On this day, October 11th, 17 years ago, a twenty-four-year-old classic resurfaced as if it were just as relevant as the year it was made. Sir Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” managed to become a sensational hit all over again after the untimely passing of the UK’s beloved Princess Diana in 1997. Following her death, John performed a live, altered version of the song in her honor, and it would go on to become his fourth No. 1 single.
After its initial release, the single made its first comeback in December 1986 after a live version was recorded in Australia and released on the album Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Two years later, the song managed to make its way back onto Billboard Hot 100 Charts, and ranked number five on the UK Singles Chart. It rose to prominence once more in 1990, when John dedicated it this time to AIDS victim Ryan White. Even more fascinating still, October 11th marks the first day of the single’s fourteen-week streak on the Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart, almost a decade after the second revival. This version of the song, produced by George Martin, was renamed “Candle in the Wind 1997,” but others might recognize it as “Goodbye England’s Rose.”
The song became so wildly successful that in 2007, despite statistically not having sold the most copies, The Guinness Book of Records claimed that it was the most widely sold single since “records began.” Quite different in tone from the single’s b-side, “Bennie and the Jets”, John’s original “Candle in the Wind” was supposedly about Norma Jeane Mortenson, who most people know by her stage name Marilyn Monroe.
John’s decision to change its lyrics in order for the song to serve as a tribute to Princess Diana of Wales was done as a way to show the tragic connections between the two women, and the stigma around most celebrities who die in their prime. Both were extremely iconic female figures who passed when they were still relatively young. More importantly, after their deaths, both women were “immortalize[d]” and their deaths were “glamorized” as Bernie Taupin, who co-wrote the song, states in the documentary on “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”’s making.