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Elton John has publicly aired his problems with a number of other celebrities, but he has made his support of Lady Gaga clear. When Madonna, with whom John has feuded for years, spoke poorly of Gaga, he stepped in to defend her. Here’s why he felt he needed to speak in support of the star.

Elton John spoke out against the way another artist treated Lady Gaga

In 2012, Madonna described Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” as “reductive.” This came as a blow to the younger artist, who had long admired Madonna. According to John, Madonna’s comment strengthened his dislike of her.

Lady Gaga wears a studded eye mask and hat. She stands with Madonna, who wears black.
Lady Gaga and Madonna | Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage for Marc Jacobs

“I used to make fun of [Madonna] for lip-syncing on stage, but the problem really started when she ran Gaga down on an American chat show,” he wrote in his memoir, Me. “I got that Gaga’s single ‘Born This Way’ definitely sounded similar to ‘Express Yourself,’ but I couldn’t see why she was so ungracious and nasty about it, rather than taking it as a compliment… particularly when she claims to be a champion for women.”

He believed it was distasteful of Madonna to take shots at Gaga in the early years of her career.

“I think it’s just wrong — an established artist shouldn’t kick down a younger artist right at the start of their career,” he wrote.

Elton John is good friends with Lady Gaga

John and Gaga have maintained a friendly relationship over the years, even performing together at the Grammys. When she asked him to join her onstage, he said he’d be happy to do whatever she wanted, as he was a fan.

“I got a phone call from Gaga who asked me to perform the opening number with her, and she said, ‘What would you like to do?'” he told The Grammys. “I said, ‘I don’t care. It’s your opening number. … I’ll do what you want because I love you and I love what you are and who you are and I love the music.’ When we finished the duet and it was really spine-chilling and I knew it was a big success.”

Their relationship goes beyond music, though. When John had his first son, he asked Gaga to be the godmother.

“For those of you concerned that we are unusual parents, do not worry. It’s not like we are the only two people involved in the child’s life,” he said on Saturday Night Live (via Billboard). “His godmother is Lady Gaga. That’s true, that’s not a joke… which is ironic because I’ve always said Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids. And Gaga loves Mars. She says Mars had good schools and great discos.”

He has feuded with Madonna for years

The fraught dynamic between Madonna and John began long before she spoke about “Born This Way.” In 2002, John described Madonna’s “Die Another Day” as “the worst Bond tune ever” (via American Songwriter). Over the years, he ridiculed her ability to perform live, rolled his eyes at her win for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes (beating his song with Lady Gaga), and spoke derisively about her in interviews.

Elton John wears sunglasses and sings into a microphone with Madonna, who wears a black cowboy hat. They both hold one hand on the microphone.
Elton John and Madonna | Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

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After many fraught years between them, though, John and Madonna managed to quash their feud after seeing each other in a restaurant.

“She came in, and I sent over a note,” John said. “She was very gracious. I apologized profusely because what I said should never have appeared in public. She accepted our apology, and then we bought her dinner. That’s over and done with.”