On Sunday March 25th, Elton John celebrated his 60th birthday. For four decades now the magical musician has wowed fans all across the globe with his instantly recognisable singing voice, music writing and, of course, some memorably crazy costumes. Hits such as YOUR SONG, ROCKET MAN and CANDLE IN THE WIND helped set standards which the impressive performer has matched time and time again.

REGINALD KENNETH DWIGHT - how his life could have turned out differently if he'd never changed his name - was born on March 25th 1947 in Pinner, Middlesex. Despite the turmoil of his parents divorcing when he was in his teens, he showed signs of considerable musical prowess. At the age of 11, he entered the Royal Academy of Music to develop his evident talent, but he dropped out before he took the exams. It was the kind of individual and spontaneous act which would epitomise the rest of his glittering career.

Free from the shackles of the academy, he followed his heart and his piano-playing hands to entertain regulars in a local pub over the weekends. He formed his first band - Bluesology - in 1964 and before long had changed his name to Elton John, taking inspiration from fellow band members ELTON DEAN and LONG JOHN BALDRY. It was also at around this time that he met lyric writer Bernie Taupin. Together, the pair struck up a remarkable working relationship, with Taupin providing the words and John the music to song after song - a collaboration that continues to this day.

And so it was that, in 1970, the pair produced one of John's most recognised tunes, YOUR SONG, a hit that really propelled John into the big time. The track, which didn't actually reach number one at the time, has proved immensely popular since, being covered by more than 40 artists including the likes of Rod Stewart and The Osmonds. Younger generations might also recognise it for featuring in BAZ LUHRMANN's MOULIN ROUGE. The brilliance of the song is made even greater by claims that Taupin penned the words over breakfast while John inked the music in just ten minutes.

Despite releasing a series of popular singles, it wasn't until 1976 that John finally topped the charts in the UK and it took a duet to do the job. DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART, which he performed with KIKI, finally saw him rise to the top of the pops, where he stayed for six weeks. While John enjoyed prolonged success for the remainder of the 70s and throughout the 80s, his next number one hit only came in 1990. This time though he could claim the credit all for himself, as his solo effort, SACRIFICE, also enjoyed a six-week stint at number one.

Another chart-topper followed the next year, the classic DON'T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME sung live with GEORGE MICHAEL. But John's success was soon reaching new levels when, in 1994, he and TIM RICE wrote a series of songs for Disney's animated film, THE LION KING. One of the film's most memorable tunes, CAN YOU FEEL THE LOVE TONIGHT, received the Oscar for Best Song, just one of three nominations the pair had received for the film's music.

John's remarkable success up until this point, already spanning three decades, would have been enough to satisfy most, but there was yet another impressive box for the singer to tick in 1997. Sadly for him it was to be inspired by the death of one of his closest friends, PRINCESS DIANA. At her funeral in Westminster Abbey, John performed a stirring rendition of CANDLE IN THE WIND, adapted in memory of the nation's favourite royal. As millions of people around the world watched on, John perfectly and poignantly said his own special farewell. Later released as a double A-side single with SOMETHING ABOUT THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT, it became the fastest-selling single of all time.

In recent years, John has used his elevated status within the music industry to secure a number of duets and subsequent chart-topping hits. Among them were collaborations with BLUE on SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD and GHETTO GOSPEL with 2PAC. He also co-wrote the Scissor Sisters' I DON'T FEEL LIKE DANCIN' and has taken the songs from hit film BILLY ELLIOT to the stage in London.

But John's passions in life are not confined to music. Not when there is football to think about, that's for sure. In the mid-70s, he furthered his interest in Watford Football Club and become chairman and director of the club. He famously watched on at Wembley - and cried - when Watford were beaten by Everton in the FA Cup Final in 1984 and went on to sell the club in 1987. However, his emotional attachment to the Hornets saw him stay on as life-long president. A decade later he bought the club again, before making way for a full-time chairman in 2002.

Over the course of his career, John has amassed an impressive fortune, which is just as well as he simply loves spending money. It was once revealed that between January 1996 and September 1997 he splashed out £30 million, including no less than £293,000 on flowers alone. If that isn't enough to make you wilt, he owns a sprawling estate in Windsor, a home in Holland Park, as well as residences in New York, Los Angeles and France.

John has never let his fame and fortune get in the way of things that truly matter to him though, manifested by his dedicated charity work. Most notably, he set up the Elton John Aids Foundation in 1992, which as the name suggests, raises money and awareness about HIV and Aids around the world.

Understandably for someone who has spent so many years in the limelight, his personal life has come under considerable scrutiny, not least his sexuality. On Valentine's Day 1984, he married a German music engineer, RENATE BLAUEL, in Sydney, just four days after proposing to her. Having previously admitted to being bisexual, the marriage lasted just four years, after which John confirmed he was, after all, homosexual.

This eventually paved the way for his relationship with advertising exec turned movie maker DAVID FURNISH. A little over a decade after first meeting, John and Furnish enjoyed a civil partnership at the Guidhall in Windsor in 2005. This was followed by one of the most lavish parties of the decade, as dozens and dozens of A-list celebrities joined them to celebrate the happy occasion. Among them were music friends Ringo Starr, Sting, Bryan Adams and Ronan Keating. From the fashion world, they welcomed the likes of DONATELLA VERSACE and CLAUDIA SCHIFFER, while MICHAEL VAUGHAN and NICK FALDO were among the sporting stars.

While never having children himself, John's stature across all walks of life has seen him honoured as a godfather on no fewer than ten occasions, including to John Lennon and Yoko Ono's son Sean, Liz Hurley's son Damian Charles and the first born of DAVID and Victoria Beckham, young Brooklyn. But perhaps his greatest honour of all came on February 24th 1998, when he was given a knighthood. Happy 60th birthday, Sir Elton.

21/3/07 17:20:04