Who Is Elton John Paying Tribute To at the Emmys? Hint: He's a Fellow Piano Man

Victoria Leigh Miller
Yahoo! TV Emmys Blog

At this year's 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, the TV movie "Behind the Candelabra" will be well-represented. The HBO biopic about the life of Liberace has been nominated for a whopping 15 Emmys, including lead-actor nods for its stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as well as the all-important nomination in the Outstanding Miniseries or Movie category.

While Douglas and Damon have already been announced as the first presenters at this year's ceremony, a music icon has been tapped to perform a tribute to the movie's main character. Sir Elton John will honor Liberace at the award show, marking the rock legend's first appearance on the Emmys stage.

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"Behind the Candelabra" executive producer Jerry Weintraub said Liberace paved the way for some of today's most flamboyant performers. So it's no wonder that one of them was picked for the Emmy tribute!

Weintraub told CNN's The Lead With Jake Tapper that Liberace "didn't care much about the music. He cared a lot more about the flamboyance and the show of show business. ... But he was Elton John before Elton John. He was Lady Gaga before Lady Gaga. He was Madonna before she was a thought in anybody's mind."

Weintraub also added, "If Liberace would've lived now, like Elton John lives with his partner, with children, he would've been a happy guy. But he couldn't do that in those days."

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Elton John — whose upcoming album, "The Diving Board," will be released on Sept. 24 — is no stranger to award shows. In addition to his multiple award wins (he's a six-time Grammy winner and he won an Oscar for his hit "Lion King" theme, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"), the British rocker has several big award-show performances under his belt. In February he performed with singer Ed Sheeran at the Grammy Awards (the duo sang Sheeran's hit "The A Team"), and at the 2001 ceremony he joined Eminem for an iconic duet of the controversial song "Stan." And who can forget his team-up with Guns N' Roses at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards?

But this tribute performance feels different, perhaps because John has often been compared to the late piano virtuoso, who died of AIDS complications in 1987.

According to a 1986 article posted by TV Worth Watching, Liberace once described Elton John as "bizarre, where I have never been bizarre. With him, the headdresses and the glasses and all of that, you really have to be told who it is. But with me, there's no question."

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There's also no question that the "Behind the Candelabra" tribute performance could be one of Sir Elton's biggest TV moments yet.

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards will air live from the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. on CBS.