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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Elton_John

Artwork by SCOTT LAUMANN

FRESH AIR: The recent biopic Rocketman painted a Hollywood version of Elton John’s life, but a new memoir, Me, comes straight from the artist himself. In it, he describes how, as a young man, he was determined to enter the music business, in spite of some misgivings about rock ‘n’ roll in his household. As he tells Fresh Air, “My dad, of course, hated it.” And yet, that disapproval only fueled his will to succeed. Me recounts many more stories from the pop superstar’s personal life, including how proposing to a woman helped him realize he was gay and how saying yes to a line of cocaine at a ranch in Colorado led to a long battle with addiction: “Of course, it was fool’s gold. That was the start of a love-hate relationship with it for 16 years, basically.” In conversation with Terry Gross, John explains how that habit and others eventually landed him in rehab, where he got the chance to start over. “I hated the way I behaved. I hated how I treated people. I hated what I’d become. But I’m grateful that I had it, because then I learned how to become who I am now,” John says. “I’m proud of who I am now. I like who I am.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot, War Horse) assembles Elton’s life not as a straight rocketman_xlgline but a zig-zagging mosaic of thrilling vignettes, ripe for all those big surrealistic choreographed production numbers where characters suddenly break into song and somehow, against all odds, it works. Big time. In fact, Rocket Man is at its best when it goes big — and it always goes big. More rock opera than PBS Frontline, the movie plays fast and loose with history’s timestamp in the pursuit of more satisfying storytelling, which is the beauty of the much-maligned biopic genre given that absolutely everyone’s life is a sad, slow walk from greatness to enfeeblement. BORING! The power and the glory of Rocket Man — which is to say the fun of it all — stems from the fact that it isn’t Ken Burns or Errol Morris telling you Sir Elton’s life, it’s Andrew Lloyd Webber. MORE

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