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Credit: Alamy


Listen to the isolated vocals on the Elton John song 'Rocket Man'


Elton John never thought he was a great singer. That might seem ludicrous, considering how he’s one of the most successful and admired singers of all time, but John saw himself as a piano player first and foremost. During his initial forays into the music business with his band Bluesology, John was Reginald the Piano Player. Every time you see an album called Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player, you can feel where John believes his most secure skills lie.

But let’s not kid ourselves: Elton John was a remarkable vocalist. Able to land ear-pricing shrieks and gentle coos with equal skill, John had a wide range that allowed him not just to hit high and low notes, but also sing just about anything. High energy rock and roll rave ups were some of his most popular songs, but so were his impassioned ballads. The vocal fireworks were always involved – John’s songs were harmonically complex (that’s the piano player coming back into the equation), and the vocals had to hit notes that were occasionally outside of whatever key the song may have started in.

‘Rocket Man’ isn’t anything that complex: the song is in E minor for the verses and the relative major of G for the choruses. No key changes, no bizarre melodic tangents (there’s a major II chord in the chorus, but that’s the extent of the fanciful music theory). Other than the iconic impassioned wail of the titular figure, the song is relatively straight forward vocally.

But it’s what John can do with simplicity that often goes overlooked. His vocal work on ‘Rocket Man’ is stirring and filled with emotion, even if it doesn’t have the same untamed energy of ‘Crocodile Rock’ or wild high notes of ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’. It’s his most iconic song for a reason, and that reason is probably because of how much John can convey in terms of story, feeling, and excitement in just five minutes.

But when you isolate the vocal tracks of ‘Rocket Man’, the song really becomes a testament to John’s backing band. That’s Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray, and Nigel Olsson, not only playing on the backing track but also providing the harmony vocals as well. John fought to get his band onto his solo albums, and you can hear why on ‘Rocket Man’. These were probably three guys who could have had their own singing careers based on the skill they show off in this song, but they were happy to back up John.

Check out the isolated vocals for ‘Rocket Man’ down below.