By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Few artists can bring back memories like Elton John.
And while that’s to be expected for a pop musician who has been making hits for four decades, there’s something special about the British rock legend. Many folks are instantly transported back to their wedding day, or another major life event, every time they hear a certain Elton John song.
For Brad and Lorraine Hardman, the link between Sir Elton and their marriage has been a continuous one from the start. The Boardman couple has used Elton John songs to mark mileposts in their lives together.
Brad and Lorraine — both are 1972 graduates of Chaney High School — have been married for 36 years. But the John connection goes back even further.
Brad tells the story from the beginning:
“On June 11, 1972, we had our first date and became fans of Elton John’s music from the very start,” he said. “Lorraine attended Bowling Green State University while I remained here and attended Youngstown State University. When a new Elton album was released, I would buy two copies — one for myself and one that I would mail to her at BGSU. Then on Aug. 1, 1976, we had tickets to see Elton at the Richfield Coliseum. I waited for him to perform our favorite song, “Your Song,” and then asked Lorraine to marry me. On our wedding invitation, we had printed:
‘I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words …
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.’”
The Hardmans married July 9, 1977. Brad continued to employ John songs for special occasions, but started to change the lyrics to make them more personal.
“To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, I rewrote the lyrics to ‘Your Song’ and sang them to my wife at a family gathering. I’m not even close to being a good singer, but that moment worked for us. After all, my gift was my song, and that one was for her. Again, Elton was there to make the occasion more special.”
The Hardmans attended John’s May 2010 concert at Covelli, which coincided with another special life event.
“My wife was retiring after 35 years as a speech and language pathologist for the Austintown schools, and I decided to buy her another diamond ring to celebrate her accomplishments.”
By now it should be obvious when Brad gave it to her.
“At the Elton concert, during his performance of ‘Your Song,’” he said.
It was the second-to-last song of the night. The next and final song was “Circle of Life.”
“It was perfect,” said Brad. “We had come full circle.”
Dale Pesa of Poland also has used Elton John to mark a special moment.
“When my daughter [Marie Pekkanen] got married in 2002, she and I had a dance routine worked up to ‘There’s Something About the Way You Look Tonight,’” said Pesa. “We worked on it for three months, and it went off quite well. That was a special moment.”
Pesa said he considers himself a “decent fan” of John and has seen him in concert three times, including the May 2010 show at Covelli.
MOM AND DAUGHTER
Sally Kurjan of Mineral Ridge grew up loving Elton John and his music. She passed that love on to her kids.
“When my children were babies, it was only natural to sing ‘Your Song’ or ‘Tiny Dancer’ while I was rocking them to sleep,” she said. “My daughter, Ashley, shares my love of Elton John songs. By the time she was 3, she was belting them out word-for-word at the top of her lungs.”
Despite their connection, Kurjan and Ashley never attended an John concert together — but that’s about to change because they will be attending Saturday’s show at Covelli Centre.
“In 1995, I went to an Elton John-Billy Joel concert without Ashley,” said Kurjan. “I thought she was too young, but she had an entirely different opinion. Nineteen years later, Ashley and I are finally going to an Elton John concert together. We still love his music and always will.”
Kurjan said her husband, Don, bought the tickets for them as a gift.
FROM A COUNTRYMAN
For Chris Johnson of Neshannock, Pa., seeing Elton John in 2010 at Covelli Centre brought back memories from his old life across the pond.
Johnson, like John, is from the United Kingdom.
“Having Elton come and play a venue so close to us was an opportunity we were not going to miss,” said Johnson, who attended the show with his wife, Phyllis. “What we were treated to was a two-hour-plus show full of trips down memory lane, reaching back into the vast back catalog of songs and showcasing some new material.”
When Rob Conway of Liberty thinks of Elton John, he thinks of summer.
“I’ve seen him eight or 10 times over the last 30 years, mostly at Blossom Music Center,” said Conway. “He always came in the summer when it was nice to sit outside.”
The weather has been decidedly not summerlike, but Conway will be at Covelli Centre Saturday for John’s return concert.
“I stayed in line when tickets went on sale and got seats in the fifth row — best ever for me,” he said. Conway said he was 17th in line when the box office opened.