Sir Elton John has said the “horrible things” football fans said about his clothes and music kept him grounded at the height of his fame.
The Rocketman singer is a lifelong Watford FC supporter and was owner and chairman of the club in the 1970s and 1980s, when he released many of his hit songs.
Under his ownership and Graham Taylor’s management, the club rose from the Fourth Division to the First Division, finishing second behind champions Liverpool during the 1982-83 season.
Speaking in conversation with former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at the Hay Festival Digital Winter Weekend, Sir Elton said: “It’s part of my life that gave me so much. When I was a big star and a big musician it grounded me, because people who go to football, they’ll tell you the truth.
“The fans will say, ‘I don’t like your new record, I wish you wouldn’t look like that’.”
Sir Elton – who is known for his outrageous outfits – made clear there was no love lost though, saying: “They didn’t mean [anything]. It was just something that levelled me out.
“The passion of the crowds and the horrible things they said about me were part and parcel and it was wonderful.”
Having grown up nearby in Pinner, north London, Sir Elton says he is “extremely proud” of how far his local club has come.
“Arsene said about leading Arsenal out into the cup final, when we got to the cup final and played Everton I cried because when I took over Watford we had two little grandstands and a greyhound track,” he said.
“If you go the club now it’s a Premier League club with a 24,000 capacity and the current owners have made it very wonderful behind the scenes and I’m very proud.
“Since that day we’ve never gone beyond the championship and I’m extremely proud.”
Describing the team’s rise as a “labour of love”, he said: “We went places because we were professional about it and one of the most joyous things I’ve ever done in my life.”
The 73-year-old has previously spoken about how his love for the club helped him in his darkest times.
Writing in his autobiography, Me, Sir Elton said: “I was chairman throughout the worst period of my life: years of addiction and unhappiness, failed relationships, bad business deals, court cases, unending turmoil.
“Through all of that, Watford were a constant source of happiness to me.
“For obvious reasons, there are chunks of the eighties I have no recollection of but every Watford game I saw is permanently etched on my memory.”