Elton John Fans Worry Over Singer's Health, Musical Future

Veteran pop pianist says he's fine, but his loyal following fears he may be keeping things from them.

Word that rock veteran Elton John had a pacemaker implanted over the weekend to regulate his heartbeat left

some of the singer's fans deeply concerned over the singer's health and the future of his

decades-spanning career.

From fears the 52-year-old pop pianist/vocalist may be pushing himself beyond his limits

to worries that the public is not being told the complete story, fans expressed uncertainty

and concern about John.

"I hope he is not keeping anything about his condition from his fans," Patricia Holecko, a

52-year-old fan from Clearwater, Fla., wrote in an e-mail.

John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight) issued a statement over the weekend revealing

that doctors had implanted the pacemaker, a battery-operated device that regulates the

heartbeat by sending a small electrical charge to the heart. It was installed under his skin

to correct "a minor imbalance in [his] heart," according to Reuters and the

Associated Press.

As he left London's Wellington Hospital on Saturday, a day after the operation, John told

reporters there was no cause for concern, the wire services reported. He canceled

several concert dates because of the surgery.

"I will resume a normal lifestyle after a couple of months' rest. Life will get back to

normal," he was quoted as saying.

But fans in the alt.fan.elton-john newsgroup said they're worried John might be

downplaying the severity of his problem.

Brenda Henry, 52, of London, said she remains skeptical about the situation. "I ... think

he is downplaying it ... possibly for insurance/investors or some monetary reason," she

wrote in an e-mail.

Cardiologist Dr. Seymour Furman, who edits the medical journal Pacing and Clinical

Electrophysiology, said Wednesday (July 14) that John's statement shed little light on

the exact nature of his heart problems.

Pacemakers are almost always implanted to correct arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat,

but that condition can vary widely in severity, Furman said. Depending on its underlying

causes and other factors, arrhythmia can in some cases simply affect the quality of a

patient's life, but in other cases can be life-threatening.

Furman said most patients who receive pacemakers are around 70 years old.

Nonetheless, Furman said he has treated many patients close to John's age who also

require pacemakers.

Though John's fans said they were concerned that his days as an energetic live

performer might be over, Furman said that in the absence of other significant problems, a

patient with a pacemaker is "capable of significant physical activity."

Still, fans suggested that John might consider cutting back on his schedule. "I think he

needs to slow down now. He's had a good run for his money," Henry wrote.

After taking some time to recuperate, John hopes to resume performing by August,

according to wire service reports.

The British artist has had dozens of hits over the years, from 1970's "Your Song" to

1997's "Something About the Way You Look Tonight"

(RealAudio excerpt).

He began his career as a favorite of critics, and then, with lyricist

Bernie Taupin, achieved mass popularity as an innovative songwriter and outrageous

performer.

John has been cited as an influence by artists ranging from Ben Folds Five leader Ben

Folds to Guns n' Roses frontman Axl Rose, who inducted John into the Rock and Roll

Hall of Fame in 1994.

Though his music has mellowed over the past decade, heading in a more

adult-contemporary direction, John continues to maintain his popularity. An updated

version of his earlier hit "Candle in the Wind," dedicated to Princess Diana of Wales,

became the biggest-selling single of all time following her death in 1997.

Earlier this year, John released the concept album Elton John and Tim Rice's

Aida, a collaboration with lyricist Rice that included guest appearances by Lenny

Kravitz, Tina Turner, James Taylor, Sting, Janet Jackson, the Spice Girls and other

artists.