On September 6, 1997, a Elton John Excited, his eyes wet and about to break, he sat at a huge piano in Westminster Abbey and sang an emotional farewell to Lady Di, your dear friend. The effect was overwhelming. Millions of people around the world fell silent as he sang ‘Goodbye Rose from England’. It was “as if someone shot an arrow directly at my emotional defenses,” Prince Harry would later admit. The new version of Candle in the wind, completely rewritten in honor of Diana of Wales, it became the best-selling single of all time in the UK … and almost in the world.
Charleston dancing at Windsor Castle
On August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car accident in Paris. The news, which shocked the world, left Elton John dismayed. They were both very good friends. They had met 16 years earlier, in February 1981, at the party with which Prince Andrew celebrated his 21st birthday. And it is that Reginald was a regular at the events of the royal family, since both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were his unconditional fans since the 70’s.
On that particular occasion, he had been asked to perform with percussionist Ray Cooper and it was then, at Windsor Castle, that he met Diana Spencer. She was 19 years old and her wedding was only a few months away with the one who remains the heir to the throne of England. In his autobiography ‘Me’, published in 2019, the musician tells in detail what that first meeting was like after dancing with Princess Anne and Queen Elizabeth II, bag in hand: “Everything changed when Diana appeared. She was blessed with an incredible naturalness to socialize, she had a great ability to make people feel truly comfortable in her company. “
“That night in 1981, in the ballroom, we immediately connected. We ended up pretending to dance the Charleston …” From that moment, a bond was established that would keep them together throughout the years. “Their company was fabulous, the best guest at gala dinners, incredibly indiscreet, a real gossip: you could ask her anything and she would tell you “writes John.
The last time they saw each other was at the funeral of his friend, Gianni Versace, after the designer’s murder on July 15, 1997. Diana traveled to the United States and the images in which she appears consoling a shattered Elton John were turned around to the world. Ironies of life. A few days later, she would be the one who would lose her life.
A tribute to Marilyn Monroe … and Diana of Wales
In his autobiography, John says he received a call from Richard Branson (Virgin’s billionaire businessman founder), who told him that in the Book of Condolences located in the Palace of St. James, many quoted the lyrics of Candle in the wind. He asked if he could rewrite it and sing it at the funeral at Westminster Abbey.
The original lyrics of Candle in the wind, written by Bernie Taupin in 1973, was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, also deceased at 36, like Diana. The opening sentence was ‘Goodbye Norma Jean, though I never knew you at all’. John contacted Taupin, who was in California, and asked him to redo the lyrics. The new text was ready in a few hours. “From the first couple of lines, the rest fell into place,” commented the lyricist. And that’s how that first couple of lines became “Goodbye England’s rose, may you ever grow in our hearts.” Most of the lyrics were adapted to the circumstances of Diana’s life and tragic death.
Sir Elton John, singing ‘Candle in the Wind’ at the funeral of his friend, Princess Diana, on September 6, 1997 in London. / Anwar Hussein/Getty Images
“One of the most surreal things I’ve ever done”
“Singing at the funeral was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever done. All that crossed my mind was’ Make no mistake. Be stoic, ”the singer revealed to the Telegraph. “Don’t go down on yourself and do your best without showing your emotion in any way. I have to say that my heart did not stop beating strongly ”. It was September 6, 1997. And more than two billion people witnessed that moment from televisions around the world.
Elton John had entered Westminster Abbey accompanied by his then partner (and current husband) David Furnish, and George Michael. 2,000 people filled the London Gothic church, including the entire British royal family. At 11 am, the princess’s coffin had arrived by carriage from Kensington Palace.
When John began to chant the first phrase… “Goodbye Rose of England”, he couldn’t help his voice breaking with excitement. Some time later, Elton revealed that he needed a teleprompter hidden next to the piano: “It is the first time that I have had a teleprompter, down on the left side, because I thought ‘if I sing’ Goodbye Norma Jean ‘, they will hang me, drag me and quartered ”, Confessed the artist. “So it was as a precaution that I asked to have the teleprompter put there.”
Princess Diana of Wales. / Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Sir Elton John’s performance was breathtaking. In the Diana documentary ‘7 Days’, Prince Harry recounted: “The Elton John song was incredibly moving. That was the moment I was about to cry in public, but I didn’t.” someone would have shot an arrow on my emotional defenses ”he would later reveal.
The best-selling song in the world … almost
As soon as the funeral was over, Elton John went straight to Townhouse Studios. There, George Martin, who had been asked to take over the production of the new version of Candle in the wind, was waiting for him. “I sang it twice, in one take, with the piano, and I went home,” the English singer writes in ‘Me’. And already at home, in his Old Windsor mansion, he collapsed. Only David Furnish saw him crying.
Candle in the wind 1997, also known as Goddbye England’s Rose, was released on September 13, 1997. And it became the best-selling single of all time in the UK. On the first day alone, it exceeded 600,000 copies. With more than 33 million copies sold worldwide, according to the Guinness Book of Records, it ranks No. 2 in physical sales worldwide, behind Bing Crosby’s White Christmas of 1942. It is the best-selling single since they were born. the charts in the 50’s.
The money raised from the sale of the single went to the ‘Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial’ Foundation.
And after the funeral, never again
Elton John only performed that version of Candle in the wind at Westminster Abbey. Later, never again. In his concerts he plays the original. He has repeatedly declined to sing it and says he never will, except if asked by his sons William and Harry. He has never published the song on any of his albums or compilations.
And it is that the artist began to hate that success that implied that images of him were broadcast at Diana’s funeral singing it. And again. As if people rejoiced in his death. “Why does everyone want to hear it?” the musician wonders in his biography. “It seems insane to me: morbid and unnatural. Really, I don’t think that’s what Diana would have wanted.”
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‘Candle in the wind’, Elton John’s farewell to his friend Diana: “Goodbye rose from England” | LOS40 Classic