On our overnight flight tonight from New York to London en route to Amsterdam, I finally watched Rocket Man, the movie about Elton John’s life. I learned so many things about him that I had no idea about: his original real name wasn’t Elton John, but Reginald Dwight. He had a negligent father and a psychotic relationship with his mother. I also had no idea that “Your Song” dates all the way back to 1970 and was one of his very first hit songs. I also love the relationship between him and his lyrics writer; the idea that you can just take a bunch of words and “add music” to them without the two individuals, the lyrics writer and the music writer, being in the same room or agreeing to these things is amazing to me.
What really struck me about this film was the relationship, or nonexistent relationship, between Elton John and his father. His father wanted nothing to do with him, would constantly ignore him, talk down to him, criticize him. Disturbingly enough, it actually conjured up memories of how Ed and our dad would interact with each other. Ed always wanted our dad’s attention, approval, kindness, and he just never got it. Ed would be ignored or criticized constantly. Even as an adult when my dad would criticize Ed, I could tell how much it shook him; nothing else in the world made him feel worse than my dad’s yelling and criticizing. Despite everything he tried, Ed couldn’t shake my dad’s insults off. He internalized them. Remembering it now upsets me and made me tear up during the film. A couple of those times, I told Ed to ignore him, that none of those words meant anything and they obviously weren’t true. But Ed couldn’t hear me because all he could do was replay the insults over and over in his head. It was like someone was constantly beating him in the head with these awful thoughts over and over again.
I especially felt the similarities when in the film, Elton John comes to visit his dad after his dad has started a new family and had kids with his second wife. Elton sees how involved his dad his with these new kids and how he still doesn’t care about Elton despite making it big. He doesn’t even care about the generous Chopard watch Elton presents to him as a gift; it means nothing to him because Elton means nothing to him.
Shit that parents do really affects children for the rest of their lives. It’s too bad that parents don’t get it.