WASHINGTON — Forget all those inaugural concerts. The most pressing musical issue in the nation’s capital Wednesday was whether a stone-faced senator from Oklahoma could hit the high notes in "Rocket Man” to pay off a college football bet.
Turns out he couldn’t, but he gave it a shot. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, did his best rendition of the 1970s Elton John classic before a couple of dozen congressional staffers and television cameras, making good on a wager he lost to Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida when the Florida Gators defeated the University of Oklahoma Sooners 24-14 in last week’s BCS title game. Nelson chose "Rocket Man” because he flew on the space shuttle Columbia as a congressman in 1986. If OU had won, Nelson would have had to sing the title song from the musical "Oklahoma!” — which also happens to be the official state song. Coburn, whose daughter, Sarah Coburn, is a nationally acclaimed opera singer, warned that she didn’t get her talents from him. The conservative budget hawk, best known for giving Democrats fits by using procedural tactics to block spending measures, stumbled through the first verse as he read the lyrics from a printout. Nelson laughed and joined in for a partial duet. He said the football victory was sweet, but "this, of course, today makes it all the sweeter.”