Here's Why Elton John And David Bowie Had A Falling Out

Elton John remembered waking up at 3am to the ringing of his phone. David Furnish, his long-time partner whom he married in 2014, was on the line. "I immediately panicked," he told the Evening Standard a month later, "as when you get a phone call at three o'clock in the morning you think something is wrong. I thought of the kids, something has happened to the kids." Nothing had happened to the kids though. It was January 10, 2016 and David Bowie's death had just been announced.

By 2016, however, the two stars had drifted apart: "We started out being really good friends. We used to hang out together with Marc Bolan [of T.Rex], going to gay clubs, but I think we just drifted apart. He once called me 'rock 'n 'roll's token queen' in an interview with Rolling Stone, which I thought was a bit snooty." Elton John would later say that Bowie was strung out on coke when he said that, which indicates some level of forgiveness, but one can see why he would consider the remark quite snooty. The more telling part of their relationship was dragged out by the Huffington Post, which delved into Rolling Stone archives to find other remarks made by Bowie: "Sure enough, in 1976, Bowie admitted to Rolling Stone he had previously called Elton 'the Liberace, the token queen of rock'. And he went on: 'I consider myself responsible for a whole new school of pretensions — they know who they are. Don't you, Elton?'"

Starman and Rocket Man

Now, some may find it overly pretentious that a rock star calls himself responsible for a whole new school of pretension. However, as with Bowie's other coked-out remark that "[When Hitler] hit that stage, he worked an audience. Good God! He was no politician. He was a media artist," there is a point of a kind being made.

David Bowie was one of if not the central figure of the glam rock movement and even dropped out of it before the genre's decline. Others, like Elton John and Freddie Mercury, adopted the flamboyancy pushed by Ziggy Stardust. The Encyclopedia Britannica piece on glam rock names Elton John as a performer associated with British glam and uDiscover Music notes how Elton John "also flirted with the sounds and looks of glam rock... Crucially, Elton looked the part and his droll theatricality played into the movement's subversive tease." From Bowie's perspective, Elton John could very easily fall into the category of another repetitive bandwagoner. Or, as John Lennon described Bowie's music to Bowie, "'[your kind of rock 'n' roll] is great but it's just rock 'n' roll with lipstick on." Or perhaps he was simply being a jerk while on cocaine. David Bowie never clarified. 

However, their beef did not stop Elton John from praising how Bowie handled his impending death to the Evening Standard: "Everyone else take note of this: Bowie couldn't have staged a better death. It was classy." A classy remark after decades of aloofness.