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Here’s a fun fact: biopics are generally where the facts go to get twisted into Hollywood gold. Now while that’s something that Rocketman definitely addresses by labeling itself as a “magical” musical fantasy, there’s still some stuff that doesn’t check out when history and cinema are lined up next to one another.
While this doesn’t spoil the fun and whimsy that Rocketman’s 2019 release has been banking on in its critical reviews, there are some interesting truths that make for interesting comparisons when looking at the facts. So if you’re inclined to separate the facts from the fiction, please enjoy our look into Rocketman’s big differences between the movie life and Elton John's real life.
The Origin Of Elton John's Name Is Half Right
In a big Rocketman moment that plays out across two scenes in the film, young Reginald Dwight is inspired to change his name by two different sources: an early bandmate and John Lennon himself. That second half is particularly interesting as according to the film, Elton drew inspiration from a framed photo of The Beatles in Dick James’ office.
That wasn’t exactly the case in real life history though, as “Elton John” came from two different members of Dwight’s early band, Bluesology. While we saw Elton Dean inspire the first half, it was really singer Long John Baldry who gave him the last name of his alter ego, soon to be his actual name starting in 1972. And before you ask, yes, Hercules is his middle name, so Rocketman isn’t telling lies in that respect.
Elton John And Bernie Taupin’s First Song Wasn't "Border Song"
Elton John and Bernie Taupin are one of the greatest singer/songwriter pairs in musical history, full stop. Apparently, their chemistry was pretty much spot-on from the moment they met through that fateful envelope handed to Elton in a crucial scene in Rocketman. However, as the film would lead you to believe that “Border Song” was their first big collaboration, that is not exactly correct.
In truth, it was really the song “Scarecrow” that saw Elton John and Bernie Taupin record their first song together. Funnily enough, by time they had written and recorded that first song, Elton was still going by his given name, Reginald Dwight.
The Pair Also Wrote Songs For Other Artists Before Elton’s First Album
The Elton John and Bernie Taupin relationship is a subject so voluminous that it could practically take up its own film, so it’s not like Rocketman could cram everything into the story. Another couple of interesting tidbits come out when looking at how their relationship worked in actual history, starting with the fact they didn’t skip straight to pumping out Elton John albums.
Before they would go on to release their first single in 1968, Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote songs for other artists, and even had a song in the Eurovision Song Contest. Though Rocketman kind of touches upon this by mentioning Scottish recording artist Lulu as someone the pair would work with, so it’s not a total omission.
There Were Only Two Albums That Saw Elton John And Bernie Taupin Split Up
While Elton John and Bernie Taupin have technically never had an argument in their 50 years of working together, they did have a break up as depicted in Rocketman. Only, the film would have you believe that it lasted longer than it actually was. While you see Elton John and Bernie Taupin split after a fateful moment on a jet plane, their relationship seems to only have been repaired by Elton’s stay in rehab.
Rocketman’s 2019 version of the story puts that event quite further down the line than history did. In actuality, John and Taupin were only separated for two albums, before they’d start teaming up together again. If you go by how Rocketman tells the tale, the two wouldn’t reunite until 1990, when Elton John finally went to rehab. Keep that piece of information in mind, as it’ll play into other events the film depicts.
Renate Blauel Wasn’t Elton John’s First Engagement
Rocketman shows the short marriage between Elton John and Renate Blauel in even shorter order, as one moment the two are married and in practically the next scene, they break up. Even more interesting is the fact that there was actually almost another marriage that Elton John nearly entered into a long time before those nuptials in 1984.
The 1970s saw Elton John and Linda Woodrow engaged to be married, with the relationship eventually ending by Elton’s choice. While Rocketman shows Elton in a relationship with a landlady, who he ultimately comes out to and breaks up with, that was apparently the substitute for Linda’s story, as well as the fact that Elton John technically wouldn’t come out as a homosexual until after his four-year marriage dissolved. Something that Woodrow herself is a little disappointed in, as she’s gone on record stating she wish she’d played a part in Rocketman’s 2019 narrative.
John Reid Remained Elton John’s Manager For Years After Rocketman's Ending
It’s so easy to want a nice and tidy ending, and Rocketman’s 2019 musical fantasy basically has one. We see Elton John emerge from rehab, with a new song written, his partnership with Bernie Taupin restored, and a new life where he lives in the name of art and love. But there are some details that stick out rather drastically when taking reality into account.
One such detail is that while Elton John made peace with former boyfriend John Reid not exactly being in love with him, the two remained in an artist/manager relationship for quite a long time. In fact, Reid only stopped being Elton John’s manager in 1998, shortly before he retired from management altogether. Yet, if you watch the ending of Rocketman, it feels as if Elton is saying goodbye to him for good before his triumphant closing number.
Elton John Didn’t Miss A Madison Square Garden Gig To Go To Rehab
As the framing device for Elton John’s telling his life story in Rocketman, we see Elton John enter a group therapy session in a bejeweled devil costume and ready to vent. Later in the film, we see Elton John storm out of a show at Madison Square Garden, only to take a cab out to said facility and check himself in.
The truth comes calling once again, as not only did we state that Elton John wouldn’t go to rehab until 1990, it was in Chicago that he would take that big step in his life. Considering you see the World Trade Center in the background as he arrives in rehab, that must have been one hell of a cab ride for the Rocketman protagonist to have taken!
"I’m Still Standing" Happened Before Rocketman’s Finale
Throughout Rocketman, there are a lot of songs played out of historical order. “I Want Love” is one of the most interesting examples of the musical fantasy angle of the film, as while it made its debut on 2004’s “Songs From The West Coast” album, the song pops up in young Reginald Dwight’s family home.
An even bigger switch up in the film is the fact that in Rocketman’s 2019 story, Elton John writes the tune of “I’m Still Standing” after freshly reuniting with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Again, Elton John’s stint in rehab was in 1990, with John and Taupin reuniting 1979 – with more than enough time to spare in order to produce “I’m Still Standing” for its 1983 release.
While these are certainly not all of the differences between Rocketman and Elton John’s life story, they are indeed among the biggest. And even with those changes made to the narrative, the film still works as the musical fantasy it’s labeled as.
If the film hadn’t owned up to its own slightly fictitious nature, then Rocketman’s 2019 tour probably wouldn’t have been as well received. But this is the story that Elton John helped to tell, and since he approves of the film, then as long as it’s codified in the right way, it’s all good. That is exactly the film we’re left to watch and enjoy.