Definitions

Funny Man (song)

Rocket Man (song)

"Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)" is a song composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and popularized by John. It is loosely based on the short story "The Rocket Man" in Ray Bradbury's book The Illustrated Man, and echoes the theme of David Bowie's 1969 song "Space Oddity". The song first appeared on John's 1972 album Honky Château and became a hit single, rising to #2 in the UK and #6 in the U.S. Taupin noted, "It became very popular among the listeners."

The lyrics in the song, written by John's longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, describe a Mars-bound astronaut's mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to do his job. Musically, the song is a highly arranged pop ballad anchored by John's piano, with atmospheric texture added by synthesizer and processed slide guitar.

"Rocket Man" was ranked #242 in the 2004 List of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Another song called "Rocket Man" (and also based on Bradbury's short story) was released by the musical group Pearls Before Swine on their 1970 album The Use of Ashes. In an interview in Billboard magazine, Taupin acknowledged that the song, written by Tom Rapp, had been a direct inspiration for his own lyrics.

Performed by other artists

Kate Bush version

Kate Bush released a cover of "Rocket Man" in 1991 as part of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. Her reggae-inflected version of "Rocket Man" was a commercial success, reaching #12 on the UK singles chart and #2 in Australia (held off the top spot by Julian Lennon's "Saltwater"). In 2007, the track won The Observer readers' award for Greatest Cover of all time. The B-side of the single was Bush's recording of another Elton John classic, "Candle in the Wind".

Track listings

7"

  1. "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long Long Time)" - 5:02
  2. "Candle in the Wind" - 4:29

CD single

  1. "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long Long Time)" - 5:02
  2. "Candle in the Wind" - 4:29
  3. "Candle in the Wind" (Instrumental) - 4:28

Other cover versions

At a 1978 science fiction film awards ceremony, Taupin introduced William Shatner's spoken-word interpretation of the song. It utilized chroma key video techniques to simultaneously portray three different facets of the Rocket Man's character. The performance built up a cult following, and was parodied on the U.S. animated series Family Guy, Freakazoid, Futurama, the Canadian CGI series ReBoot, and in the video for "Where It's At" by Beck.

On his third album Dreams in Colour, Portuguese musician David Fonseca covers the song.

Ryan Adams frequently performed the song throughout 2001-2002, and on CMT Crossroads.

On a 1992 episode of Late Night with David Letterman, Chris Elliott parodied Shatner's performance, complete with chroma key effects.

A cover version by My Morning Jacket appeared on their album Early Recordings: Chapter 1: The Sandworm Cometh and in the pilot episode of Californication.

Punk rock cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes performed the song on their 1997 debut album, Have a Ball, and it is a staple of their live shows.

Alvin and the Chipmunks performed the song on their 1998 cover album, The A-Files: Alien Songs.

French-Canadian singer Sylvain Cossette covered the song as his third single off the album '70s, released in 2007.

Other media

  • In the 1996 action film The Rock, the song is played early on, and near the climax Nicolas Cage's character asks a Marine if he knows of the song, and states that the Marine is the eponymous "rocket man" before launching a missile into him.
  • The 1997 comedy movie titled Rocket Man starring Harland Williams was about a goofy man who goes to explore Mars with some other scientists and a chimpanzee. Elton John's song was played during the closing credits.
  • Elton John performed "Rocket Man" at the Launch Site of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998, when former Mercury astronaut John Glenn became the oldest person to go into outer space at the age of 77.
  • In the 1998 biopic Without Limits, based on the life of American runner Steve Prefontaine, "Rocket Man" is playing on the car radio at the time of Prefontaine's fatal accident.
  • In the 1998 Black Isle game, Fallout 2, in the gambling city of New Reno, the character Renesco is called to his chagrin "the Rocketman." One of the player's possible responses is "Rocketman, huh? Know the line in that Elton John song, 'Rocketman, burning off the mmmncfnfm there at home?' What's he really saying there?"
  • In the FX show Nip/Tuck, "Rocket Man" was played while Sean McNamara's lover, Megan O'Hara, commits suicide because of her recurring cancer, in season one.
  • In the Thomas Pynchon novel Gravity's Rainbow, Slothrop, the main character, at one point takes on the persona of "Rocketman" by donning a cape and using the tip of a V2 rocket as a helmet. Certain moments of the novel seem to mirror the emotional tone of the song. However, this is a debatable reference as rocketry figures heavily in the novel.
  • It is featured in Episode 303 of Six Feet Under ("The Eye Inside").
  • It is featured at the end of Episode 3-11 of Numb3rs ("Killer Chat") when Peter MacNicol's Dr. Larry Fleinhardt is taking off on his Space Shuttle mission.
  • During the first Face to Face tour featuring John and Billy Joel, ads promoted the event as "Rocket Man meets Piano Man".
  • During Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens' tenure with the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros, Rocket Man was played at Yankee Stadium and Minute Maid Park when Clemens was taken out of a game in the middle of an inning. The song was also played on the Fenway Park organ as Clemens took the mound as a member of the Boston Red Sox, where he first received the nickname "Rocket."
  • The song played during the ending credits of The Astronaut Farmer.
  • The song was the theme song for the 2005 BBC drama Rocket Man.
  • In the film K-PAX, the song is played at Prot's leaving party.
  • In the episode "And the Wiener Is..." of Family Guy, Stewie sings "Rocket Man" (in a manner reminiscent of William Shatner) after telling Meg that she should "Come talk to me sometime, sweetheart, I know what it takes to be cool."
  • In the "Pilot" episode of Showtime's Californication, a cover version performed by My Morning Jacket is used as the credits song.
  • Life On Mars featured the song in an episode in which a character is an immigrant who says the song, for him, is a metaphor for immigrating to a new country. The song is played to him whilst he is in hospital unconscious.
  • In the Fantastic Four Mythos comic book, Johnny sings the chorus of Rocket Man out in space.

References

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