December 14, 2012
During a 2004 interview with Elton John’s lyricist, Bernie Taupin, I asked Taupin about the song “Rocket Man” and its connection to the Ray Bradbury story of the same name (published in the 1951 collection, The Illustrated Man). Taupin responded with this:
“The idea of a futuristic society where being an astronaut was a routine job—something as tedious as a long-distance truck driver—was fascinating. Psychedelicize this with some drug culture references and a little peripheral esoteric mumbo-jumbo and—presto! My main goal was to project a sense of the overwhelming loneliness space offers us. In this I think we succeeded.”
The song was a clear nod to the Bradbury short story. And this is just one example of Bradbury’s influence on the rock music world. But the Taupin/John tribute had another, more surreal, more hilarious incarnation, just a few years after it was released in 1972. In 1978, William Shatner did a spoken-word version of the song at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards ceremony.
Just to throw my students off a bit, I always begin my semester of teaching Ray Bradbury at Columbia College Chicago by showing this video. It lets them know that this author has transcended all boundaries.
For the Ray Bradbury Tribute at Comic Con last July, I tried to get Shatner to reprise this little gem. No luck.
But you can enjoy it here, as often as you wish!