Sir Elton John to retire from touring after almost 50 years to spend more time with his children

Elton John on stage in Stockholm last July - Redferns
Elton John on stage in Stockholm last July - Redferns

Sir Elton John has announced that he is retiring from live performance after nearly 50 years in order to spend more time with his children.

But it will be a long goodbye. The star, who turns 71 in March, is bowing out with a farewell tour lasting three years.

The Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour will take in more than 300 dates on five continents, beginning in the US this September and ending in 2020. It will reach the UK in 2019.

"It's the last time I will be touring and travelling the world because my priorities have changed in my life.

"We had children and that changed our lives... I love them so much."

Earlier his website had displayed a countdown clock set for 5.30pm GMT alongside the statement: "I've finally decided my future lies...".

Sir Elton and David Furnish are parents to Zachary, seven, and Elijah, five. The singer said: "In 2015, David and I sat down with a school schedule and I thought, I don't want to miss much of this."

Once the tour ends, Sir Elton said, he will continue making music and working on musicals "but mostly I will be taking my kids to soccer academy".

Sir Elton's Las Vegas residency is currently scheduled to run until May 19, while he is also billed to play two dates in Georgia in June and July.

A video posted on his Twitter page said he was "embarking on the next phase of his creative journey".

The montage video said: "On August 25 1970 Elton John made his US debut in a legendary six-night sold out run at West Hollywood's Troubadour.

"Five decades later he continues to be a creative force moving faster than the speed of culture. Now Elton's embarking on the next phase of his creative journey and it will be every bit as surprising and powerful as his first performance almost 50 years ago."

The retirement announcement comes less than a year after he was forced to cancel a series of shows when he contracted a bacterial infection.

The singer became "violently ill" during a flight home from Santiago, Chile, and was admitted to hospital where he spent two nights in intensive care.

Video: Highlights from Sir Elton John's five-decade career

Following his return to home, he had to cancel the May and April dates in his Las Vegas residency.

It was not the first time ill health stopped the veteran musician from taking to the stage.

In 1999, he was fitted with a pacemaker when doctors found he had an irregular heartbeat, while in 2013 the star performed 10 concerts in pain before cancelling the rest of his tour, including a headline slot at London's Hyde Park, after being diagnosed with appendicitis.

Elton John: his life and career in pictures
Elton John: his life and career in pictures

At the time, Sir Elton said he felt "grateful to be alive", revealing that he could have died at any time while struggling through his European tour unaware he was suffering from the condition.

In 2012, he cancelled a number of shows as a result of a respiratory infection which struck him during a series of US dates.

He also missed concerts due to a bout of food poisoning.

Profile | Elton John
Profile | Elton John

Sir Elton began performing aged 15 in 1962 under his birth name, Reggie Dwight, at a pub near his home in Pinner, Middlesex.

By 1970 he was touring the US, where he became an instant success.

He formed the Elton John Band and was soon touring the world, becoming the first international pop singer to perform in Soviet Russia.