According to a report in Rolling Stone last week Elton John has said it's now 'other people's turn to be radio stars'.
The comments were made during a concert at the University of Southern California to an audience of mostly young people. Called Elton Goes Back to School the gig also featured a Q & A in which he talked about his new album The Diving Board. He said "I don't get played on the radio anymore, and quite rightly so, because it's other people's turn. At my age I can do what I want." His comment illustrates one of the admirable traits of this founder figure of popular music - his benevolence. He has always been generous with his support of new bands; he co-founded The Rocket Record Company in 1973 to support emerging talent in the music industry. Today as the co-founder of Rocket Music Entertainment Group, he supports the careers of artists such as Ed Sheeran and James Blunt.
Elton's kindness obviously has a financial benefit for himself but it's also advantageous to the music industry in general. Giving talent a platform will attract new fans and help to refresh and reinvigorate the music scene.
Earlier this month he even championed someone who I have previously criticised - Harry Styles of One Direction. Elton hushed an audience that booed when he thanked the singer for attending his iTunes Festival concert. Although I am inclined to side with the crowd's opinion of Harry's musical ability in this instance I admire Elton's generosity of spirit.
I've had the privilege of interviewing Elton on numerous occasions which was always a pleasure as we used to spend so much time talking about music. Like me Elton is a soul buff and we are both fans of Booker T & the MGs, the house band for Stax records. On one occasion when Elton and I met he gave me a copy of Booker T's solo album The Best of You. "You should play this" he told me "so I've got a spare copy for you". A couple of months ago when I was interviewing Booker T I told him this story and he said he had no idea that his music had been championed by Elton. In effect Elton was acting like his unofficial record plugger.
Not many people would have done this. Today Gary Barlow is an example of someone in a position of influence who champions up-and-coming talent, which is encouraging to see. However, being championed isn't always a good thing. Simon Cowell has 'championed' numerous acts but his motivation is questionable. In 2012 Pudsey the dog won Britain's Got Talent, receiving publicity and exposure that could have helped a genuine talent rather than a gimmick act. Not much has been heard of Pudsey since, highlighting the point that Simon Cowell's stamp of approval doesn't signify success or brilliance. Instead many acts are given a false sense of hope as their careers fail to live up to their expectations. There is an obvious link here to Andy Warhol's prediction that everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame. If so where is Leona Lewis?
The music industry is notorious for attracting huge egos but hopefully Elton's example will encourage more established music stars to offer a helping hand to new talent. During my 40 years in radio I've tried to help people enter the increasingly competitive world of broadcasting. On 25 September 2013 I will be marking four decades in radio and TV with a speaking tour. I'll be including a Q & A session during which I hope to offer information to members of the audience who want to work in broadcasting. Who knows who I may be able to help?
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