Elton John won’t cancel Russian concert: ‘That’s not helping anyone who’s gay’

Elton John

Elton John is full of opinions on a daily basis. He’s talking even more these days to promote his new album, The Diving Board. In recent days, we’ve already heard Elton’s predictions on Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. At the moment, Elton faces the scrutiny of an immediate tour date in the very LGBT-unfriendly Russia. Wentworth Miller recently declined to attend a film festival in the country on principle. Selena Gomez was also denied a visa for her LGBT-friendly status.

Elton has now speaks to NPR about his upcoming trip to perform in Moscow. He refuses to cancel his upcoming date in the country, and he has plans for when he gets there:

His flamboyant stage outfits: “As a child, as a teenager, I was kind of not allowed to wear fashionable clothes. I always wanted to. I’ve often said I lived my teenage years in my twenties. When I left home, [I] became Elton John success, and then it became Elton John excess. Everything I couldn’t do when I was younger, I did 10 times over. I was having the time of my life. I was becoming the person I wanted to be.”

On understanding his sexuality: “I didn’t sleep with anyone until I was 23. In the ’50s, you weren’t taught about sex whatsoever; it was never talked about. People used to sneak behind curtains and look at the neighbors, and if a girl became pregnant in your part of the world, she was shipped off to the countryside. I was never told a thing about sex, so I was very naive — as were my friends, as well, but me especially. I didn’t really know what I was until I came to America and I had sex [for the first time] in San Francisco in 1970. It was with someone of my own sex. I suspected my homosexuality, but I had never acted out on it because I was afraid of sex. It was awful to be afraid of sex, but that’s what the ’50s did to people.”

On performing in Russia: “On one hand, I want to say, ‘I’m not going and you can go to hell, you guys.’ But that’s not helping anyone who’s gay or transgendered over there. I’ve been going to Russia since 1979. I’ve been going quite frequently, and I’ve always had a wonderful rapport with the Russian audiences and with the Russian people. And you know there are a lot of great Russian people out there who are outraged by what’s going on, but they don’t have — I don’t want to abandon them. Now, I’ll probably get criticized for going, and I can understand that. It’s just that I, as a gay man and a gay musician, cannot stay at home and not support these people who have been to lots of my concerts in the past. I’m aware of the situation and I will be diplomatic. I’m not going to go into Russia and tell [Vladimir Putin] to go to hell and things like that. That’s not the way things are done. You chip away at something, and you hope there will be dialogue and that the situation can get better. You don’t just go in there with guns blazing and say, ‘Well, to hell with you.’ Because they’re going to say, ‘To hell with you, and get out of the country.’ That’s not going to solve anything. But if I can go there, maybe I can talk to some people in the administration.”

On making a difference: “You can make a statement and you can read it from the stage, but it would be nice, and it would be much more fulfilling to try and meet with people in Moscow and say, ‘Listen, this is just, you know, this is silly. It’s a reactionary knee-jerk thing. It’s harming your reputation in the rest of the world. It’s not doing you any good. There has to be some discussion here. What you’re doing is outrageous.’ [Pauses.] They can tell me to go to hell. I’ve gotta do it diplomatically, but I’m going to say what I think and what I feel.”

[From NPR]

Good luck, Elton? I admire him for his tenacity, but I don’t see how he’s going to sway any governmental opinions on gay issues in Russia. Maybe Vladimir Putin will pay attention in a civilized manner but probably not. Elton at least knows he’s taking the high road by not marching in “with guns blazing.” Elton realizes he won’t change the administration’s opinion. He’s doing it for his fans and also because it makes a statement — he will not be kept away from his audience.

Elton John

Elton John

Photos courtesy of WENN

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45 Responses to “Elton John won’t cancel Russian concert: ‘That’s not helping anyone who’s gay’”

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  1. Mindy says:

    He is right. Cultural boycotts achieve nothing other than issolating the most vulnerable even further. Oh and allow faux activists feel good about themselves.

    • MisJes says:

      +1. Completely agree, Mindy.

    • Sixer says:

      He’s right about “chipping away” and “dialogue” and he’ll be proving that gay people aren’t in any way “other” or a threat. And that you can’t stop them being visible.

      I understand the impulse to cultural boycott but I do think these things often forget that the priority should be the people under attack, not grandstanding.

