By Mylika Scatliffe
Special to the AFRO

Elton John was making music and becoming popular probably about five years before I was born. He’s one of those artists whose songs I’d hear on the car  radio while riding shotgun with my father. I learned most of the lyrics  but had absolutely no idea who was singing. I just knew it was somebody old (because up until I was about 20, I thought anyone 30 and over was old). I would read a magazine article or hear a radio disc jockey’s intro or recap to a song that would mention Elton John and I’d say to myself, “Wow all this time I’ve been jamming  and loving this song and didn’t  even know it was him!” Then one day, fresh out of a long-term relationship, I was driving down Liberty Road  and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” came on the radio. I’d always liked it because of the musicality,  the drama, and the plaintive refrain at the end; but that day I really listened to the lyrics, like never before. It tells the story of his suicide attempt  because he had been engaged to be married and didn’t know how to tell his fiancé he didn’t want to go through with the marriage and how he credits his friend with convincing him to call it off.   

I’d just ended a relationship where there’d  been talk of  marriage, and I was in no way at all suicidal, but I, too, had realized I was miserable and was about to make a huge mistake. So I ended the relationship. That day in the car I was reflecting, well brooding, actually, wondering what my life would  be like  as a spinster (I was a little prone to the dramatic back then). The radio was really just background noise because I was too lost in my thoughts.  All of a sudden, clear as a bell,  I heard Elton singing, “You almost had your hooks in me, didn’t you Dear? You nearly had me roped and tied. Altar bound, hypnotized. Sweet freedom whispered in my ear, you’re a butterfly and butterflies are free to fly . Fly away, high away. Bye-Bye.” It was the perfect description of what I’d almost done. I needed to hear that day that I was free to do what I wanted, and always had been. I rushed home, looked up Elton John’s discography and ordered Elton John’s Greatest Hits 1970-2002 and played that track on repeat for about a week.

I love Elton John’s music because I embraced it at a time when I was getting to know myself as an adult. To this day whenever I hear Someone Saved My Life, I stop what I’m doing and belt it out at the top of my lungs,  because it reminds me of one of the first truly assertive, adult decisions I made without letting fear of the unknown lull me into complacency and an eventual  life of emotional misery. He’s one of the first artists that made me look up and research song lyrics, not only his music but all the music I love and think about what they mean and how they make me feel. There is a little of everything; ballads to make me feel melancholy to irreverent tunes that are fun, to a song that tells a story and became a cautionary tale turned into a happy ending for me. And best of all, now my little one asks to hear “Bennie and the Jets,” or asks me to play “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” to lull him to sleep. Does he really know what it means? Not yet of course. But he’s starting to appreciate it the same way I did and one day might tell his own story of how some artist from his mother’s time played a part in his coming of age.

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