Elton John Recalls How Cocaine Became The Drug That "Opened" Him Up

The "Rocket Man" singer discussed the moment his addiction started on the TODAY.

By emily belfiore Oct 14, 2019 3:37 PMTags
Elton John, TODAY Show, Auto-Biography

Over the years, Sir Elton John has been candid about his struggles with addiction. And now, the singer is diving deeper into his relationship with drug through his new memoir, Me

Sitting down with NBC's Harry Smith, the Grammy winner recalled the very moment he was introduced to cocaine way back when. 

"I saw someone doing cocaine and I said, ‘Well, what is he doing?' and he said, ‘Well, it makes you feel free,'' he opened up on Monday's TODAY. "And I thought, ‘Hmm, I was always on the outside looking in as far as, like, school and I was never a member of the gang, or whatever. So, I thought, ‘I'm going to try that.'"

The drug quickly became his crutch. "I liked it because I could talk," John continued. "I was very shy, so I thought, ‘This is the drug that has opened me up. I can converse, I can be verbose.'"

Taron Egerton Reacts to Reading Elton John's Diary

For more than a decade, the music icon would go to abuse the drug, calling the time the darkest period of his life. It wasn't until his dear friend Ryan White passed away in April 1990 from AIDS that John realized his own addiction was out of hand.

"When he died, being there in Indianapolis," John began. "Coming back to the hotel and complaining about the wallpaper, the décor in the room, and thinking, ‘You are the most ungrateful little bastard. You complain about everything. This boy has never complained about contracting HIV and AIDS from a blood transfusion. He's never complained, he's only encouraged people...You are a piece of sh*t.' And that's what I felt about myself."

He was officially sober six months later. And, in tribute to his friend, John created the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 in hopes of supporting innovative HIV prevention, education programs and direct care for people living with the disease.

"I could have been one of them," the 72-year-old explained. "Of course, I could have become HIV Positive. I was very lucky. I was blessed and I always thought it was for the reason, when I got sober, that I would give something back."

Despite his ups and downs, John—he and husband David Furnish is proud of everything he has experienced.

"If I hadn't gone through what I did then I wouldn't have become the person I am now," he recently told GQ Hype. "So in a way, I'm grateful for those years of sex and drugs, although I despise looking back on them. I had a good time at the beginning, but at the end it was just awful."

"But if I hadn't have gone through them, I wouldn't be sitting here having the great life I have now," John continued. "I would have never met David [Furnish]. I would never have had children. I spent 16 years getting fucked up and 29 years getting better."

It's his candidness and ability to move forward despite the shortcomings that have made him the legend he is today. And, if you ask him, there are so few celebrities who hold the same power.

Everything Rocketman Changed About Elton John's Life

"To be a star, you have to be a star for a long time and you have to do that by being a live performer," he admitted. "You can't be a star just by making records. That's not going to happen. To be a star, you have to last for 50 years. You have to be a Barbra Streisand. You have to be a Paul McCartney. You have to be Sting. You have to be Fleetwood Mac. You have to be The Who."

In his eyes, today's biggest star is Lady Gaga. "She could have a career like Barbra Streisand if she wanted to," John said. "She's got the ambition, she's got the talent coming out of every pore of her body, so it's up to her whether she wants it and I think she does want it."

Me hits book shelves on Tuesday, October 15.