There’s no denying Sir Elton John’s impact in the world of pop music. The « Bennie and the Jets » icon has been around since 1969, and, according to Forbes, has since « sold more than 300 million records. » John is, without a doubt, one of the most prestigious artists of our time.
Known for his flamboyant persona, the « Rocket Man » crooner’s husband, David Furnish, appears to be the yin to his yang. Seen regularly arm in arm together since they first met in 1993, Furnish could easily be brushed off as merely the partner of a rock icon. However, the entrepreneur is so much more than that. « It’s very important in any relationship that one partner doesn’t lose themselves in the other, » Furnish wisely told The Guardian in 2001. « And that’s very easy if you’re involved with a celebrity. »
Sure enough, Furnish is his own person — and a busy one at that. As Mr. Porter notes, the Canadian-born celeb is the CEO of Rocket Entertainment, chairman of the Elton John Aids Foundation, and also finds himself dipping his toes in « philanthropy, film, music, and theatre. » As John has seen a recent career resurgence in the form of a motion picture about his life, a 2020 Oscar win for best original song for the same flick, and a best-selling autobiography, let’s take a look at the man that’s stood by him throughout it all. Here is the untold truth of Elton John’s husband, David Furnish.
David Furnish ran away from his life in Canada
Although David Furnish met Elton John in the latter’s home country of England, he actually grew up across the pond in a Toronto suburb called North Scarborough. In an interview with The Star, Furnish detailed his upbringing, growing up in a « middle-class family, the second of three brothers, » with his « father Jack, a retired Bristol-Myers director, and mother Gladys, a homemaker. »
Unfortunately, Furnish also grew up during the early days of HIV/AIDS, when it was then known as the « gay plague. » After years of being bullied, when Furnish was between his second and third years of university, he finally told his mother he was having relations with other men. « I remember my mom saying: ‘I love you and I support you, but all I look at is a life of unhappiness, isolation, prejudice, and illness.' » He called the moment « heartbreaking. »
In the end, Furnish left his life behind and traveled to England, in part due to the advertising industry offering him more work after graduating. The main reason for leaving, however? « I left Canada, I left my family behind, because I was ashamed, » Furnish admitted to The Guardian. He added, « I ran away. I grew up in a wonderfully happy, balanced household … I’d had such a positive experience at home, I wanted to live up to that ideal. But I couldn’t do it. I had a lot of failed relationships, a lot of unhappiness … I had to get away. »
He had a modest life before Elton John
How does a regular bloke go from working as an advertising executive in London to dating one of the world’s biggest pop stars, seemingly overnight? Well, David Furnish worked hard to get to where he is. In a profile with The Guardian, the Canadian talked about his « modest » beginnings, living in « a little flat in Clapham. » As the article notes, however, Furnish certainly had talent and drive in the workplace, having been « the youngest member on the board of Ogilvy & Mather, » a British-based, award-winning advertising agency.
So, did « Rocket Man » visit Furnish in the ‘burbs? « No, he never came around. Our lifestyles weren’t compatible at all, » Furnish said with a laugh. « I don’t know if I could have seen him coming around to Clapham for a bowl of spaghetti bolognese. » What’s more, Furnish would have wanted John to visit him — if he wasn’t, well, Elton John. « I can’t say to Elton, ‘Hey, let’s walk around the corner and have a coffee,' » he explained to the outlet. « Someone as well-known as that can’t go anywhere in the world without being recognized. Elton has written the soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives. »
In the end, Furnish settled on splitting his time with John, and more importantly, maintaining his own sense of self: « The person that Elton fell in love with — well, I had my own career, my own identity. The worst thing I could do was sacrifice that. »
David Furnish had to ‘reinvent himself’ professionally
David Furnish had a pretty cushy advertising gig working for Ogilvy & Mather. However, shortly after beginning to date Elton John, he resigned. As per an interview with The Guardian, the Canadian-born celeb had a job which allowed him « four weeks’ holiday a year, » and a 9-to-5 schedule — a far cry from the « Nikita » singer’s touring and then months off work.
Although he could have easily just become another partner of a famous A-lister, Furnish decided to use the opportunity to match his schedule to John’s as much as possible — all while « reinventing himself » professionally. Per The Guardian, considering his love for film and journalism, Furnish, along with his partner’s support, « started optioning novels, reading scripts, meeting writers and directors, and assembling a slate of projects: some animations with Disney, an adaptation of A.L. Kennedy’s So I Am Glad. » He even wrote for Tatler and GQ, having scored big name interviews, such as a piece on Jude Law.
