Elton John's "Rocket Man" may not be the world's most original song; in fact, it may not even be the best early-'70s British pop hit about a lonesome astronaut. (Most critics would probably give that honor to David Bowie's "Space Oddity.")
But "Rocket Man" has stood up to the test of time. Its infectious melody remains just as catchy as ever, its lyrics just as sentimentally affecting. This is the song that turned Elton John into an international superstar, and it remains one of his most popular tunes today. We think it's gonna be a long, long time before this song ever fades away.
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
"Rocket Man" is—perhaps surprisingly for a pop song—rife with literary allusions and resonances. This story of a stoic spaceman on a "timeless flight"—inspired by a short story written by Rad Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451—is almost archetypal in nature; we at Shmoop argue that Elton John's spaceman has more than a little bit in common with Tennyson's "Ulysses" (not to mention Homer's). And if we're looking for more contemporary influences, we can't forget David Bowie's "Space Oddity" ("Ground control to Major Tom…"), which paved the way for "Rocket Man" in the much-coveted astronaut-rock-opera demographic…
On the Charts
In the UK, "Rocket Man" went all the way to #2 shortly after its 1972 release, and stayed on the chart for 13 weeks.
In the US, "Rocket Man" made it to #6, staying on the board for 15 weeks.
The album Honky Château was a great success. In the UK it went to #2, while in the US it spent 5 weeks at #1.