Now, however, he knows what getting on a bit means and has admitted that his joy at being a hands-on parent will be short-lived because he started so late.
The 66-year-old singer suggested that by the time his two sons are teenagers, he will probably be so frail that he will need a stairlift.
At a ceremony to receive the first Brits Icon Award for his contribution to music, he was reminded how, in an interview aged 40, he said he was too old to be a father.
The TV presenter Dermot O’Leary asked Sir Elton: ‘You said, “I don’t want to be 70 years old with a teenage child” – what do you say now?’
The singer replied: ‘Well, I won’t be 70 years old with a teenager – I will be 80. By the time they are 15, I will be on a Stannah stairlift.
‘I wish I had made that decision to be a father 20 years earlier because I am no spring chicken.’
Sir Elton and his partner of 20 years, David Furnish, 50, are reported to have paid an unnamed surrogate £17,340 for the birth of their first son, Zachary, in 2010. It is claimed they paid a further £20,000 to the same woman for their other son, Elijah, in January this year.
‘I could understand when people were concerned about our age,’ Sir Elton said at the award ceremony on Monday night, ‘but to hell with it. We can show these children so much love, and in two-and-a-half years, they have brought me so much happiness.’
Speaking between songs, including his hit I’m Still Standing, at the London Palladium, he revealed how family life had helped him deal with his troubled past, including his drug addiction.
‘I regret the extended use of drugs, but I had to go through that to be the person I am now,’ he said.
‘When I got sober, I had to be a human being again – I was totally divorced from reality. I did not know how to tie my shoelaces, basically.’
He added: ‘Performers are monsters sometimes, but I have changed and done a lot of work on myself.
‘My partner has helped me and having the children is the icing on the cake. You have to behave around them . . . it affects their behaviour.’
Sir Elton said he had not used drugs for 23 years and feels ‘like I am 23 years old’, adding that having children was ‘the best thing that’s happened to me’.
He said: ‘Everything I thought that would be annoying about being a father I find enchanting. There is not one negative thing about it.
‘I don’t really tell them off. If they are being naughty, they are being naughty. They are just kids. We just say, “Calm down, calm down”. It makes me laugh.’
In the 1970s, however, ‘there was a huge imbalance in my life’. He said: ‘I was very confident being Elton John on stage, but I was still the shy little boy off stage.’
He recalled a suicide attempt, when he swallowed 60 Valium tablets and leapt into a swimming pool, and described his drug addiction as selfish.
He said: ‘In the beginning, it opened me up – cocaine helped me talk. At the end, it closed me down. The thing is, my personality is addictive – I always had to have more.’
Receiving the award from his friend Rod Stewart, Sir Elton said: ‘It’s very flattering. I will take what I can get at my age.’
- Wilko Johnson: Sir Elton John’s Award Tribute (news.sky.com)
- Elton John wishes he had kids earlier (contactmusic.com)
- Elton John interview: illness was a wake-up call (telegraph.co.uk)
- Sir Elton John Is The Perfect Recipient For The First Ever Brit Icon Award (contactmusic.com)
- Daddy’s day out! Elton John and Robbie Williams make the most of fatherhood on holiday (express.co.uk)
- Sir Elton John wins first ever Brits Icon award (express.co.uk)
- Sir Elton John: I was a monster. I’m a better person now that I’ve got children (standard.co.uk)
- Sir Elton John picks up Icon award (bbc.co.uk)
- Elton John: “I wish we’d had children 20 years earlier because I am no spring chicken” (mirror.co.uk)
- ‘I will be in a stairlift when my children are 15’, Elton John admits (telegraph.co.uk)