Finally, after taking the time to study at the British Film Institute, Furnish set up his own production company, Rocket Pictures, with the « Candle in the Wind » hitmaker right by his side. « He was independent. I didn’t need to take care of him, » John gushed to Parade in 2010. « I thought, ‘God, this is new territory for me — someone wants to be with me just because he likes me.’ I knew he was the one because he is not afraid of me. »
David Furnish was just what Elton John needed romantically
Elton John had a whirlwind of romantic relationships before he met David Furnish. « I’d always choose someone younger. I wanted to smother them with love, » the « Little Jeannie » singer recalled to Parade. « One after another they got a Cartier watch, a Versace outfit, maybe a sports car … In six months they were bored and hated my guts because I’d taken their lives and self-worth away. »
Cue David Furnish, who, by a stroke of luck, wound up in John’s flat in 1993. As The Guardian detailed, he wasn’t even interested in showing up to the dinner party another friend had invited him to, only « reluctantly » agreeing to go. Sure enough, the evening surprised him, and he was back at the knighted celeb’s home the following day. « I was attracted to David immediately, » John revealed to Parade. « He was very well dressed, very shy. The next night we had dinner. After it, we consummated our relationship. We fell in love very quickly. »
Although the pair were head over heels almost immediately, Furnish never once lost sight of who he was. However, an adjustment period was only natural. As he wisely told The Guardian, « If I’m being totally honest, the balance of power was different to the way it is now. Everything was so new to me … When you’re in a relationship with a very famous person, you HAVE to make compromises. »
David Furnish filmed a controversial documentary about Elton John
Meeting Elton John meant David Furnish had a fast pass ticket to make a stab at almost any career he wanted to — and he definitely had high ambitions. As The Guardian revealed, the suburban Toronto-born celeb was always keen on filmmaking, having « fantasized about following the example of Ridley and Tony Scott, and moving from advertising into feature films. » Soon enough, after setting up Rocket Pictures with John himself, he directed Elton John: Tantrums and Tiaras, a 1996 documentary about his famous partner. As the outlet noted, it « proved Furnish was nobody’s poodle, » while at the same time providing a jarring look at the world’s legendary musical icon.
« Tantrums was horrendous because it tainted me with being the biggest nightmare lunatic in the world, » John admitted to the Mirror in 2011. « Everyone around me thought I was insane to put it out but I loved its honesty. It was also David’s greatest gift to me. He showed me who I was and how much I needed to change. I watch it every three years. »
While the « tantrums » the title of the doc promised did indeed deliver, they also showed a side of John that wasn’t so readily available to the masses. As The Telegraph points out, Furnish was also able to capture « personal moments no one else could: when speaking to the man he loves, the star lets his guard down. » We’re not crying, you’re crying.
Elton John’s husband has feuded with Madonna
Elton John’s feud with Madonna has been highly publicized for years, part and parcel due to his impeccably sharp tongue. When he accepted a Q Award for classic songwriter in 2004, John took the opportunity to throw shade at Madge for allegedly lip-syncing her live performances. By 2012, he was calling her a « fairground stripper. » Uh … yikes.
As for David Furnish? There was once a time when the « Like a Virgin » legend was an icon in his eyes. As he gushed to The Guardian, « I still feel like I trip over my tongue when I talk to Madonna … She was a big, big influence on my life … as a gay man growing up in the Eighties, Madonna was it. » So, what happened? Who’s to say, but Furnish definitely had some strong words to say when Madge won a Golden Globe for best original song for her own flick, W.E., in 2012. « Madonna. Best song???? F**k off, » Furnish wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post (via The Hollywood Reporter). « Her acceptance speech was embarrassing in its narcissism. »
It looks like the feud was finally put to rest in 2013, when John and Furnish just so happened to be dining at the same restaurant as Madonna herself. Speaking to Extra, John dished, « She came in, and I sent over a note. She was very gracious … She accepted our apology, and then we bought her dinner. That’s over and done with. »
After two decades of partnership, David Furnish and Elton John finally married
Having dated since their initial meeting in 1993, Elton John and David Furnish finally wed in December 2014. What pushed the pair to walk down the aisle then was the legalization of same-sex marriage in England that same year in March — something that the couple has publicly discussed. As Furnish told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, « We don’t feel the need to take an extra step legally. But since we’re committed for life, we feel it’s really important to take that step, and take advantage of that amazing change in legislation. We all live by example. »
Huge advocates of equality within the LGBTQ+ community, both Furnish and John were looking to break down barriers in front of the masses. Speaking to CTV News about growing up in a non-gay-friendly society in Canada in the ’80s, Furnish explained, « There were no role models … I wanted a lasting union, I wanted children, I wanted a successful career, and there wasn’t anybody that I could point to, anywhere. »
Nowadays, Furnish sits as the chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and being an activist seems to fulfill the Canadian-born celeb. « If we want to end AIDS, we have to create a more loving, more compassionate, and more just society, » he declared to Personal Health News, adding to all those affected, « If your family has turned away from you, please know that you are not alone. »
The tabs have sometimes been cruel to David Furnish
For once, it wasn’t Elton John who made shocking headlines in 2016 — it was his husband: the polite and reserved David Furnish. In a story run by the National Inquirer, the goss rag accused the documentary filmmaker of having sexual relations with English businessman Daniel Laurence, who, in turn, told the tabs of the alleged trysts between himself and Furnish. What’s more curious is that John supposedly knew about everything (even the olive oil romps!), meaning that the reported meetings weren’t considered an « affair. »
While the verdict is out on whether or not any of this is true, the « Tiny Dancer » singer still decided to take action, and received a court injunction that blocked publications from mentioning both his and Furnish’s names in the press in England and Wales.
