Elton John may be late to his own famed Oscar party on Feb. 9, but it will be for the best of reasons. John and longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin, were nominated Monday (Jan. 13) for an Academy Award for best original song for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” the uplifting tune that closes Rocketman, the fantastical film about John’s life.
John already has an Oscar in this category for “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” written with Tim Rice, from 1994’s The Lion King, while it would be Taupin’s first win. The pair are front-runners in the category after “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” won at the Golden Globes and at Critics’ Choice Awards.
John, who is on tour in Australia, and Taupin, answered questions via email about crafting the very personal song.
Elton, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” is about your own journey. You don’t usually give Bernie lyrical suggestions, but did you this time given the nature of the song?
John: Bernie and I are like brothers. He’s watched me struggle with self-acceptance for so much of my adult life. At the end of Rocketman, I’m coming out of rehab and learning to love myself again as part of my recovery from drugs and alcohol. It’s an optimistic new chapter in my life, and we both wanted a song that captures that uplifting spirit. Bernie knew exactly where to start. His effervescent lyric captured that mood perfectly and became the melodic starting point for me.
Bernie, did you talk about it in advance?
Taupin: No conversations really. He just let me run with it. I imagine he realized that it would be cathartic in nature and have a redemptive storyline. I guess you could say I was stating the obvious. What was a surprise was his melodic take on it. In my mind, I saw it as more of an uplifting waltz rather than a joyous trip down memory lane by way of Motown.
Elton, did you always see the melody as so upbeat?
John: Yes. We needed to follow “I’m Still Standing,” which is an extremely joyous song, that has evolved into an anthem over the years. “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again needed to further energize the audience and crescendo to an even greater level of joy. We wanted them to dance their way up the aisles of the cinema, full of optimism and hope. I immediately saw Bernie’s lyrics as a Motown-style song. A celebration! I then checked out the tempo of “Come See About Me” by The Supremes for inspiration and constructed the melody from there.
Bernie, what was Elton’s reaction to the lyrics?
Taupin: I actually recall that he didn’t respond initially and simply went straight to work on the song. The original demo was a little muddy and hard to get my head around. It was only after they cut the track with Giles Martin that I went, “Oh yeah, now I get it.”
Incredibly, the Golden Globe win marked the first time you had won an award together. What would it mean for you to share an Oscar?
John: It was such a magical moment to share the award with Bernie, who has been there by my side from the absolute very start of it all. He’s my musical soulmate. I always say “there would have been no Elton John without Bernie Taupin”. So, winning that award was particularly poignant and something we will remember for the rest of our lives. Winning [the Oscar] with Tim was also super special – especially with it being my first Oscar, that too will also be a moment I will never forget. It opened up a whole new chapter in my career.
Taupin: Beyond belief! Who doesn’t want an Oscar? But, then again, nothing’s a slam dunk in this game, so I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. Simply to make it this far is a blessing in itself, and to be nominated alongside my old pal is absolutely joyous.
Elton, should you win, you will set a record for the longest span between best original song Oscar winners at 26 years. The current record is 20 years.
John: Really?!?! When it comes to writing music, I still feel like a kid doing what I love most. Watch this space!!