Looking over the Grammy winners of yesteryear, one thing becomes crystal clear: the true mark of musical greatness isn't records sold, stadiums filled, or awards given. While these baubles are often benchmarks on the way to immortality, the big steps aren't given by fans or colleagues. The true leaps are a little grander, a little harder to come by, a little sweeter.
One of the big steps may be when you get paid a really gargantuan sum of money to sell out your edgy roots and write music for a kid's movie. For Elton John, this moment came in 1994, when Disney wrote him a huge check in return for his collaboration with Tim Rice on The Lion King. The pair followed this up by writing a version of Aida for Disney in 1999 and penning the songs for Dreamworks' The Road to El Dorado in 2000.
Perhaps the big step is when the establishment that once despised you invites you to join their super-special club. For Elton John, this might have happened when he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1995, joining former rebels Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey, the Bee Gees, and Rod Stewart in being embraced by the society that they once rebelled against. It undoubtedly came when he was knighted three years later. Sir Elton John, once a fringe-dweller who wrote racy songs about gay hustlers, was now an official member of the establishment to end all establishments: British nobility.
Something was still missing: John had yet to join rock legends The Greatful Dead and Phish in what might be the most meaningful tribute of all: becoming a Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor. This week, however, that last step to immortality has been granted to the British wordsmith with the arrival of Goodbye, Yellow Brickle Road. Simultaneously a hefty source of carbs, a nod of appreciation for John's first concert in the Green Mountain State, and a tip of the hat to his 1973 breakout album, the ice cream flavor will be available in Ben and Jerry's scoop shops from July 18th to July 25th. Proceeds from the sale of the dessert will go to the Elton John AIDS foundation.
What's next for the young man in the 22nd row? With a carload full of gold records and Grammys, an endless legion of fans, a knighthood, and a freezer full of his signature ice cream, one could argue that he has reaped all the awards that Western Society has to offer. After all, after Ben and Jerry's, a Nobel prize for literature can't help but seem a little cheap and tawdry!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. Someday, he's hoping to have a Chef Boy-Ar-Dees pasta named after him. That or a presweetened cereal. Maybe Brucie-O's.
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