Dear Elton Pt. 2: Rocket Man

Speaking of songs which rise from the dead, a couple of years ago I was woken up late at night by "Rocket Man" and couldn't shake it until I'd made a home video:

A few other songs which have boomeranged for me: Perfect Day (via an old dusty tape), And I Love Her (after it was covered by both Cobain and Metheny), I'm Alright (totally my fault: a certain dancing chipmunk got burned into my brain after I watched Caddyshack about 100 times in middle school).

Quality songwriting is all about grace.  You can choose to be sophisticated also, but it may not resonate as well.  I'm a three-time conservatory dropout, mostly because Paul McCartney and Tom Jobim were never mentioned in those vaunted "music theory" courses.  Give me music reality any day.

A great song is like a little music lesson.  Compositional devices like appoggiaturas or a walkdowns will come up in just the right way to get the message across, and your musical brain will remember them because of the emotional imprint of the song.  Elton's chord changes are forgivingly slow for untrained ears, and he somehow manages to avoid predictability despite deploying pop warhorses with almost cartoonish obviousness.  Learning his tunes is a great way to learn the harmonic ropes.

Trevor ExterComment