    • Ana says:

      Exactly! Why cant people see how counter productive this approach is. First there is alot of popular support of those laws and thats partly the Wests fault. All the preaching just seems very patronising and also hypocritical given that the West also has some unresolved issues on homosexuality. Everytime someone lines up against the country, Russians grow more nationalistic and more determined to defend the sovereignty. It does not assist your cause at all.

    • Sonya says:

      I really admire Elton John for not acting out like a pretentious “activist” in that respect, the way a lot of celebrities do. He seems to act on his principles in a manner that is much more intelligent than most.

    • Ryan says:

      Agree, Mindy. The boycott against AZ for SB1070 led by Zach de la Rocha & Conor Oberst only alienates like-minded fans in AZ. They also give up the opportunity to come to AZ and try to change minds face to face. Plenty of Hispanics lose out on stage crew work, too.

  2. Mitch Buchanan Rocks! says:

    The shades are the same shade as Swifty’s lipstick.

  3. T.fanty says:

    Good for Elton! I cannot bear most of his maudlin music, but I do love that man. He’s making a statement by going – bullying and violence will not make homosexuality disappear.

    • Anna says:

      I think he makes an excellent point: you conquer bigotry by consistently chipping away at it. That’s what happened with gay rights in the US. This is what I am hoping for in Russia. Bc the anti-gay law in Russia is already reactionary, and all the international outrage is emboldening the most conservative – and most powerful – elements of government and society.

  4. QQ says:

    Well although i dont agree with him going ( my hero Dan Savage is mobilizing and speaking out so much about it on his podcast/twitter etc!), Gays much like Black people, women etc, are NOT a monolith sooooo is his choice? that said, if he was living in Russia theyd be mobilizing as we speak to take HIS adoptive child and placing him BACK in the Russian orphanage where he rescued him from essentially

    • Rosie says:

      Ok, Dan Savage is by no means a good guy. Hes been trying for years to dislocate Transgendered people from the movement. Trans issues may not be sexuality based but to remove them from the umbrella would leave them vulnerable and alone. Plus the man is misogynist through and through. Thats no hero imho.

      • Nicole says:

        You’re wrong.

      • Renee says:

        Thank you!!! He’s racist too. I am tired of all the love that the guy gets (Dan Savage, not Elton John).

      • Jojo says:


        Actually she is right. I almost choked on my coffee when I read that Dan Savage=hero line.

        Between the racist prop 8 bs and repeated use transphobic slurs he has shown himself to be a bigot who just happened to have been born gay.

      • Jojo says:


        Actually she is right. I almost choked on my coffee when I read that Dan Savage=hero line.

        Between the racist prop 8 bs and repeated use transphobic slurs he has shown himself to be a bigot who just happened to have been born gay.

      • Mindy says:

        This is the douche who was glitter bombed by his own movement, right?

      • Emily C. says:

        Thank you for saying it, Rosie. You are completely right. Also, he’s a rape apologist who called a rape victim a monster for not wanting to have sex with her husband.

        Dan Savage cares about rich white cismen who are either gay or straight. Period. He’s also biphobic.

    • Lola says:

      Dan Savage is all about Dan Savage though. I dont think he cares about the backlash that will be visited upon Russian LGBT if the Russian Olympics are boycotted.

  5. Karen says:

    How was Selena’s visa denied for being too gay friendly, but Elton John can get a visa to perform? I think a boycott doesn’t help, Russian govt would be happier with that, less public voices against the law.

    • another nina says:

      It’s self-explanatory — local promoters failed to sell her. But she was allowed to safe her face with a “political” explanation. Just a regular business matter.

  6. neelyo says:

    Well there’s at least one gay man who’s going to benefit from that concert. Two if you count Elton’s hubby.

    Let’s see if he keeps the money or if he donates it to a cause to help the gays in Russia.

    • Pastyousayyouneverknew says:

      You don’t think that seeing Elton perform will encourage the LGBT community in Russia? Like T.fanty said a few comments above, his going will show them that hostility will not make homosexuality disappear.

  7. blue marie says:

    so Selena’s a no, but Elton John is fine.. how does that even work? I think he sounds smart about the situation and knows what he’s up against. I have no problem with him going over there to perform.

