“I was as happy as I could ever remember being,” John, 72, writes in his upcoming memoir, Me, which has been excerpted in the Daily Mail. “And that was the moment my mother turned up, in character as a raving sociopath.”
According to the book, John knew that something was amiss when his mother, Sheila Farebrother, and stepfather, known affectionately as “Derf,” arrived at his Old Windsor home and refused to leave the car.
“Despite various entreaties to come into the house, they just sat there, stony-faced,” writes John. “There, Mum announced she wouldn’t be joining the convoy of cars setting off for Windsor nor would she be coming to the private lunch afterwards.” Things quickly deteriorated from there. “Oh great,” John recalls thinking. “The most important day of my life and one of Mum’s moods appeared to be upon us.”
John was extremely familiar with his mother’s sullen states, dubbing her the “Cecil B. DeMille of bad moods, the Tolstoy of taking a huff.” He says they’d been a recurring theme in their relationship since his childhood.
The best thing to do was to wait for the moods to pass, but her alleged outburst on the day of the civil partnership ceremony particularly poorly timed. “She didn’t — couldn’t — spoil the day, of course. But, in fairness to Mum, she absolutely gave it her best shot,” writes John.
Aware that they were in full view of the world press, John says he remained on his best behavior, striving at all costs to avoid a public spat with his mother.
Farebrother, meanwhile, is said to have remained sour. “When David and I exchanged our vows, she started talking very loudly, over the top of us, rattling on about how she didn’t like the venue and couldn’t imagine getting married in a place like this. When the time came for the witnesses to sign the license, she signed her name, snapped: ‘It’s done, then,’ slammed the pen down and stormed off.”
The bad feelings continued at the reception, where she apparently complained about her seating placement (“You might as well have stuck me in Siberia!”) and verbally fought off anyone who approached her with social niceties.
John recalls Sharon Osbourne approaching him after a frosty interaction with Farebrother. “I know she’s your mum,” Osbourne whispered in his ear, “but I want to kill her.”
Later, John learned that Farebrother had called Furnish’s parents in an attempt to put a stop to the civil partnership ceremony, citing fears that it would spoil her superstar son’s career. The rationale confused John, who always felt that his mother had been supportive of his sexuality.
“She had never been homophobic,” he writes. “As ever, I think the real problem was that she hated anyone being closer to me than she was…She couldn’t cope with the tough of the umbilical cord finally being cut and she didn’t care about anything else, including the fact that I was finally happy.”
The rift would continue to grow deeper over the years. By the time the couple’s first son, Zachary, was born in December 2010, John says that he had “started actively avoiding” his mother and they “weren’t speaking at all.”
The final straw came when John fired his longtime assistant, Bob Halley, who had always been close to his mother. Farebrother was “livid” when she heard the news, saying that he had always been more of a son to her than John ever had. But the most hurtful moment, John claims, came when she took a swipe at Furnish.
“And that’s when she said it: ‘You care more about that f—ing thing you married than your own mother.’ We didn’t speak for seven years after that phone call.”
He says he continued to support her financially, but they stayed estranged. “It was sad, but I didn’t want her in my life anymore. I didn’t invite her to the ceremony when the law on gay partnerships changed again, and David and I got married in 2014.“
Farebrother, he claims, responded by selling off gifts from her son — including platinum albums he’d had specially engraved for her. She celebrated her 90th birthday in 2015 with an Elton John tribute artist in place of the real thing.
John got back in touch when he learned that his mother was seriously ill in 2017, but some of the cracks could never be mended. When he told her he loved her, he says Farebrother responded by saying “I love you, too. But I don’t like you at all.”
So sad to say that my mother passed away this morning. I only saw her last Monday and I am in shock. Travel safe Mum. Thank you for everything. I will miss you so much.— Elton John (@eltonofficial) December 4, 2017
Love, Elton pic.twitter.com/dQKXRbpGRy
She would die of an undisclosed illness that December. John shared the news on social media. “So sad to say that my mother passed away this morning,” he wrote on Dec. 4. “I only saw her last Monday and I am in shock. Travel safe Mum. Thank you for everything. I will miss you so much. Love, Elton.”
In Me, John admits that he broke down while giving her eulogy at the funeral service. “I missed the person I was describing terribly, but I’d started missing her decades before she died.”
Me will be available on Oct. 15.