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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Elton John and the Loss of Sexual Autonomy

The past three decades have been filled with contrasting types of popular music, which reflect an evolving culture. What was popular in the Seventies provides a sharp contrast to what appealed to audiences in the Nineties. Ironically, the earlier decade was filled with ideas of freedom and non-conformity, while ideas of clear categories and cautionary reluctance dominate the latter. Despite the supposed 1970’s ‘revival’ in the 1990’s, symbolized by Volkswagen Beetles and Madonna’s retro hairstyle, certain perceptions and ideas from the seventies did not survive into the nineties. These lost concepts made it hard for the nineties culture to accept a more expansive sexual liberation. One song artist who lived through all three decades and was part of the force, which created the sexual liberation of the seventies, was Elton John. John serves as an ideal case study to illustrate the loss of this sexual freedom into the nineties. Though one would think that it would be impossible for one performer to be popular throughout these times, he seemed to soar. In addition to being a popular musician and singer, his reputation ranged from being named “worst dressed woman” by a popular magazine to being knighted by the Queen of England. This change is clearly represented in the pictures displayed here. In the seventies, Elton John is seen in cat suits and sparkles. In the recent pictures, he is wearing traditional suits and glasses. It is easy to generalize that there must have been some sort of conscious conforming to the times by this man, since he fits in so well throughout the decades. However, the truth may be that he conformed only at the end of this time period, w…

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… of what happened from the seventies to the nineties. We went from liberal ideas of ways to dress and live our lives to conservative ideas of clear defining lines between sexual categories and more conservative styles of dress; boys dressing like boys and girls dressing appropriately as girls. People of the nineties were not able to accept the fluidity of bisexuality because it does not fit in a clear-cut category; it entails all of them instead. Perhaps as we venture into a new century and millennium our society should start learning from the past so we can continue making steps forward instead of backtracking into the close-mindedness of the past. Freedom should be something embraced and not stepped over. This freedom can help us to remember, “…In the end, it is really about the simple mysterious pull between warm human bodies when the lights go out.” (Newsweek, 50)

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