It’s not the only time that living in the limelight has been rough on Furnish. In John’s 2019 autobiography, Me, the singer revealed that his husband sought therapy for an alcohol problem (via Radar Online): « I always thought David had slipped into Elton John World with remarkable ease and confidence, but it turned out that a lot of things I was completely used to living with, that I just saw as a fact of life, made him completely anxious. He didn’t like being photographed all the time, or being under press scrutiny. »
David Furnish once offered a rap star love advice
In an unlikely interview, David Furnish and Elton John both sat down with « PRBLMS » rapper, 6LACK, for an online series on love, which complemented his 2018 album, East Atlanta Love Letter.
Taking the reigns, Furnish explained to the rapper, « Here’s a crazy thing in our relationship. We’ve been together for 25 years, coming up. We started a tradition that was not about technology, but every Saturday, we gave each other an anniversary card, because we met on a Saturday … You write about the week that’s passed and the week that’s coming, and you connect, and you tell each other that you love each other. » Explaining that it doesn’t matter where his superstar partner is in the world, the pair always uses a courier to make sure that their messages get delivered. « I think seeing the handwriting on paper and feeling the person’s humanity through that, and the fact that we religiously do it every Saturday, » Furnish continued, « has been a very powerful bonding thing for us. »
It turns out, all of the cards they’ve had throughout the years are kept « in a storage box » in their safe at home, calling them a « catalog » of their relationship. As the « Your Song » icon added, « We sort through [our difficulties] by communication, and one way of communicating is writing down on a piece of paper or card how you’re feeling. » If that’s not relationship goals, we don’t know what is.
David Furnish produced Elton John’s biopic
David Furnish isn’t just a director in Hollywood, he’s also a producer, having been an essential component to 2019’s Rocketman — a biopic on Elton John’s colorful life. The flick was well-received, with John even winning for best original song at the 2020 Oscars for « I’m Gonna Love Me Again. »
What’s most poignant about Furnish taking the reigns with the film, however, was his ability to keep it as authentic as possible. Considering Bohemian Rhapsody came out the year prior and the backlash it faced over « underplaying » Freddy Mercury’s bisexuality, Furnish assured the public that Rocketman was the complete opposite. « International cinema is complicated and sadly the world isn’t a homogenous place, » he explained to GQ, declaring, « Well, you can’t do that with our film, I’ll tell you that. It’s integral to Elton’s journey as an individual and as an artist. I would strongly resist any sanitization. The world continues to need to evolve and grow in the right direction. »
Sure enough, according to Screen Daily, the film grossed « a worldwide total of just short of $200m. » As Furnish told the outlet, « The box office returns we got were incredibly gratifying. But more importantly, it feels like the film has really resonated. The number of people it has touched in relation to self-esteem and self-love issues, people dealing with addiction issues, people dealing with difficult childhoods … Rocketman seems to have ticked a lot of boxes and touched a lot of people. »
David Furnish still tries to maintain normalcy in his life
At the end of the day, it looks like the primary way for David Furnish to keep his sanity while being with one of the world’s most high-profile stars is to maintain a sense of normalcy in his life — spending time with his family and raising their two sons, Zachary Jackson Levon and Elijah Joseph Daniel. « Our life is the same as anyone else’s, » Furnish mused to CTV News in 2015. « You know, sitting around the breakfast table, looking at the newspapers, drinking coffee, watching television, playing with the dogs, [and] playing with the kids. »
It turns out, Furnish really values not being an A-list celeb, too. « I can get on the subway and go out to North York and visit my folks … and nobody bothers me or takes my picture, » the activist continued, adding that when it comes time for him to do PR events, he merely considers it « work, » and is able to step in and out of the limelight.
As for Elton John? It looks like his priorities are shifting, as well, after being a music icon for almost half a century. Speaking to Good Morning America, the legendary singer revealed, « Our boys came into our life at a late time. I’ve never experienced anything like it, being a father and being a parent. There’s no contest. I’d rather be with my children than playing shows. » Just like that, we’re all collectively swooning.