Photography by M. Sharkey
In Love Is the Cure, his new memoir of his life during the AIDS epidemic, Sir Elton John describes his friendships with Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, and, most affectingly, one young boy from Indiana named Ryan White -- ostracized by his town, and abandoned by his school, after contracting HIV through a blood transfusion. When White finally did return to school, after the courts intervened, it was on the condition that he use a separate bathroom and disposable utensils (that was not enough for some parents, who set up an alternative school). It was Elton John’s friendship with White that inspired the musician to get involved in the fight against AIDS, and to pull his own messy life together. “My life was up and down like a fucking yo-yo,” he writes in Love Is the Cure. “My sense of values was buried under my self-destruction… In the end, the Whites would do far more for me than I ever did for them.”
Ryan White died in 1990 (his grave would be vandalized no fewer than four times), but his brief, curtailed life proved a catalyst for Elton John, who checked himself into rehab three months after White’s funeral and never looked back. With his husband, the filmmaker and producer David Furnish, with whom he has a son, Zachary, Sir Elton has funneled his celebrity and his passion into fighting AIDS through the Elton John Aids Foundation, raising $275 million to support HIV/AIDS prevention programs around the globe. As for his music career -- including seven consecutive U.S. No. 1 albums and 56 Top 40 singles -- the 65-year-old singer is far from ready to call it a day. His 30th solo album, The Diving Board, is scheduled for release in March.
Photographed at their home gallery in London on September 26, 2012