William Shatner performed Rocket Man at the 1978 Saturn Awards.
For those of you who are avid Star Trek fans, you already know that William Shatner isn’t a one-trick pony, though he’s most well known for portraying Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series, Shatner can really belt out a tune as well. Okay, so he doesn’t exactly sing, but his discography, according to All Music, boasts spoken word versions of popular songs, like his iconic rendition of Elton John‘s “Rocket Man,” which he famously performed on January 20, 1978, almost 50 years ago! If you’re not up on your Star Trek trivia, then consider this part of William Shatner’s career as a primer for the next time trivia night at the bar dives into science-fiction pop culture.
It’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane, and in the case of the original Star Trek commanding officer, we wanted to take the trip with you as we revisit William Shatner’s performance of “Rocket Man” at the 5th Saturn Awards. Introduced by Bernie Taupin, Shatner struts out on stage, pensively puffing on a cigarette before starting his spoken word rendition of the iconic Elton John song.
To many, this singular moment removed from the Star Trek canon showed us William Shatner’s range but is still a piece of Star Trek trivia relevant to Shatner’s career as a spoken word artist. But it’s worth noting that William Shatner’s music career kicked off in 1968 with The Transformed Man, which boasts a four-and-a-half out of five stars on All Music. The album features Shatner performing monologues from classic literature (namely Shakespeare) and spoken word interpretations of contemporary pop songs like Bob Dylan‘s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” meaning that by the time he took the stage in 1978 to perform “Rocket Man,” everyone knew what to expect. qq
By now, we know that Star Trek’s original captain is not without a sense of humor, and even critics weren’t sure what to make of William Shatner’s music career. On the one hand, the Star Trek star features dramatic instrumental orchestrations on his albums, but the content is laughable in many ways. Either we’re witnessing a serious mind at work or a level of trolling that would make even Andy Kaufman blush.
While trying to maintain a certain level of objectivity, we want to assume that he’s hard at work but in on the joke. After all, William Shatner starred in the short-lived sitcom $h*! My Dad Says, starring Will Sasso and Jonathan Sadowski. The premise of the series was based on a Twitter account of the same name and even references the star’s most famous role, in the form of Ed’s (William Shatner) son Henry imitating Captain Kirk‘s long pauses between lines of dialogue, though thankfully, not while also reciting “Rocket Man.”
It’s safe to say that despite the lifelong celebrity from Star Trek: The Original Series, William Shatner is self-aware, and he’s simply having some fun with his music career, but it’s also worth noting that his 2004 Has Been album also has a four-star rating. So whether he’s joking or not, he clearly still takes his work seriously, and though it’s easy to mock his “Rocket Man” performance, as Family Guy famously did, his passion can’t be denied.
William Shatner’s performance of “Rocket Man” is said to be inspired by Frank Sinatra’s lounge-style music, but Elton John’s lyrics are oddly reminiscent of Captain Kirk’s voyages on the USS Enterprise, which certainly adds to Star Trek’s lore and trivia.