. He later moves in with his parents, who divorce when he is 14.
- A piano prodigy from a young age, Elton is awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music at age 11. Eager to begin a career in music, he drops out of school at age 17.
- While establishing himself as a musician in London, he changes his name to Elton John, attempting to shed not just his rather stodgy birth name but also his identity as “Reg Dwight,” a shy, anxious kid.
- Elton’s first album, Empty Sky, debuts in 1969 in the UK to little success. His second album, the self-titled Elton John, is released in 1970. The track “Your Song” is an instant hit in the United States and launches him to international stardom.
- From 1972 through 1975, Elton releases seven #1 albums.
- In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 1976, Elton publicly comes out as bisexual, a risky move at that time. He marries Renate Blauel in 1984, but they divorce in 1988.
- In the early 1990s, Elton gets sober and his career begins to pick up. In 1992, he tells Rolling Stone that he is “quite comfortable about being gay.” He also establishes the Elton John AIDS Foundation to raise awareness and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.
- Elton wins an Oscar in 1994 with Tim Rice for their work on Disney’s The Lion King and is inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
- Elton’s 1997 version of “Candle in the Wind,” which he performs at Princess Diana’s funeral, becomes the most successful pop single in history, selling more than 30 million copies. He is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.
- Elton and his partner, David Furnish, enter into a civil partnership in 2005 and marry in 2014, when same-sex marriage is legalized in England and Wales. They have two children.
- Elton releases his 33rd studio album, Wonderful Crazy Night, in 2016.
- In 2018, Elton embarks on his final concert tour, Farewell Yellow Brick Road, scheduled for three years and more than 300 performances. Although he is retiring from touring, he plans to continue recording music, while spending more time at home with his family.
You can read more about Elton John’s life and legacy here.
“Elton gave me the freedom to be the person that Reg was too afraid to be.”
When typing musicians, actors, and other performers, it’s important to distinguish between the person and the personas they adopt on the stage or the screen. Elton John, the performer, is famous for his flamboyant flair for the dramatic, but how does that match up with Elton John in real life?
Based on his words and behavior in countless interviews, books, documentaries, and personal accounts, we believe that Elton John has a Turbulent Entertainer (ESFP-T) personality type. Here’s why.
Elton John is first and foremost an entertainer. He loves to put on a show. Elton is energized and inspired by the people around him, whether he’s performing in front of thousands of fans or just staying home with his family. And he tends to live his life in the spotlight. Aside from being showy onstage, he is also outspoken about pop culture and social issues and open about his personal challenges.
Elton has described himself as a shy, meek child and has said that he still sometimes feels socially shy or nervous before a performance. But Extraverted personalities can be shy. When he’s facing anxiety or low self-esteem, Elton seems to be more comfortable relying on trusted friends and family for support, rather than going it alone.
Although creative, artistic, and even outlandish, Elton John has always been more interested in getting out and doing things, like most Observant types are, than in dwelling in a world of ideas and speculation. He taught himself to play piano by ear at age three, evidence of his keen attention to the world around him, and he dropped out of school as a teenager to pursue a career in music.
Yet he didn’t necessarily set out to create a brand-new sound, like an Intuitive personality type might. In fact, he brought back classic sounds like the high-energy 1950s piano style of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. He made it cool again to be a piano-playing rock star. From upbeat rock-and-roll numbers to soulful ballads, Elton John is known for assimilating and synthesizing many different musical styles and influences into something familiar yet fresh-sounding.
Of course, like a true Entertainer personality, he has always put his own memorable stamp on his performances with his unique fashion sense. From wacky glasses to outfits bedazzled with sequins, rhinestones, feathers, and fringe to a full-on Donald Duck costume – you name it, Elton John has probably worn it.
Since he was a small child, Elton John has been emotionally sensitive. Difficult childhood circumstances, including his parents’ unhappy marriage and his troubled relationship with his father, were the source of emotional pain that he has spent his life overcoming – but they also helped fuel his creative drive. His emotions have tended to guide him through life, as opposed to rationality or logic.
Later in his career, Elton’s Feeling personality trait has manifested in his activism (especially his efforts to combat AIDS and advocate for LGBT rights), in his philanthropy, and in his genuine interest in supporting young artists and developing up-and-coming talent.
Elton John loves to live in the moment and experience life. Entertainer personalities are often attracted to risky behavior and self-indulgence, and Elton is no exception. He has been open about how he struggled early in his career with addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, and even shopping. Sober since 1990, Elton still enjoys a lavish lifestyle. He has also admitted that he’s a poor long-term planner, and he credits his husband, David Furnish, with helping him finally get his finances and business affairs in order.
His approach to making music also demonstrates his Prospecting preference for spontaneity. Typically, Elton’s songwriting partner of more than 50 years, Bernie Taupin, sends him lyrics, which he doesn’t read until he’s at the recording studio, sitting at the piano. He wants to be inspired by the words and to start composing on the spot. In fact, Elton frequently composes the music for a new song in under an hour – and sometimes as efficiently as just 15 or 20 minutes. “I don’t pore over things,” Elton said in a 2016 interview.
Many of Elton’s less-than-flattering qualities – his tendencies to get caught up in drama, hold grudges, overreact, and overindulge – can be attributed to his Turbulent Identity. Fluctuating self-esteem, oversensitivity, a seemingly tireless work ethic, and a passionate drive to make each show more spectacular than the last have all taken their toll on him in the past.
But his Turbulent personality trait has ultimately had a positive impact on his life as well, in the form of personal growth. Recognizing a need to change and taking a natural interest in self-improvement, he has consciously worked to make peace with his past, to get his anxieties and emotions under control, and to lead a healthier, more balanced life.
Putting It All Together
“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”
Elton John is an artist who has earned his status as a music legend over the last half century and who has worked just as hard to mentor young artists and give others the opportunities he has had. In these and other ways, Elton John fits our definition of an Entertainer personality type.
Here at 16Personalities, we hold accuracy in high esteem. That said, there’s only so much research we can do on a person, and Elton John is a very busy man. For now, our label of Turbulent Entertainer remains theoretical. The release of Elton’s biopic film, Rocketman, in May and his upcoming memoir, Me, in October 2019 may shed more light on the man behind the music. Still composing, creating, and speaking out, he surely has more thrills and surprises in store for his many fans around the world.
Do you have your own theories about Elton John’s personality type? Let us know in the comments below!