  8. wonderwoman21 says:

    Wait…Elton John can get in but Selena Gomez can’t? Uhmm….

  9. Sarah says:

    Something tells me that the Selena Gomez story is fake. Elton is known for being gay and flamboyant yet Russia “bans” Selena for being lgbt-friendly? I’m not buying it

  10. SleepyJane says:

    I don’t think he’s doing this to make a political statement at all. I think he’s doing this for his fans. That is a true performer right there. Love it.

    • Kat says:

      I agree, SleepyJane. I love him. He’s being rational, first off – I agree with the threads above that feel that boycotting does not at all help in these types of cases. But he cares about his fans and he’s as loyal to them as they are to him. It’s very refreshing to see a performer like this.

  11. Tig says:

    He’s Sir Elton- and hopefully there will be a dialogue on some of these policies. But quite frankly, to think there isn’t a sizeable number of Anericans who wish this country would do what Russia is doing is wishful thinking.

  12. Mia 4S says:

    Well the Selena can’t get a visa story finally makes sense. Although I can’t help but sideeye her people for using this issue to save face if she wasn’t selling.

    He’s right, he should go and give a brilliant performance as a proud and happy gay man. That’s a strong message right there. Boycotts rarely (if ever!) accomplish anything. See for example: Cuba.

  13. RobN says:

    It’s the same reason he performed at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding; he feels that starting a conversation is a valuable step. I tend to think he’s right.

    • Kim1 says:

      Yeah that and the million dollars he was paid to perform at Rush’s wedding. He would perform for Hitler if the money was right.He performed in S Africa during apartheid.

      • Emily C. says:

        Yep, this.

        Elton John apparently enjoys two things: money, and crapping all over female performers. He knows he can get away with whatever he wants because he is rich and famous.

        (I mean, come on, start a conversation with Rush Limbaugh? I have little respect for Elton John, but I don’t think he’s completely stupid.)

    • How's the Conversation? says:

      Didn’t seem like the conversation with Rush went too well- he’s still the same bigoted pundit worshiped by the intolerant. It did work out for Elton, of course, who got paid.

  14. poppy says:

    why not show the hypocrisy of the government (for banning some gayness but not all gayness) and give his fans what they want?
    keep rubbing it in the haters’ faces. Stupid haters.

  15. poppy says:

    why not show the hypocrisy of the government (for banning some gayness but not all gayness) and give his fans what they want?
    keep rubbing it in the haters’ faces. stupid haters.

  16. Jayna says:

    Well, I understand him. Madonna went and didn’t stay quiet while there. I think there were threats on Madonna’s life. I am not sure. She mouthed off while there in support of gay rights, but she has a ton of gay fans over there. To see all their comments about how much it meant to them her coming, the happiness they exuded, I get what he’s saying. By not going you are kind of punishing the fans who don’t have much, who are oppressed, but seeing their favorites live means so much to them and those fans feel accepted and the love while at the concert.

  17. apsutter says:

    I love this and I love that he’s still supporting the people over there who are struggling. Sometimes when things are hard it makes all the difference in the world to know that there are people who are on your side and fighting the good fight. And being diplomatic and non-confrontational is the way to do it. That’s the way that opinions are shifted, little by little.

  18. Thiajoka says:

    This reminds me of the flack Ray Charles got for playing Sun City. I’m a liberal, but I’ve long since grown jaded and skeptical of causes and charities and political movements that have no real intent other than posturing for publicity.

    I’m really not an Elton fan anymore, although I certainly was in his collaboration with Taupin days. I laugh at his wig/hair plugs every time I see him, but then think “Oh well, he’s a rich bitch, he can do what he wants now and tell us all to suck it.”

    Some of the artists who played Sun City were then welcomed with open arms to play for the Band Aide concert. And so it goes. I’m beginning to think politics should be as private as religion.

  19. Emily C. says:

    Good thing for him he’s rich and famous, so he won’t be arrested.

  20. Flower says:

    Good for him, Elton doesn’t need to stand on a stage lecturing and pontificate about homosexuality….he just has to stand on the stage to get the message across.

  21. Migsy says:

    I hate to be the black harbinger of sad news, but Ray Charles was also an avowed Republican. Few know it.

    Google it. :(