A Cult Classic: William Shatner Sings Elton John’s “Rocket Man” at 1978 SciFi Awards Show

Start­ing in the 1960s, William Shat­ner, rid­ing high on his Star Trek fame, began his idio­syn­crat­ic musi­cal career. With his 1968 con­cept album, The Trans­formed Man, the actor gave us the first taste of his musi­cal schtick. He would­n’t sing songs. He would speak them, often in a melo­dra­mat­ic, exag­ger­at­ed fash­ion. Just lis­ten to his ver­sions of “Lucy in the Sky with Dia­monds” and “Mr. Tam­bourine Man” to see what I mean.

Four decades lat­er, the Shat has­n’t changed his style. In 2011, he released a pop­u­lar ver­sion of Queen’s “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody” (watch below) on his space-themed album, Seek­ing Major Tom. But real­ly, if you want to expe­ri­ence the high water­mark of Shat­ner’s musi­cal work, you need to beam your­self back to 1978. That’s when the actor host­ed The Sat­urn Awards (essen­tial­ly the Oscars for sci­ence fic­tion, fan­ta­sy & hor­ror films) and “sang” a ver­sion of “Rock­et Man,” the 1972 song co-writ­ten by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It’s Taupin who intro­duces Shat­ner, and Karen Black who intro­duces Taupin.

As you will see (above), the broad­cast used chro­ma key video tech­niques to por­tray three dif­fer­ent images of Shat­ner, each of which rep­re­sent­ed a dif­fer­ent part of the Rock­et Man’s char­ac­ter. Now a cult clas­sic, Shat­ner’s per­for­mance has been par­o­died over the years by Beck, Fam­i­ly Guy, and Chris Elliot on a 1992 episode of Late Night with David Let­ter­man, among oth­ers. You can find a new record­ing of “Rock­et Man” on Seek­ing Major Tom.

Final­ly, if you’re won­der­ing who brought home the hard­ware from the ’78 Sat­urn Awards, it was George Burns, Jodie Fos­ter, Star Wars and Close Encoun­ters of the Third Kind.

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  • Flavia Ostani says:

    ( In Ital­ian Lan­guage ).

    Caris­si­mo Bill:
    la tua inter­pre­tazione del­la can­zone “The Rock­et Man” di Elton John mi è piaci­u­ta moltissi­mo per questi motivi:
    — eri bel­lis­si­mo ed ele­gan­tis­si­mo.
    — hai cre­ato un’at­mos­fera da autore.
    — citi mag­nifi­ca­mente Lui­gi Piran­del­lo (la cor­da seria,la cor­da civile,la cor­da paz­za).
    — la cor­da seria, quel­la con cui inizi e finisci,vuole dimostrare che l’uo­mo-raz­zo si è “fuma­to” l’e­sisten­za per essere il pri­mo — e l’u­ni­co — a vivere e lavo­rare su Marte. E’ un avver­ti­men­to per chi pen­sa che un altro piane­ta sia migliore del nos­tro.

    Anco­ra com­pli­men­ti per la tua vita inim­itabile.

    Flavia Ostani

    12 giug­no 2017

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