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Elton John Receives Knighthood

February 24, 1998 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ He’s had more than a dozen hits, started his own AIDS charity, mixed with fellow stars in the celebrity firmament and played at Princess Diana’s funeral.

But for Elton John, receiving a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday was the pinnacle of his 33-year career.

``They don’t come much bigger than this,″ a beaming Sir Elton told reporters. Often flamboyant _ he arrived at the palace in a green turbo-charged Bentley _ he was wearing a sober suit and accompanied by his parents and his partner, David Furnish.

Not everyone is familiar with the rock icon, it seems. ``Sir John Elton,″ intoned Lord Camoys, who as Lord Chamberlain represents the royal household, as John approached the royal presence.

John, who moved the world when he sang a reworked version of his hit ``Candle in the Wind″ at Diana’s funeral in September, knelt in traditional fashion before the queen so she could tap him on each shoulder with the investiture sword.

``I’ve had a long career and worked hard,″ the 50-year-old singer said outside the palace, before heading off for a celebratory lunch after the private ceremony.

``But I think the turning point came in 1990 when I got sober and started to do some charity work, particularly for the AIDS problem. A knighthood is the icing on the cake.″

And what did the queen say to him?

``Her Majesty said she hoped being here today didn’t interfere too much with my arrangements,″ said Sir Elton. ``She said I must be terribly busy _ but this is not the sort of thing you put off.″

The queen was right. He flew in from Los Angeles for the ceremony and takes off again Thursday for Australia.

John, born Reginald Dwight in suburban London, was playing the piano by the age of three and won a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music when he was 11.

After leaving school in 1965, he joined his first band, Bluesology. The lead singer was Long John Baldry and Elton Dean played the tenor sax and the young Dwight later ``borrowed″ bits of their names.

In 1967, John met lyricist Bernie Taupin, with whom he wrote many of his hits; in all he has performed and co-wrote more than a dozen major hit singles, including ``Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,″ ``Song For Guy,″ and ``I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.″

In 1975, he announced he was bisexual and in 1984 married German sound engineer Renate Blauel, but they divorced three years later.

In the late 1980s, he suffered the effects of drug addition and alcohol abuse, but even that did not dull the characteristic sparkle of his live shows. In the early 1990s, he announced he had beaten his addictions.

He has vowed never again to play ``Candle in the Wind 1997,″ an adaptation of a song he and Taupin wrote in memory of Marilyn Monroe. It has sold more than 35 million copies worldwide with the proceeds going to the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fund.

In recognition of his charity work, notably for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, he received a lesser award, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, from the queen in 1996.

``I am extremely proud,″ John said Tuesday, kissing his mother and stepfather, Sheila and Fred Farebrother, and Furnish and waving the insignia of the knighthood. ``I love my country and to be recognized in such a way _ I can’t think of anything better.″