After over half a century of musical superstardom, Sir Elton John has got nothing to lose by being frank about his feelings. That’s why it’s no surprise that his new autobiography, Me: Elton John, is full of shocking revelations about his life in show business. Among those revelations are his comments about the late Michael Jackson, whom he calls, “mentally ill, a disturbing person to be around.”
“I’d known Michael since he was 13 or 14,” John writes. “He was just the most adorable kid you could imagine. But at some point in the intervening years, he started sequestering himself away from the world and away from reality, the way Elvis Presley did.”
John also speculates about Jackson’s tortured relationship with prescription drugs, alluding to his addiction to painkillers: “God knows what was going on in his head, and God knows what prescription drugs he was being pumped full of, but every time I saw him in his later years I came away thinking that the poor guy had totally lost his marbles. I don’t mean that in the lighthearted way. He was genuinely mentally ill, a disturbing person to be around.”
In January of this year, Jackson was the subject of Leaving Neverland, a condemnatory HBO documentary exploring his inappropriate relationships with children and accusing him of sexual abuse. Though John doesn’t delve into the weeds, he does allude to Jackson’s particular obsession with children, writing, “For whatever reason, he couldn’t seem to cope with adult company at all.”
Jackson isn’t the only star illuminated in this memoir. John goes on to describe his special friendship with Princess Diana, as well as a dinner party at which Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere almost came to blows as they competed for her affections. John also writes about his feud with Tina Turner, his relationship with Queen Elizabeth, and the time he criticized Bob Dylan’s fashion sense. Combined with the success of Rocketman, the biopic that took in $185 million at the box office, we’d say it’s safe to call 2019 the Year of Sir Elton.
Adrienne Westenfeld is the Books and Fiction Editor at Esquire, where she oversees books coverage, edits fiction, and curates the Esquire Book Club.