Archived Opinion

Elton John and the value of forever friends 

Elton John and the value of forever friends 

Many moons ago, when I attended a seventh-grade sleepover, I met a new girl in town. Her name was Lana. She was from Natchez, Mississippi, and had wild curly blonde hair, a vibrant personality and was a huge New Orleans Saints fan.

During the party, we started talking music. This was the era of New Kids on the Block and Color Me Badd. After a while, Lana chimed in to say she was a fan of Elton John. The other girls furrowed their brows, but my eyes widened and a smile spread across my face. I, too, was a fan of Elton John. In fact, we found out that night that our favorite album was “Elton John’s Greatest Hits 1976-1986.” 

The summer before our freshman year in high school, we recorded a rendition of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” on VHS tape, Lana singing the part of Elton and me singing the part of Kiki Dee. This became a pretty hilarious and infamous video among our group of friends. Somehow, after all these years, I still have it in my possession. The footage never fails to make me laugh. I love watching our young, naive personalities singing our hearts out and being silly in my teenage bedroom. 

Lana and I roomed together three of our four years at N.C. State University and attended two Elton John concerts during those years. College held a lot of change and metamorphoses for both of us, but two things remained constant — Elton’s music and our friendship. 

In 2006 when my parents’ house burned to the ground during a freak electrical fire, I lost all of my middle school, high school and college photo albums. The following year, Lana gave me a box full of new albums where she had copied every photo she could find from our many years together. This was one of the most special gifts I’ve ever received. 

In 2008-2009, she and I both had our first child, and through those exhausting first years of motherhood we routinely stayed on the phone or got together in person, both working through various post-partum struggles. Those little babies are now nearing 14 years old, the same age we were when we sang our duet on video tape. 

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In 2016 after my mom passed away from cancer, the sound of Lana’s voice on the phone allowed me to freely break down. When you grow up with the same group of kids, all of the mothers and fathers become a collective unit of parents. My mom’s passing was a blow to her heart as well. 

Sometime last year, she called and told me that Elton had announced a farewell tour for 2022. Granted, he had a previous farewell tour in 2019, but it sounded like this was the real deal. As soon as tickets went on sale, we bought four tickets for the Charlotte show, one for the two of us and one for each of our significant others. 

When Elton walked out on stage at the concert, it felt like we were watching a living legend. His voice and persona are so iconic that few compare. Despite his personal troubles and the world changing and evolving around him, Elton has stayed true to his music and his fans. He’s truly a Rocket Man. 

As I grow wiser, I realize more and more that “family” doesn’t have to be those who share the same genetic makeup. I’ve learned that friends sometimes know you better and appreciate the relationship more than those with the same bloodline. Lana is such a friend to me, and I hope I’m that kind of friend to her.  

The universe always has our back, so if it wasn’t Elton John that brought Lana and I together, it would have been something else. I cannot imagine my life trajectory without her. 

As Elton sings in his 1971 song, “Friends:”  

“Making friends for the world to see

Let the people know you got what you need

With a friend at hand you will see the light

If your friends are there, then everything’s alright.”

(Susanna Shetley is a writer, editor and digital media specialist with The Smoky Mountain News, Smoky Mountain Living, and Mountain South Media. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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