Back in 1994, Elton John was in the midst of a great pop-star rebirth. John had been one of the biggest figures in music in the mid-’70s, but he’d fallen hard and fast. In the ’90s, though, he reemerged triumphant. And a big part of that was the soundtrack to The Lion King, Disney’s 1994 animated megahit. John and the lyricist Tim Rice wrote the movie’s songs. Its soundtrack album topped the charts and eventually shipped more than 10 million copies. It was Billboard’s #1 album of 1994. John and Rice won an Oscar for “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”; three of the movie’s songs were nominated. The Lion King did very well by Elton John, and he did very well by the movie.
This year, of course, Disney remade The Lion King, part of their project of making live-action remakes of all their old animated classics. (This was more of a photorealistic computer-animated version, but that was the idea.) The remake brought back John’s songs, as sung by the people — like Donald Glover and Beyoncé — who did voice-acting in the new movie. Elton John was not into it.
Right now, Elton John is in the midst of a farewell tour, and he’s just published Me, his first memoir. That means he’s doing a whole new round of interviews to promote the book. John has always been a great shit-talking interview, and that remains the case. Consider what John had to say about the Lion King remake in a new British GQ story:
The new version of The Lion King was a huge disappointment to me, because I believe they messed the music up. Music was so much a part of the original and the music in the current film didn’t have the same impact. The magic and joy were lost. The soundtrack hasn’t had nearly the same impact in the charts that it had 25 years ago, when it was the bestselling album of the year. The new soundtrack fell out of the charts so quickly, despite the massive box-office success. I wish I’d been invited to the party more, but the creative vision for the film and its music was different this time around and I wasn’t really welcomed or treated with the same level of respect. That makes me extremely sad. I’m so happy that the right spirit for the music lives on with the Lion King stage musical.
That same interview also includes things about sex, rehab, the question of whether stars exist anymore, and John’s old feud with Tina Turner. You can read it here. Meanwhile, here’s Elton John being funny on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night:
Me is out now via Henry Holt and Co.