Elton John/ Rocket Man and the Ongoing International AIDS Crisis

Essay by Luke Foster

“But we came for the Kennedy Centre Awards, which was an incredible honour. Being a British person, I was bestowed this honour. And my partner and I, David, came. And we were so pleasantly surprised by George Bush and his knowledge of AIDS. He really – he treated David and I – and Laura – treated us like – they were so friendly and so courteous.

Elton John

Elton John

I watched three Netflix movies last night and the last was Rocket Man about the life and coming of age of Elton John. The actor Taren Egerton played him perfectly especially with the singing. Bernie Taupin has collaborated with Elton through his whole career writing his lyrics.

My favourite song of theirs is a candle in the wind that he played at Lady Diana’s funeral, and I feel it’s as haunting as Nick Caves into my arms song in my opinion.

“Goodbye, Norma Jeane
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled
They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain
They set you on the treadmill
And they made you change your name”

A Candle in the Wind Elton John

I loved the Rocket Man movie so much not just for the amazing singing but because I could relate to how difficult his life was when growing up. However, my crisis was losing my best friend Nick at 17 in a workplace accident. I remember vividly that his parents Frank and Barbra were talking about going to see Elton in concert in Sydney in the late eighties a couple of years before he passed and they are big fans.

However, it was at the end of the movie that I saw how important Elton is not just for his amazing music but as he gives millions of dollars to AIDS charities around the world. His Elton John Aids Foundation has raised over 565 million to support HIV related programs across ninety countries. I think because of the COVID crisis and all the fear and losses it has created that the AIDS crisis has taken a back seat but it’s still there.

Perhaps the other biggest philanthropist for HIV work is Bill Gates.

“Gates emphasized that “we have to do a much better job on prevention” to avert millions of new HIV infections and keep pace with the rapidly growing demand for treatment. “Treatment without prevention is simply unsustainable,” he said.” Google

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given over one hundred million to help prevent the spread of aids in India.

“As I see it, there are two great forces of human nature: self-interest and caring for others. Capitalism harnesses self-interest in a helpful and sustainable way, but only on behalf of those who can pay. Government aid and philanthropy channel our caring for those who can’t pay. But to provide rapid improvement for the poor we need a system that draws in innovators and businesses in a far better way than we do today.”

Bill Gates

I agree with this Gates quote, but I also realise that all the charities, aid programs and governments are doing so much and should be congratulated but perhaps more can be done.

I think the obvious link between Elton John and other gay men is how the AIDS crisis has affected them. A few months ago, I watched a series of shows a documentary about Andy Warhol and it showed how the AIDS crisis killed a lot of gay men in New York in the eighties. One of my favourite artists is the gay artist Keith Haring who lost his life in New York at this time from AIDS.

I went to see a pop art show in Surfers Paradise at a gallery called Home of the Arts and the Warhol’s and Haring’s were amazing. Haring died of AIDS when he was aged 31 on the 16th of February 1990.

“I don’t think art is propaganda; it should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination, and encourages people to go further. It celebrates humanity instead of manipulating it”.

 Keith Haring

Me at Home of the Arts Pop Art Show this year in front of a Haring.

I just Googled is there a cure for AIDS as I wasn’t sure, and this is what I found:

“HIV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your body and helps you stay healthy. There is no cure for HIV, but you can control it with HIV treatment. Most people can get the virus under control within six months.” Google

In conclusion I agree with Gates that the most important solution for AIDS prevention is prevention itself but also for there to be further search for a cure. However, I remember vividly that there was a grim reaper aids campaign on television that scared everyone in the late eighties as it is not just a disease that effects gay men but also all people. I guess its not just money that can prevent the crisis but education itself globally is equally important.

Anyway, I am sending my regards to Elton and his husband David Furnish and children Zachary and Elijah.