Elton John and Rod Stewart’s Feud Began With a ‘Lecture’ About Rock and Roll: ‘He Had a F***ing Cheek’
British artists Elton John and Rod Stewart formed a friendship as they navigated the music industry in the 1970s and 1980s. John considered Stewart to be one of his closest friends until 2018. After Stewart made disparaging remarks about John’s final tour, the musicians had a public falling out. Though they made up, their friendship is no longer the same.
Elton John and Rod Stewart were originally good friends
John has always loved drag culture and used it to convey fondness for his friends. In an essay in The Times honoring the late drag performer and actor Divine, John explained that he gave his closest friends drag names.
“In a way, designating someone with a drag name was my way of telling them I loved them: drag is a communal sport — I like to get everyone involved,” he wrote.
Stewart was one of the people who John gave a drag name.
“Tony became ‘Joy’ and I became ‘Sharon,’ because I was so common,” he wrote. “Rod Stewart was always ‘Phyllis.’ Freddie Mercury became ‘Melina’ after Melina Mercouri, the Greek actress and singer. He was a real Melina, I can assure you. John Lennon became ‘Carol Dakota’ after his New York building, the Dakota. If you can’t think of the correct name, you go to surname first and work it out from there. Not everyone gets a drag name. But all my dearest friends are bequeathed one.”
The musicians had a falling out in 2018
Decades later, Stewart appeared on Watch What Happens Live and said that John’s lengthy farewell tour was “dishonest” and “stinks of selling tickets.” According to Stewart, announcing one’s own retirement is not very “rock and roll.”
A furious John responded in his memoir, Me.
“I certainly didn’t feel like I needed a lecture on the feral spirit of rock and roll from someone who’d spent most of the last decade crooning his way through the Great American Songbook and ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,’” he wrote, per Vanity Fair.
He added that he felt Stewart was being hypocritical.
“What’s more, I thought he had a f***ing cheek, complaining about me promoting a tour while he was sat on a TV show promoting his own tour.”
Stewart later explained that the show’s producers get guests drunk before their appearance, which caused him to make the remarks. Despite this, he said that while he was “bang out of order,” he didn’t believe his comments were wrong.
“I said that 300 dates in three years sounded a bit money-grabbing to me,” Stewart said. “Look, I know where’s he’s coming from. He’s just got two kids very, very late in life but I’m planning my tours around my kids. I think he’ll miss it. I can’t wait for the next show.”
Elton John and Rod Stewart made up but are more distant than they used to be
John claims that he reached out to Stewart not long after the argument to say that they shouldn’t fall out over something so minor. Apparently, Stewart didn’t return his call.
“I had no idea what I’d done to upset him so much,” John said. “Which was ironic, given the hours I’d put in over the years deliberately trying to annoy him.”
In Jan. 2021, though, Stewart ended the feud to set a good example for both men’s children. Unfortunately, the reconciliation was short-lived. By November, Stewart said their friendship was distant again. John didn’t return a call, and they hadn’t spoken since.
“He is my old mate. We don’t speak to each other much anymore,” Stewart said on the BBC Sounds podcast Headliners, per the Daily Mail. “I miss him.”
Stewart said that despite the lack of communication, he wished John all the best.
“He just had a hip op so I wish him well,” he said. “We still love each other.”