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Activism Changed Elton John. Then Elton John Changed the World

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(From left): David Furnish, John’s husband and EJAF board chairman; John; and EJAF executive director Scott Campbell

Furnish and John are parenting by example through their work with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. They talk with the boys about “how important it is to help people in need, and how wonderful it feels to know that you’ve been able to help someone live a better life.”

Formed a year before the two met, EJAF soon became Furnish’s calling. “EJAF is my life’s work,” he says. “Our careers outside of the foundation have taken us all around the world, and we’ve had many thrilling experiences as part of the entertainment industry. But nothing, absolutely nothing, in our professional lives compares to visiting with EJAF grantees in Africa or Ukraine or Atlanta, and seeing their work in action. Knowing you’ve made real, lasting, positive change in the lives of millions of people is an incredible feeling.”

What their kids see, in many ways, isn’t the Elton John his fans know: the now-70-year-old rock star (nee Reginald Kenneth Dwight) who after selling 300 million records worldwide has become the third most successful artist in history on the American charts (after Elvis Presley and the Beatles) thanks to his 38 gold and 31 platinum or multiplatinum albums. An unlikely rock star — the flamboyant John was already balding and a bit husky in his 20s — John is an incomparable musical powerhouse who has an Oscar, a Tony, and several Grammys. John was also a huge part of the summer blockbuster Kingsman: The Golden Circle, where he stole the show in every scene. It’s a reminder of his continued cultural relevance and amazing work ethic. Touring nonstop since 1970, John has performed for fans in 80 different countries (including some that still criminalize homosexuality). But, after a tough year battling a bacterial infection he caught while touring South America, John is saying goodbye to his perch at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on May 2018, after having performed more than 200 shows there.

No doubt that leaves more time for his three loves: his kids; David Furnish, his partner since 1993 (and whom he married in 2005); and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Today, at the helm of EJAF are founder John; chairman of the board Furnish;  Scott Campbell, executive director of EJAF US, and Anne Aslett, executive director of EJAF UK,

Long before becoming a leading force in the AIDS response, EJAF started at a friend’s kitchen table in Atlanta.

“I need to take you back to October 1992,” John says, in telling the story of EJAF’s birth. “Elizabeth Taylor asked me to join her for a benefit concert… to raise money for HIV/AIDS research. It [was] the final catalyst for one of the most important decisions I have ever made in my life: the decision to start an AIDS foundation.” After all, John says, “As effective as the benefit concert was, just performing at benefit concerts felt piecemeal to me. It was 1992, and funding was badly needed to help people in the midst of the epidemic. So we thought of creating a single place where funding could be raised, compiled, and spent strategically for community groups.”

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