SEPTEMBER 30, 2021

Elton John and Stevie Wonder: A History

“Stevie Wonder can eat me for breakfast as far as musicianship goes, but that doesn’t make me angry or jealous or uptight. I’d give anything to have his talent.”

Elton John – 'Playboy Interview', January 1976

Finish Line is the most recent sparkling representation of a friendship and musical relationship that has developed since the early 1970s between Elton, the British pop-star-in-waiting, and Stevie Wonder, the Motown child prodigy. In honour of their new single from The Lockdown Sessions, we are happy to present a timeline of Elton and Stevie's professional careers together to date.

By John F. Higgins


(l) Stevie and Elton in 1991 (Photo: Kevin Mazur) and (r) in studio in Los Angeles, CA - 2021


Summer of 1970

Elton sings and plays piano on a cover of Stevie’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours), soon after the single becomes a hit in Britain. Elton does the session as an uncredited studio player for hire - just one of many “sound-alike” recordings he is booking this year for budget label releases in the UK, even while in the midst of recording and releasing his own albums at the start of his career.

December 11, 1970

Elton tapes his first appearance on American television – for the Andy Williams Show – at NBC Studios in Burbank, California. During the session, he joins Ray Charles, Mama Cass and the show’s host for a rousing version of Heaven Help Us All, which Stevie released as a single a few months prior. The show is telecast on January 16, 1971, in the US and on March 11, 1971, in the UK.

Late January 1971

Elton, now back home in Britain, first meets his idol…in hilarious fashion. Asked for the use of his car by his then-manager, who came up in the industry as the UK point person for Motown, Elton tags along to pick up Stevie at the airport.

Stevie asks Elton if he is the one who sings Your Song, breaking into the song’s chorus in front of its author. Elton shyly responds, “I’m to blame.” The pair immediately join in laughter and a friendship is born.

September 25, 1973

Stevie makes a surprise appearance during Elton’s concert in Boston, Massachusetts…after making a surprise appearance on Elton’s tour jet earlier in the day. Joining the entourage as it flies to the gig from New York City, Stevie sits down as the Starship’s “cocktail organist” and plays a medley of Elton hits, including Crocodile Rock, much to Elton’s astonishment.


Elton thanks Stevie Wonder for the entertainment during a flight from New York to Boston. (Photo: Bob Gruen)

Later that evening, Elton pauses his show at Boston Garden to say, "A friend of mine is here tonight, he was badly hurt in an accident some time ago...", but before he can continue, the 15,500 in attendance catch on and drown out the rest of the introduction. An electric keyboard is wheeled out on stage to a standing ovation and the pair jam on the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women and Stevie’s own Superstition.

This impromptu performance is later noted by Stevie as the beginning of his public recovery from a near-fatal automobile accident the month before.

Summer of 1975

Elton, recording Rock Of The Westies at Caribou Ranch in Colorado, hosts Stevie at the facility. Although the pair do not record together, the weekend provides Elton with a classic story to tell onwards. Somehow, Stevie is able to drive…or appears to drive…one of the Ranch-owner’s vehicles around the grounds, leaving Elton and his team, including Bernie Taupin, flabbergasted.

November 3, 1977

Stevie joins Elton onstage - pretty much on his piano bench - for the final song at his infamous concert at Empire Pool in Wembley: Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance). The superstar guest begins by clapping along. Then percussionist Ray Cooper hands him a tambourine to further emphasize the beat.

Finally, halfway through the 12-minute jam, Elton leaves the piano and hands its chores over to Stevie, who provides a ferocious, un-rehearsed groove for the rest of the song before being led off the stage by Elton to thunderous applause.

June 19, 1981

Elton and Kiki Dee release Stevie’s song Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever as a duet on Kiki’s album Perfect Timing. Stevie does not appear on the recording, which is released as a single in the UK in November.

September 1982

Stevie makes his first appearance on an Elton song when he plays harmonica on I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.

The song is released in 1983 as a single from Elton’s album Too Low For Zero.
★  It peaks at #5 in the UK, staying on the Official Chart for 15 weeks.
★  It reaches #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, spending 23 weeks on the chart.
★  It spends four of its 24 weeks on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at #2, starting on January 14, 1984.

The single is currently Platinum in the US and the song has been in Elton’s live setlist almost consistently since its release.


Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager’s That’s What Friends Are For is recorded and released by "Dionne & Friends" - featuring vocalists Dionne Warwick, Elton, Stevie, and Gladys Knight.

The song is released as a charity single to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS Research, eventually raising over $3 million for AmfAR.

Ranked by Billboard as the most popular song of 1985, it reaches #1 on:
★ The Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks during a more than five-month run on that chart.
Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, peaking on January 11, 198 and spending 24 weeks on the chart.
★ The Billboard Hot R&B/Soul charts, where it stays at the top position for three weeks.
★ The singles charts in Australia and Canada.

It ends up winning Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the GRAMMY Awards in 1987 and is currently #75 on Billboard's Greatest Hot 100 Songs of All Time. 

June 12, 1988

Dionne & Friends perform That’s What Friends Are For at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. at a Dionne Warwick AIDS Gala Benefit.

The four singers lead the rendition in front of a rapturous audience, with Stevie also reproducing his signature harmonica part.

February 23, 1993

Elton and Stevie, along with a multitude of other celebrity singers, provide backing vocals on Eddie Murphy’s song, Yeah, from his album Love’s Alright. Stevie also plays harmonica on the track.

November 23, 1993

Elton’s album, Duets, is released in the US. On it, Elton and Gladys Knight sing Go On And On, a song written by Stevie, who plays and sings all the instruments and background vocals, and also arranges.

The album is released in the UK on December 1, 1993. It peaks at #5 in the UK and #25 in the US, achieving Platinum status in both countries.

April 30, 1997

Elton and Stevie both participate in Sting’s annual Rock For the Rainforest benefit concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. The pair do not duet, per se, but Elton contributes backing vocals as part of the onstage ensemble behind Stevie on his songs Living For The City and As.

October 1 & 2, 2001

Elton’s Songs From The West Coast album is released in the UK and US. It includes the funky Dark Diamond, on which Stevie plays harmonica, introducing another hook to the already catchy song, and clavinet.

February 10, 2011

Dionne Warwick, Stevie, Elton, and Gladys Knight reprise That’s What Friends Are For at the 25th Anniversary AmfAR Gala in New York. This is the first time in 23 years that the quartet has performed the song in front of an audience. 

October 7, 2014

Elton (vocals) and Stevie (vocals and harmonica) are among the 26 award-winning musicians who perform Brian Wilson's God Only Knows, simulcast on BBC television and radio, launching the BBC Music brand. The single, issued the following day, was a charity release for "Children In Need 2014". It reaches #20 on the Official UK Charts.

(This article was revised post-publication to update the 1985-1987 and October 7, 2014 entries.)