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Why Elton John Reportedly Called Madonna a "Miserable Cow"

The two pop icons were in a nasty public feud for years.

There are few celebrity feuds that have been more publicly heated than the one between Elton John and Madonna. And the majority of bombs in this war of words seem to have come from John's side. As far as we know, the feud began in the early 2000s when the "Tiny Dancer" singer dissed one of Madonna's songs and then called her out again in an awards show speech. From there, the feud continued, with John continuing to insult and Madonna, and Madonna occasionally responding, sometimes via sassy statements from her publicist.

Among his jabs, John has called Madonna a "fairground stripper" and made fun of her for lip-syncing, and he also is rumored to have referred to her as a "miserable cow." Read on to find out more about this pop icon feud.

READ THIS NEXT: Cher Called Madonna a "Spoiled Brat" After Hosting Her at Her House.

He dissed Madonna on stage.

Elton John at the 2004 Q Awards
Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

When he was accepting the award for Best Classic Songwriter at the 2004 Q Awards, John used some of his speech to call out Madonna's nomination for Best Live Act. This appears to be the main inciting incident in their feud. However, he also dissed her James Bond movie song "Die Another Day" two years earlier, as reported by CBS News.

"Madonna best [expletive] live act? [Expletive] off!" he said at the Q Awards. "Since when has lip-syncing been live? Sorry about that, but I think anyone who lip-syncs in public on stage when you pay, like, 75 quid to see them should be shot. That's me off her [expletive] Christmas card list, but do I give a toss? No."

According to Smooth Radio, Madonna's publicist responded, "Madonna does not lip-synch nor does she spend her time trashing other artists … Elton John remains on her Christmas card list, whether he is nice… or naughty."

John then told Entertainment Weekly (via CBS News) that he shouldn't have said what he did about Madonna, despite his disdain for pop stars not singing live. He also said that she had been to his house for dinner. "I don't want to escalate it because I like Madonna," he explained at the time.

He supposedly called her a "miserable cow."

Madonna in London in 2005
Fred Duval / Shutterstock

In 2005, John entered into a civil partnership with David Furnish. The New York Post reported, according to CBS News, that John asked Madonna to perform at their bachelor party and that she turned him down. "Madonna, the miserable cow, wouldn't do it," he reportedly told people at the party.

In light of this report, Madonna's publicist said, "Madonna wishes Elton all the best, and hopes married life will make him a happier person."

Years later, they had another public spat.

Madonna at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

At the 2012 Golden Globe Awards, John and Madonna were both nominated for Best Original Song—John for "Hello Hello" from Gnomeo & Juliet and Madonna for "Masterpiece" from W.E., a film she also wrote and directed.

On the red carpet, John told interviewer Carson Daly that he thought Mary J. Blige would win for her song, "The Living Proof" from The Help and that "Madonna hasn't got a [expletive] chance."

When Madonna was interviewed by Daly later in the evening, he told her what John said. She responded, "Oh, damn him, those are fighting words … Okay, well, may the best man win."

Madonna won. Backstage, she said of John, "He's been known to get mad at me, so I don't know. He's brilliant, and I adore him, so he'll win another award. I don't feel bad."

Furnish then got in the mix. "Madonna winning Best Original Song truly shows how these awards have nothing to do with merit," he wrote in a Facebook post that was soon deleted.

John called Madonna "a nightmare."

Elton John and David Furnish at the 2012 Golden Globes
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Later that same year, John trashed Madonna again.

"She's such a nightmare. Her career is over, I can tell you that," John said in an interview with Australia's Sunday Night (via The Hollywood Reporter). "Her tour is a disaster and it couldn't happen to a bigger [expletive]."

"If Madonna had any common sense, she would have made a record like Ray of Light, stayed away from the dance stuff and just been a great pop singer and made great pop records, which she does brilliantly," he continued. "But no, she had to prove that she was like… [he trailed off] And she looks like a [expletive] fairground stripper."

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They're on friendly terms, for now.

Madonna at the 2015 Grammys
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

During a 2016 episode of The Graham Norton Show, John said that he had buried the hatchet with Madonna after running into her at a restaurant.

"I said something horrible about her that you should never say," he explained (via the Daily Mail). "I was in a restaurant in the south of France a couple of years ago and she walked in so I sent her a note saying, 'You'll probably never speak to me again but I am really sorry and ashamed of myself and can I buy you dinner." She was very gracious and accepted and we talked. We are fine—it was just me and my big mouth."

In 2019, Madonna praised John's "Your Song" when she performed the hit with her son, David Banda, in support of Ukraine.

"Music does make the people come together as President Zelensky said so eloquently last week on the Grammys, and so my son David Banda and I would like to offer this gift of song to you—one of our favorite songs—in hopes that we can inspire people all around the world to stand up and support the people of the Ukraine," Madonna said on Instagram, as reported by Extra.

John explained later that he was angry with her on behalf of a friend.

Lady Gaga and Elton John at the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage via Getty Images

John might be cool with Madonna now, but in his 2019 memoir, Me, he wrote about his main issue with the other pop star: Her comments about his friend Lady Gaga.

"I used to make fun of her for lip-syncing on stage, but the problem really started when she ran Gaga down on an American chat show," John wrote in an excerpt published by Variety. "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 also claimed (via The Independent) that he wasn't aware his comments about Madonna on Sunday Night were going to be aired, because he was talking to the interviewer, who was a "old friend," between takes. "They broadcast it anyway, which brought that particular old friendship to a very swift conclusion. Still, I shouldn't have said it. I apologized."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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