Is Elton John's 'Rocket Man' A Marijuana Metaphor?

The 1972 hit "Rocket Man" by Elton John - who turns 69 today - is essentially a monologue from the viewpoint of an astronaut preparing to blast off into space. Or is it? There are some fan theories that the song is about marijuana or drugs in general. The lyric that raises the most eyebrows appears in the first stanza:

"She packed my bags last night pre-flight,
Zero hour 9 A.M.
And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then."

That "kite" idiom has been used in reference to drugs since the 1930s and it gained widespread popularity among hippies in the 1960s. So using it in connection with marijuana or other drugs was definitely common when Elton John's longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote the song.

Contributors to songfacts.com also point to the possibilities that "Mars" is code for the state of being high (a.k.a. "spaced out"), and that the song's theme of isolation could be a metaphor for drug addiction. Other lyrics that suggest the rocket man isn't really an astronaut include the line, "all this science I don't understand." Which sounds strange coming from an astronaut given their extensive education in science.

However, Taupin likely had literal space travel in mind when he wrote "Rocket Man." According to Schmoop, the lyrics are based on the sci-fi work of Ray Bradbury. Rolling Stone adds that Taupin thought of the song while driving to visit family, not while puffing marijuana.

So the drug metaphor likely wasn't intentional. But there's no denying that the song has since become part of marijuana lingo. According to Urban Dictionary, "to rocket man" can mean to smoke a joint by yourself - just like the astronaut's on a one-man mission to Mars in Elton's song. So if you're looking for a little musical accompaniment on your solo flight today, check out Elton debuting the song in this live performance from 1972:

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John Sinclair is one of the lesser-known people in cannabis culture, but he’s a very important figure, particularly for anti-prohibition activists. Sinclair is a native of Flint, Michigan, far from the hippie epicenters in California or the Warhol scene of the Big Apple. The scene in Michigan was grittier and more blue collar.