Elton John royalty row put mentor Dick James in early grave says the late record boss' heartbroken son... after 'coward' hitmaker hauled him to court to 'change how musicians are treated'

  • Stephen James, 72, claimed his father - who died aged 65 from a heart attack in 1986 - 'couldn't live with the fact Elton had turned on him'
  • The Rocketman hitmaker, now 72, sued Dick James in 1985 -  three months before his death- over rights to his earlier material
  • Stephen also branded the singer a 'coward' for not personally reaching out to him when Dick died
  • In Elton's 2019 autobiography Me, he spoke of his 'love' for the late music boss, and said he 'hated every minute' of the case but felt he 'had to' proceed 
  • James signed Elton - then Reg Dwight - and lyricist Bernie Taupin in 1967, after Stephen found him rehearsing in their recording studio without permission 
  • Dick and Stephen instigated the adoption of Reg's new stage name Elton John and engineered his rise to fame

The son of Elton John's mentor Dick James has claimed the singer's court case against his father put him in an early grave.

Speaking to The Mirror, Stephen James, 72, claimed his father - who died aged 65 from a heart attack in 1986 - 'couldn't live with the fact Elton had turned on him', in a 1985 court row over royalties. which took place three months before his death. 

Stephen also branded the Rocketman star, 72, a 'coward' for not personally reaching out to him when Dick died - but said he was relieved Elton had expressed his love for the man who engineered his rise to fame in new memoir, Me.

Interview: The son of Elton John's mentor Dick James has claimed the singer's court case against his father put him in an early grave

Interview: The son of Elton John's mentor Dick James has claimed the singer's court case against his father put him in an early grave 

Like a son: Speaking to The Mirror , Stephen James, 72, claimed his father - who died aged 65 from a heart attack in 1986 - 'couldn't live with the fact Elton had turned on him', in a 1985 court row over royalties three months before his death (Elton and Dick in the 1970s)

Like a son: Speaking to The Mirror , Stephen James, 72, claimed his father - who died aged 65 from a heart attack in 1986 - 'couldn't live with the fact Elton had turned on him', in a 1985 court row over royalties three months before his death (Elton and Dick in the 1970s)

Saying Dick saw Elton as a son, he added: 'There is no doubt in my mind he would have lived longer if it wasn’t for the stress of the court case.

'My mother told me afterwards he just couldn’t come to terms with how Elton had attacked him.'

Dick was already in poor health after a recent heart bypass, with Stephen saying the stress of the court case was the final straw. 

He also claimed that when his father 'keeled over and died' the only contact was via Elton's lawyer, saying sorry for the family's loss.   

Court case:  Elton successfully sued his former mentor in 1985 over the rights to his earlier material - Dick died just three months later

Court case:  Elton successfully sued his former mentor in 1985 over the rights to his earlier material - Dick died just three months later 

Stephen said: 'He was a coward, he didn’t have the guts to personally contact me.'  

Music mogul James signed Elton - then known as Reg Dwight - and lyricist Bernie Taupin in 1967, after son Stephen found the then 20-year-old rehearsing in their recording studio without permission. 

Dick and Stephen instigated the adoption of Reg's new stage name Elton John, with music publisher Stephen saying the pair took him from an 'awkward and shy' young adult to the confident and iconic performer he has become.

Rise to fame: Dick and Stephen instigated the adoption of Reg's new stage name Elton John, with music publisher Stephen saying the pair took him from an 'awkward and shy' young adult to the confident and iconic performer he has become (pictured 1972)

Rise to fame: Dick and Stephen instigated the adoption of Reg's new stage name Elton John, with music publisher Stephen saying the pair took him from an 'awkward and shy' young adult to the confident and iconic performer he has become (pictured 1972)

Superstar: Music mogul James signed Elton - then known as Reg Dwight - and lyricist Bernie Taupin in 1967, after son Stephen found the then 20-year-old rehearsing in their recording studio without permission

Superstar: Music mogul James signed Elton - then known as Reg Dwight - and lyricist Bernie Taupin in 1967, after son Stephen found the then 20-year-old rehearsing in their recording studio without permission

They oversaw his first recording contract with all of John's releases up until 1976 released on Dick's DJM record label. 

Elton left DJM in 1974 to set up his own record label, The Rocket Record Company with relations souring between himself and Dick when he took the latter to court. 

In Elton's autobiography Me, he  spoke of the end of his friendship with Dick, which left Stephen visibly moved.

The Candle In The Wind star said:'I loved Dick. It was really ugly, really sad. That wasn't how the story of Dick and I was supposed to end at all.'

Last contact: Stephen, who revealed he hopes to hear from Elton and 'move on' from his heartbreak, said his last contact with the star was in a restaurant in Nice, France in 2015 (pictured 2019)

Last contact: Stephen, who revealed he hopes to hear from Elton and 'move on' from his heartbreak, said his last contact with the star was in a restaurant in Nice, France in 2015 (pictured 2019)

Loved: In Elton's autobiography Me, he spoke of the end of his friendship with Dick, which left Stephen visibly moved (pictured with John Reid and Elton's mother and stepfather)

Loved: In Elton's autobiography Me, he spoke of the end of his friendship with Dick, which left Stephen visibly moved (pictured with John Reid and Elton's mother and stepfather)

He added that he 'hated every minute' of the case, but felt he had to proceed with it because 'the industry had to change the way it treated artists'.  

Stephen said Dick tried to contact the star but Elton refused to discuss the matter, and claimed the singer cancelled a meeting just a minutes before it was due to start.

Suing Dick over the rights to his earlier material, John was ultimately successful but the financial  cost incurred to the Dick James Music label was not as substantial as the mogul feared. 

Stephen, who revealed he hopes to hear from Elton and 'move on' from his heartbreak, said his last contact with the star was in a restaurant in Nice, France in 2015.

He said Elton and him were cordial with one another, with the star putting his hand on his shoulder as he left, which a psychologist friend of Stephen's claimed might be a 'form of an apology'.

Portrayal: In the recent biopic Rocketman, Dick was portrayed by Stephen Graham as a bad-mannered, foul-mouthed Cockney- which his son says was an untrue representation of him

Portrayal: In the recent biopic Rocketman, Dick was portrayed by Stephen Graham as a bad-mannered, foul-mouthed Cockney- which his son says was an untrue representation of him

Stephen added that he believed John always had trouble expressing his innermost feelings.

Stephen said his father played a key role in helping Elton to come to terms with his sexuality, saying the star would speak to Dick about the subject. 

MailOnline has contacted representatives for Elton John for comment. 

In the recent biopic Rocketman, Dick was portrayed by Stephen Graham as a bad-mannered, foul-mouthed Cockney- which his son says was an untrue representation of him.

Discussing his early days working with Elton and Bernie, Stephen said their early compositions were 'interesting' but the lyrics were 'bad.'

He also revealed that Elton suffered badly with stage fright, which some days got so bad he was unable to get out of bed.

Stephen said he employed tough love, telling the Tiny Dancer star he would ruin his career before it began if he cancelled shows - and sent a girl round his house to get the star out of bed. 

Iconic: Elton is one the best-selling artists of all time, selling more than 300m records worldwide (pictured 2019)

Iconic: Elton is one the best-selling artists of all time, selling more than 300m records worldwide (pictured 2019)

Elton John royalty row put mentor Dick James in early grave says the record boss' heartbroken son

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