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Rocket Man: Elton John's 5 Greatest Characters

Elton John (left) and friend Billy Joel at Toyota Center on 2009''s "Face to Face" tour
Elton John (left) and friend Billy Joel at Toyota Center on 2009''s "Face to Face" tour
Photo by Dan Kramer

Great songwriters create great characters. Elton John has a plethora in his songs some real like Princess Diana, and others purely fictional. The stories he tells in his songs are what makes him one of the greatest artists ever to come from Great Britain.

His characterizations have even been celebrated on British television. In one episode of the hit BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley, the villagers of Dibley put on an "Elton John Fashion Show" -- with a rocket man, no less -- in anticipation of his rumored arrival.

5. Princess Diana in "Candle In the Wind" (1997 rerecorded version)

In 1997, tragedy struck both Elton John and Great Britain: Beloved Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed were killed in a car crash in a tunnel in Paris. The tragedy struck John especially hard because he was close friends with the Princess, and he rearranged the lyrics to the 1973 song he wrote about Marilyn Monroe as a way to cope with her death.

For the new version, he changed the lyrics, especially the first verse that now begins "Goodbye England's rose. Since her death, John has vowed never to perform the song unless asked by Diana's sons Prince Harry and Prince William.

4. The Sister in "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock'n Roll)"

The sister described in "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock'n Roll)" is essentially a party girl. However, she is one that is loved by everyone and loves life. As the song says "I really got buzzed when your sister said/ "Throw away them records 'cause the blues is dead/ let me take you honey where the scene's on fire"/ and tonight I learned for certain that the blues expired.

3. The rebel in "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting"

Though one of his biggest hits is more about John's songwriting partner Bernie Taupin and his early years, it still describes a rebel -- like a British version of Happy Days' Fonzie --- from Happy Days) who frequently gets into fights at the local pub: "A couple of the sounds that I really like/ are the sounds of a switchblade and a motorbike."

 

2. Bennie from "Bennie and the Jets"

If you listen to the lyrics to "Bennie and the Jets," John is talking about a sordid "sci-fi rock goddess," according to what Taupin once told Esquire. In fact, there are numerous references to glam-rock acts such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury ("She's got electric boots/ A Mohair suit") and even Phil Spector ("solid walls of sound").

1. The Bitch from "The Bitch Is Back"

The lyrics describe a lady who has lived a louche, privileged life, someone like Absolutely Fabulous' Patsy Stone or even Courtney Love. Overall a mean and pompous lady to be around, his woman has done it all -- drugs, various attempts at rehab, and so forth. accounts vary, two popular versions are that either Taupin's then-wife coined the phrase to describe John or, knowing his own moods, the singer wrote it about himself.

More recently, Lita Ford covered the song as a bonus track on some pressings of her latest album, Living Like A Runaway and has been performing it on the "Rock of Ages" tour with Poison and Def Leppard.

Did I miss any? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section.


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