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Rocket Man: Number Ones
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while there isn't anything here that goes beyond the PG, things do get a good deal more adult-themed than "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King. "Island Girl" deals with a Jamaican prostitute, with overtones of race and violence; "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," though fairly cartoonish, features drinking and fighting. "Candle in the Wind" is a tribute to Marilyn Monroe (a rewritten version was sung as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales at her memorial in 1997), and the British hit "Sacrifice" explores a marriage going through hard times. By today's standards, all pretty innocent, with the possible exception of "Island Girl."
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What's the story?
At this point in his career, Elton John is known as much as a cultural icon (currently, for his AIDS charities, not to mention his presence at the recent British royal wedding; in years past, for his outrageous costumes and lifestyle excesses) as for his musical career. But kids are likely to know his songs from their earliest years -- from his award-winning soundtrack to The Lion King to the recent reappearance of his early work in Gnomeo and Juliet. This collection, drawn from No. 1 singles from the U.S. and U.K. charts over his career, represents a good range of styles and gives a good introduction to his work while generally avoiding problematical material.
Is it any good?
As an introduction to Elton John's work, this works pretty well. There are a couple hit duets with other artists ("Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" with Kiki Dee and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" with George Michael); one of his Lion King collaborations with Tim Rice, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" and a lush version of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." But most of the album is devoted to Sir Elton's work with his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, whose early and arguably best work is well represented here, including the lovely "Your Song" and poignant "Daniel." Budding songwriters will enjoy studying Taupin's craft and the skill with which he addresses different themes, from nostalgia to relationships in trouble.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how some of these songs, like "Crocodile Rock" and "Philadelphia Freedom," are about the feeling of a particular time and place. If you were going to write a song about the time and place you were in right now, what things would you mention in it?
In "Your Song," the guy says, "yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen," even though he admits he can't remember if they're green or they're blue. Do you think he really loves this girl? Does he just have memory issues? Maybe he's colorblind?
The original version of "Candle in the Wind" was written about Marilyn Monroe. But when Princess Diana died, Elton John, who was her good friend, asked Bernie Taupin for new lyrics, and performed that version (which became the best-selling single in history) at her memorial service in Westminster Abbey. Have you heard that version? Which do you prefer? What do you know about these two women, their roles in history, and their untimely deaths?