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Elton John brings his farewell tour to Chicago in October

Associated Press

Elton John is retiring from the road after his upcoming three-year global tour, capping nearly 50 years on stages around the world. He calls it a "way to go out with a bang."

"I've had a good run, I think you'd admit that," John said Wednesday, adding that he wanted to "leave people thinking, 'I saw the last tour and it was fantastic.'"

The 70-year-old singer, pianist and composer said he wanted to spend time with his family. His children will be 10 and 8 when the tour ends in 2021, and John said he hoped he might be able to take them to soccer practice. "My priorities now are my children and my husband and my family," he said. "This is the end."

John made the announcement at an event in New York in which he sat at a piano and performed "Tiny Dancer" and "I'm Still Standing." He wore his signature glasses and a colorful suit jacket that read "Gucci Loves Elton."

His final tour — dubbed "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" — starts on Sept. 8 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It will consist of 300 shows in North America, Europe, Asia and South America. Tickets go on sale beginning Feb. 2.

John will be stopping at the United Center in Chicago on October 26 and 27.

Interest in the announcement was so high his website crashed. He wrote on Instagram that "EltonJohn.com will be fully back online as soon as possible."

John said he decided on his retirement plans in 2015 in France: "I can't physically do the traveling and I don't want to," he said.

He said he may do a residency after the tour wraps, but ruled out the idea of using a hologram of himself. He called it "spooky" and "a bit freaky," and said he told his kids to "promise me that there won't be a hologram of me."

"Who knows? They may go broke and put me back on the (expletive) stage," he added.

John has suffered several medical setbacks of late, including a bacterial infection last year that he contracted during a South American tour and an E. coli bacterial infection in 2009. He's also suffered an appendicitis and has been fitted with a pacemaker. But on Wednesday he said he's "in great health."

In an interview after the announcement, John told The Associated Press, "10 years ago, I wanted to die onstage."

"I just never thought fatherhood could bring me so much joy, and I came to fatherhood late in the day, but it's been one of the miracles of my life," said John, who said he plans to take his kids on the road for some of the shows.

He said two children keep him and husband David Furnish busy: "We thought about (more kids) but we said, 'No.' We have enough on our plate with these two. If we were 10, 15 years younger, we probably would have, definitely. I would love to have a little girl."

At the Grammy Awards, to be presented in New York on Sunday, John is to perform alongside Miley Cyrus and will collect the President's Merit Award. His Vegas residency ends in May after six years. His hits include "Your Song" and "Candle in the Wind." He has won five Grammys, an Oscar, a Golden Globe for "The Lion King" and a Tony Award for "Aida." He is the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor and has sold 300 million records.

"I had a period in my life when I was selling records, I couldn't stop being No. 1, and I gradually evened out. If you're good live, it's about being able to play live. The great artists that are out now — McCartney, Springsteen, Sting, Bob Dylan, they've all been great live performers, The Who — that's the longevity," he said. "There aren't many of us left and I don't think when we go there will be anybody else to replace us."

John launched his first tour in 1970 and has performed over 4,000 times in more than 80 countries. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

He said the upcoming tour could include special guests onstage: "Maybe. Yeah, of course. ...That keeps the momentum of the tour going. ...That will happen."

From 1970-76, John released 10 original studio albums and seven consecutive chart toppers. He remained a hit maker over the following four decades, from "The Lion King" soundtrack song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" to a revision of his Marilyn Monroe ode "Candle in the Wind," released in 1997 after the death of John's friend Princess Diana and one of the best-selling singles of all time.

"I love music. It's not a chore. It's pleasure. Music kept me alive when I was doing drugs and I was still working. It's a constant in my life every sense I've been a young boy. The reason I'm here is because of music. And now the reason has changed — it's because of my children," he said.

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