Chris Johnson: What I learned from Sir Elton John

March 30, 2013 

I must admit that when I snagged tickets to see Elton John in concert in Macon a couple weeks ago, my wife was probably a little more excited about it than I was.

I mean, sure, I grew up hearing songs like "Crocodile Rock," "Tiny Dancer" and "Philadelphia Freedom" and loved them. And I don't think I ever swam in the city pool growing up back home when "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" didn't play on the jukebox at least five times. Granted, I'm from a small town, so that might have been the only song on the darn thing.

But I had a couple of concerns.

One, the man is admittedly a diva, something I don't really get. He probably likes to be told how great he is, while I'm cool if folks leave me alone. And he's got more houses and cars than I've got hairs on my head. I suspect a pair of his socks cost more than my truck. And he likes to rub shoulders with stars and royalty, while I think people worshipping royals is obscene and prefer stars who get their kicks of out mixing with common folk. Of course, that's likely because I'm about as common as they get.

Two, the man has been performing for 45 years. Certainly, after all that time, making a stop in Macon, Ga., would be such a small deal for him that he would simply mail it in -- pound out a few hits on the piano, then glare at his band after an hour and say, "Let's get the heck out of this little town."

But what we got was a nearly two-and-a-half hour show, full of energy, effort and interaction with the crowd. Sir Elton indeed put his heart and soul into it. Before his encore, he even spent five minutes signing autographs at the front of the stage. And, during his encore, he paid homage to Macon's own Little Richard with a rendition of "Tutti Frutti." He obviously loves the spotlight and being the center of attention, yet he seemed very grateful and non-diva-ish on stage.

I've seen a few shows where the performers hardly put forth any effort, but the best shows (whether it's Jimmy Buffett strumming a guitar in his bare feet and T-shirt or Elton John playing a piano while wearing sparkly outfits) are the shows where the performer seems to be having a good time and enjoying their job. If you're a musician who's tired of playing your hits in front of an audience, then you should quit. I guess whether you're a beach bum or diva at heart, the important thing is that you enjoy what you do. And those two 66-year-olds obviously still do.

A long time ago, my dad gave me the best career advice: "Boy, get off your lazy butt and get to work." And he followed that later with more career advice: "No matter what you like to do, there's somebody out there making a good living doing it." He may have stolen one or both of those lines from somebody else, but they make good sense.

I guess whether you're a beach bum with a guitar, a diva with a piano, a chef with a kitchen, a teacher with a classroom or an introverted writer with a computer keyboard, all that really matters when it comes time to pay the bills is whether you love what you do.

And getting off your lazy butt once in a while, of course.

-- Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. Connect with him at

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