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Candle In The Wind: Elton John's Tribute To Marilyn Monroe And Princess Di

Icons | December 29, 2020

Left to right: Princess Diana in 1985; sleeve art for the 1974 45rpm single; Marilyn Monroe in 'Some Like It Hot.' Sources: Wikimedia Commons; discogs.com; IMDB

What did Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana have in common? Apart from Elton John's "Candle In The Wind," nothing -- Monroe was a celebrity sex symbol whose life was full of scandal, and Princess Diana was an elegant, though unhappy, member of England’s royal family. But there is that song -- the mournful "Candle In The Wind," composed by John and lyricist Bernie Taupin as a letter to Marilyn Monroe, then rewritten some 24 years later as a farewell to Diana after her death in an automobile crash. Both "Candle In The Wind" and "Candle In The Wind 1997" convey John’s strong empathy and emotional attachment for lives lost much too early.

Marilyn Monroe Was The Original Subject For The Tune 

Marilyn Monroe in 'River of No Return.' Source: IMDB

The original "Candle In The Wind" was released on Elton John’s 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road with the music composed by John and the lyrics written by his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. The song was dedicated to the late actress Marilyn Monroe, who had passed away eleven years earlier to a drug overdose ruled as suicide at the age of 36. The song’s title was inspired by an obituary for Janis Joplin that described the singer, who passed away at the age of 27 of a heroin overdose in 1970, as a “candle in the wind.” When Elton John released "Candle In The Wind" as a single in 1974, it was an immediate hit and reached number 11 on the UK pop chart (it was not released as a single in the US). Since its release, John often closes his concerts with the tune since its dramatic mood makes for a sensational finale.

The Lyrics To The 1973 Version Of 'Candle In The Wind'

Source: Pinterest

Goodbye Norma Jean
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled

They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain
They set you on the treadmill
And they made you change your name

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in

And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

Loneliness was tough
The toughest role you ever played
Hollywood created a superstar
And pain was the price you paid

Even when you died
Oh the press still hounded you
All the papers had to say
Was that Marilyn was found in the nude

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in

And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

Goodbye Norma Jean
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled

Goodbye Norma Jean
From the young man in the twenty second row
Who sees you as something more than sexual
More than just our Marilyn Monroe

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in

And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

The Song Can Be Interpreted For Any Life Lost Too Soon

Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Source: People

Although the song is devoted to Monroe, Taupin has explained the song could really be applied to any celebrity who passed too soon such as James Dean or Jim Morrison. The lyrics describe a turbulent life of fame that can cause people to die in the prime of their stardom, which leads to them to be immortalized forever. The rise and fall of Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jean Mortenson, proved that being a celebrity was not as glamorous as it seemed and a lot of pain comes with taking in the spotlight. "Candle In The Wind" tells a vague story of the chronological events that led to Monroe’s death such as her name change to Marilyn Monroe, the struggles she experienced, the loneliness she endured in the prime of fame, and her nude, dead body being discovered. Although John never met the superstar since he was only a child when she died, he could see the pain right through her glamour. Although she was depicted primarily as a sexpot in the media, John understood her and viewed her as more than just a pretty face, but an incredible woman that kept her grace through all the adversity she experienced. This is what he sings about in the famous song.

In 1987, Elton John released the concert album Live In Australia, and issued the performance of "Candle In The Wind" backed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as a single. It was again a hit, rising to #5 in the UK and #6 in the US.

A New 'Candle In The Wind' Was Written In The Wake Of Princess Diana’s Death

Source: The Sun

Elton John received devastating news on August 13th, 1997 when his close friend Princess Diana tragically died in a car crash in Paris, France. John, along with the rest of the world, was completely stunned and went into a deep period of mourning. John and Diana met when he performed at Prince Andrew’s birthday party in 1981 where they instantly hit it off and remained companions ever since. In fact, just about a month prior to her death Diana was comforting a grieving John at the funeral of their friend, the murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace. 

The British royal family contacted John with the request to sing at her funeral, and without hesitation John accepted. He considered playing "Candle In The Wind," but felt it might feel inappropriate with its Hollywood-centered lyrics, so he met with Taupin to write a completely new song. However, there was not enough time so in just a couple of hours Taupin revised "Candle In The Wind"s lyrics to fit the subject as Princess Diana. John sang the new version at Diana’s funeral on September 6th, 1997 and struck an emotional chord with the entire audience, who were in tears throughout the entire performance. George Martin helped John produce a studio version adding a string quartet, and released it on September 13th, 1997, a week after the funeral. Candle In The Wind 1997 sold like wildfire peaking at no.1 in the UK and reached over 33 million sales globally. It is often referred to as one of the best-selling singles ever, second only to Bing Crosby’s "White Christmas."

The Lyrics To 'Candle In The Wind 1997'

Source: Pinterest

Goodbye England's rose
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart

You called out to our country
And you whispered to those in pain
Now you belong to heaven
And the stars spell out your name

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in

And your footsteps will always fall here
Along England's greenest hills
Your candle's burned out long before
Your legend ever will

Loveliness we've lost
These empty days without your smile
This torch we'll always carry
For our nation's golden child

And even though we try
The truth brings us to tears
All our words cannot express
The joy you brought us through the years

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in

And your footsteps will always fall here
Along England's greenest hills
Your candle's burned our long before
Your legend ever will

Goodbye England's rose
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart

Goodbye England's rose
From a country lost without your soul
Who'll miss the wings of your compassion
More than you'll ever know

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in

And your footsteps will always fall here
Along England's greenest hills
Your candle's burned out long before
Your legend ever will

'Candle In The Wind 1997' Described Princess Diana’s Loving Nature

Source: The Sun

Princess Diana was a beloved symbol to the world, especially England, of loveliness and grace. She was known for her kindness and generosity, along with her down-to-Earth attitude uncommon for a royal monarch. The lyrics of "Candle In The Wind" were changed from “Goodbye Norma Jean” to “Goodbye England’s rose” as a rose represents the same beauty and charm that Diana upheld. The song also describes Diana’s willingness to help and comfort those in pain, and the inner light she radiated onto others through her love that will never fade away even in her death. John sings that Diana will always be remembered in England’s history and would be so missed by the world and the country that she brought so much joy to.

Tags: Elton John | Marilyn Monroe | Princess Diana | Song Meanings, Lyrics, And Facts | Candle In The Wind

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Emily Morenz

Author

Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.