Surrounded by newly designed Elton John tour merch mixed with luxury goods from Fendi and Balenciaga at a special Rocket Man-themed pop-up shop at The Webster in the Beverly Center, David Furnish — husband and business partner to the beloved pop star — joked that everyone thinks his house looks just like this Los Angeles shrine to Elton.
“We do have a Captain Fantastic pinball machine at our home in Windsor,” he conceded to Billboard, sitting in an alcove at The Webster with that very arcade game as “Philadelphia Freedom” played over the speakers. “But we don’t play Elton John music around the clock in our house.”
For the last near-decade, Furnish has been helping Elton plan his retirement from the road, after 50-plus years of touring the world, and this pop-up shop is one of many special flourishes to send him off. “Elton said he wanted to go out on a high,” Furnish says.
So that’s the plan: He’ll end his U.S. tour dates with a trio of concerts at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, including Sunday’s final show being livestreamed by Disney+ and including special guests Dua Lipa, Kiki Dee and Brandi Carlile. And all along, R.J. Cutler will continue to film the Disney+ documentary Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, along with Furnish as producer under his and Elton’s Rocket Entertainment.
“L.A. has always had that professional resonance,” Furnish says of why Dodger Stadium is the last U.S. tour stop, 47 years after Elton was the first solo artist to play the ballpark. “You know, we have a home here. Our sons were born next-door [to The Webster] at Cedars-Sinai; they’re coming in next week to come and see the shows. We have our annual Oscar party here; we’ve raised $95 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation with that event for over 25 years. And so LA is a very, very special place for us.”
Below, find highlights from Billboard‘s chat with Furnish, including why Elton is retiring now, his continued relevance on our charts, and how the couple hoped music would be a “great healer” for Elton’s latest duet partner, Britney Spears.
Why is Elton John retiring from touring now?
I think the most important thing, and the most significant thing for us, is what this means to our family. Because as long as I’ve known Elton, he’s been on the road, doing 90 to 100 shows annually. It’s a big commitment. Time, travel, rest between shows. And now we have two beautiful sons; they’re going to be 12 and 10. And we were able to take them with us in the early days. And now they have their own lives. And that’s really important that they continue to have their own lives, their own identity, to not have their life defined by their father’s career.
On Elton John’s love affair with the Billboard charts, including two top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits this year: “Cold Heart” with Dua Lipa and “Hold Me Closer” with Britney Spears.
He gets your charts daily. He gets them printed out on hard copies. Because he goes through with highlighters. And he literally has different highlighters for different records he charts — ones from Britain, ones from America, the ones that are going up, ones that are his, ones that he has a connection to he. He watches it daily. It feeds a part of his soul. And he’s absolutely over the moon with the way these new records have performed. And you know, you’re gonna see more. Like, he’s not going to stop. And I’m excited for him and excited for what great music he can bring to the world. Our streaming numbers, to see that 58% of his music is now consumed by 18- to 35-year-olds — that is one of the things that I think of which he is most proud. That he’s written songs that survive, that stand the test of time, and that resonate with a whole new generation, that for him is is like, “Wow.”
Why Britney Spears was the perfect duet partner on “Hold Me Closer.”
During lockdown, we watched those documentaries that came out, and we weren’t aware of … we’d heard about the conservatorship, but we hadn’t understood the details and the practicality of it. It was really disturbing, like, “Oh my God, that poor girl, she’s just been in a prison for such a long time.” And as a recovering addict — both of us [David and Elton] are in recovery — we really understand the impact of trauma.
When I raised Britney [as a possible collaborator], [Elton] was like, “Oh, my God, she needs the hand to help take a step forward to get back onto the charts again.” And I think the outpouring that she got from her fans, you know, that it’s a great record, I know she’s genuinely chuffed to bits, as we say in England with the response that it’s had. And I hope and Elton hopes it gives her more courage and more of a sense to get back into the studio, because music is a great healer.
“Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium” will livestream Sunday at 11 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. PT on Disney+.