The advert, called Boy and the Piano, features Sir Elton singing Your Song, which was reprised by Ellie Goulding for the firm’s festive offering eight years ago.
It opens with Sir Elton in a dressing gown gently playing the song’s opening notes, before taking a back step into some of the biggest moments of his career.
Scenes show him on private jets and playing stadium shows but the viewer is reminded that he started playing in pubs, and even in his school recital.
It ends with a young Elton, four, running down the stairs on Christmas morning to unwrap his grandmother’s gift of a piano.
The department store said the advert was inspired by real events, but involved “some creativity”.
Sir Elton is played by actors throughout the advert, except for the opening and closing scenes.
The stadium scene is done with computer-generated imagery.
Sir Elton said: “The John Lewis Christmas campaign has so many warm memories for me and my family.
“It’s been a lovely opportunity for me to reflect on my life in music and the incredible journey I have been on, and how first playing my grandmother’s piano marks the moment when music came into my life.
“The ad is absolutely fantastic and I’ve truly loved every minute of being a part of it.”
The closing line on screen as Sir Elton plays reads: “Some gifts are more than just a gift”.
The advert will first air on TV tonight at 9.15pm during Dark Heart on ITV, but keen-eared Coronation St and This Morning viewers may have noticed the themes were played solely on piano on Wednesday to tease the advert.
The firm said reports Sir Elton had been paid £5m were “wildly inaccurate” and said some of his fee went to his charitable trust.
John Lewis’s Christmas advert has become a staple of the festive season, with many pronouncing the start of celebrations when they see it.
However, the decision to use Sir Elton may have split opinion more than usual, with some on Twitter questioning if the advert was just a promo for the singer.
One said: “canny believe I’m saying this but The John Lewis advert is legit the least Christmassy thing I’ve ever seen it’s just an advert for Elton johns new film?”
Another complained that the song had been used before, referencing the 2010 creation.
But one fan was converted, writing: “They’ve pulled it off this year – I normally don’t like the John Lewis ads but this made me cry and it’s got me.”
This year department store rival Debenhams was criticised for releasing a Christmas advert similar to John Lewis’s 2017 offering.
Shoppers heading to John Lewis’s flagship store in Oxford St will be able to step into a 2,000 sqft recreation of the ad production, to try on costumes and have photos taken at the piano.
But there will be no plush versions of Sir Elton. Fans will have to settle for his vintage tour t-shirts.
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