The Rocketman…and Me
With Elton John currently getting tons of media attention—entirely deserved—for his biopic Rocketman, I thought I’d take the opportunity to make a few remarks on what Elton has meant to me—as a writer, a musician, and human being.
I was 19 when I bottomed out to the lowest period I would have in this life. I had been summarily ejected from my father’s house, and my mom couldn’t take me in at the time. With nowhere to go, I found myself crashing on the floor of a friend’s place in a very run-down apartment in what today is trendily known as East Hollywood.
I had found my calling in my teen years, and its name was music. I had discovered that I could write songs, when when I was home alone I did practically nothing else (I still have that piano, now 95 years old). When my life imploded so badly and I found myself essentially homeless, I was in shock. My music dream stayed very much alive. I wasn’t just going to fall into “getting a job” like everyone else. So for about a year, I kind of aimlessly wandered.
Not having a dime to my name for food, I would steal a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread from the supermarket. I made these meager provisions last a at least a week by living on 3 peanut-butter sandwiches a day. Once in awhile I’d also swipe a box of Rice-a-Roni and cook it on my friend’s stove.
During the day, and sometimes into the night, I would walk for miles and miles, through Hollywood, up onto Sunset Strip, and even sometimes into Beverly Hills. I knew that people like I wanted to be lived in those gloriously huge, beautiful homes.
When I wasn’t walking, I was listening to albums on my friend’s stereo. Despite being broke and practically homeless, I did have an album collection.
There were 2 albums in there that were my absolute favorites, that I could count on to always lift me out of the absolute misery my life had become. Those albums were by Elton John, and they were Tumbleweed Connection (still my favorite Elton John album), and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
I lived on that music, probably more than food. From it I drew inspiration for my own music—and, quite honestly, for life itself. In fact, I think the only things that kept me from walking off the edge of the world during that time were those incredible songs, by that unbelievable artist. I even had dreams about him.
In order to shock myself out of that life, I joined the Air Force. I bombed out of that, too, but it did bring me around enough to rejoin the human race. Right at that time, Elton released his song “Someone Saved My Live Tonight.”
He’ll never know how much he saved mine.