While on safari with his partner David Furnish, Sir Elton John spent time listening to a greatest-hits album by his idol, Leon Russell. That prompted the music superstar to contact Russell and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Union, debuting Thursday, February 2 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT) exclusively on HBO, isÂ an unprecedented personal look into the making of John and Russellâs acclaimed album of the same name.Â Director Cameron Crowe brilliantly captures a myriad of intimate moments involving the two artists, including the first-ever filming of John composing music to lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, his longtime collaborator.Â Underscoring Johnâs desire that the new album sound like one of Russellâs classics, the film is filled with concert footage of John and Russell throughout their careers, including Johnâs first U.S. appearance at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, a show attended by Russell.
With celebrated producer T Bone Burnett on board to produce, Crowe observes as the two musicians develop, rehearse and record such heralded tracks as âIf It Wasnât For Badâ (which received a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals), âGone to Shiloh,â âMonkey Suitâ and âIn the Hands of Angels.âÂ Taupin, icons Neil Young and Brian Wilson, legendary organist Booker T. Jones, steel guitarist Robert Randolph and a ten-piece gospel choir are seen contributing to the album.Â Appearances by Stevie Nicks and Don Was also color the documentary, a chronicle not just of music-making, but of the reinvigoration of Russellâs career.
The Union, the opening-night selection at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival,Â also shows how John has evolved, as an artist and a man.Â Reflecting on his rise to fame in the âglorious blurâ of the â70s, marked by over-the-top costumes and hyperactive performances, he says, âI spent a lot of time in my life feeling insecure offstage, rather than being secure on it.Â Iâm not that way anymore â I want to help people, I want to give back.Â I love young artists.Â And if I met the younger me today, Iâd probably want to help him, too.â
Here’s a clip of Sir Elton talking about the impetus behind and the making ofÂ “The Union.”
Clip courtesy of “kinoglaza” on YouTube.
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