Elton John: Madonna Was “Ungracious and Nasty” to Lady Gaga

In his new memoir, Elton John spills on Lady Gaga and Madonna’s old feud.

88th Academy Awards
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Elton John’s new memoir, Me, is full of all kinds of revelations, not just about the legendary rock star’s glamorous life but about his fellow musicians. In one chapter, the musician revisits Madonna and Lady Gaga’s infamous feud, which eventually lead to the Rocketman’s own falling out with Madonna. “I used to make fun of [Madonna] for lip-synching on stage, but the problem really started when she ran Gaga down on an American chat show,” he wrote, referencing a 2012 ABC News interview in which Madonna called Gaga’s “Born This Way” “reductive,” confirming that she thought it was derivative of her own 1989 hit “Express Yourself.” (Madonna also said that she thought Gaga was “a very talented artist” and that she admired her songwriting, but apparently that’s been lost to history.)

“I got that Gaga’s single ‘Born This Way’ definitely sounded similar to ‘Express Yourself,’ but I couldn’t see why she was so ungracious and nasty about it, rather than taking it as a compliment…particularly when she claims to be a champion for women,” John writes. “I think it’s just wrong—an established artist shouldn’t kick down a younger artist right at the start of their career.”

Following that interview, John told a journalist in Australia that Madonna’s career was over and called the pop star a “fairground stripper.” He claims that he was unaware that his comments would make it to television. “I was furious and I said some pretty horrible things about her to a TV interviewer in Australia, a guy I’d known since the ’70s called Molly Meldrum,” he wrote. “You can tell from the footage that it wasn’t part of the interview, that I was just sounding off to an old friend between takes… They broadcast it anyway, which brought that particular old friendship to a very swift conclusion. Still, I shouldn’t have said it. I apologized.”

The story does have a happy ending, at least in part. Gaga and Madonna have apparently mended fences—they were photographed nuzzling together at an Academy Awards after-party earlier this year. And John is still close with Gaga, who serves as godmother to his two young sons. The musician “turned out to be a great godmother,” John wrote. “She would turn up backstage and insist on giving Zachary his bath while dressed in full Gaga regalia, which was quite an incredible sight.”