Can’t Help But Stan: Eminem and Elton John’s Enduring Friendship

26 February 2022

Joanna Psaros

Performing ‘Stan’ at the 2001 Grammys

Take one of England’s most successful pop star of the 70s with a penchant for ostentatious eyewear. Add hip hop’s original problem whose foul-mouthed lyrics are a magnet for controversy.  

The result? One of music’s most meaningful and enduring friendships. 

The two artists first met when they collaborated over Eminem’s iconic single “Stan” at the 2001 Grammys in what was Los Angeles Times deemed by “the most controversial moment in the 43-year history of the Grammy Awards”

Eminem was already a controversial choice for the award show, with his reputation for hyper-violent, homophobic rhymes appalling gay rights activists. 

But the openly gay Elton John ignored calls to boycott the performance, telling critics “I’d rather tear down walls between people than build them up.”The performance ended with Em and Elton sharing a hug and grasping hands, much to the audience’s audible shock. 

Even in the face of criticism, Elton John has remained loyal to the controversial rapper, vehemently denying suggestions that Em is homophobe. 

“I’m always a supporter of the people that are getting trashed,” Elton told interviewers.

“For me Eminem was never homophobic. I’ll fight for anyone who is misunderstood and misrepresented by the idiots out there.”

Meanwhile, Eminem’s bond with the flamboyant singer suggests that underneath the bravado, Marshall Mathers is an unexpectedly sensitive and tolerant soul. In other words, a total softy unphased by Elton’s sexuality.  

2017 interview even saw Eminem drop the L word in conversation with his “Uncle Elton”. It’s a genuinely touching exchange- though seriously off brand for the artist formerly known as Slim Shady 

Despite this, Em is far more comfortable showing affection through calling his mentor a cunt. (Used to Marshall’s twisted sense of humour, Elton finds it hilarious.) 

In 2014, Elton John and his long-time partner David Furnish finally said “I do” after two decades of waiting for same sex marriage rights. The lavish ceremony was attended by a who’s who of Britain’s A-list, with famous friends David and Victoria Beckham,  Ed Sheeran and Hugh Grant sharing in the celebrations. 

But it’s hard to imagine any of these well-wishers entertaining the groom as much as Eminem’s wedding gift; twin diamond-encrusted cock rings on velvet cushions. Described as “very Eminem,” the rapper’s tongue in cheek celebration of gay sex confirmed” …how homophobic he isn’t.”

Sadly, the rings were never used. But if nothing else, they made for one hell of a funny anecdote. 

Elton’s partner and children bring the singer more joy and fulfilment than music, while Eminem’s record-breaking career ensures the six-time Grammy winner could retire tomorrow a hip-hop legend. Not bad for a high school dropout from Detroit.  

But the rapper’s ascent to superstardom did not come easily. If it weren’t for Marshall’s ability to channel pain into ambition, he may never have sold a record. And if it wasn’t for Uncle Elton’s in the rapper’s darkest year? He might not be here at all. 

Following the release of “Encore” in 2004, Eminem’s regular abuse of painkillers and methadone rapidly spiralled into addiction. In need of serious help, Em called the person he knew would understand- Elton John. After all, ten years earlier the singer had been in the exact same position. 

Eminem has chalked up a momentous twelve years of sobriety with the help of his sponsor- who else but Elton?  


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