For the past couple of years I’ve spent so much time feeling nothing that when I finally did, it meant something. I recently saw Rocketman, the biopic about Elton John. The film reconnected me to his music in ways I’d never experienced. My attraction to music has always been more about the sound, its harmonies and melodies, a to-die-for guitar riff, or a head-banging beat more than the content of its lyrics. That changed with Rocketman.
Essentially, the film is a Broadway musical captured on film. The scenes of his life are tethered to the poetry – words and music welded together – that infuse a non-reader of poetry with an appreciation of its power. I will never take lyrics for granted again. Of course, this paring of music and narrative have been done for a hundred years, but it took this movie to bring it home for me.
Rocketman, written by Lee Hall and directed by Dexter Fletcher, offered a road map as to how life’s experiences – in this case, those of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, were and are translated into lyrics and melodies. For example, my personal favorite, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, became so much clearer once you understand the point of view is mostly Bernie’s and displayed against the arc of Elton’s life. The emotional impact of Someone Saved My Life Tonight becomes an anthem to those moments that, in retrospect, are life altering.
I know I’m late to the game in terms of appreciating all this which is why I’m grateful for having seen the film. As writers, we are thankful for opportunities that offer inspiration and teach us new ways and means of expressing our own thoughts and ideas. I’ve never been adept at reading and understanding poetry, and certainly talent-less at writing it, but I found if I set my thoughts down as if destined for transformation into a piece of music, they flowed readily.
I just might have to torture my friends and family with my nascent attempts to try out this new (to me) art form.