It has already been 17 years since that car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris which cost the life of Princess Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed, as well as the driver’s, Henri Paul.
While the real cause of the accident is still a mystery and remains the object of many conspiracy theories, every year on this day the world remembers one of the most iconic women of the 21st century. For the 16 years between her engagement to Prince Charles (1981) and her death, Princess Diana was in fact a major figure in the world. She was known for her charisma, her style and her charity work and she was considered a role model.
Her sudden and tragic death left many in schock, even her closest friends such as the world-renowned singer and songwriter Elton John, who wanted to use his music to fill the void Diana left inside of him when she passed away.
On September 6, he performed a re-written version of his 1973 hit single “Candle In the Wind” at Princess Diana’s funeral service in Westminster Abbey. The song was released as a single by his record label a week later and received an immediate response all over the world, topping several charts and selling an astonishing 33 million copies as reported on the Guinness World Records in 2009.
The original song, co-written with Bernie Taupin, was already an ode to another iconic figure who had passed away 11 years earlier, Marilyn Monroe (the opening line alludes to Marilyn’s real name, Norma Jean). According to Taupin the song is about
“The idea of fame or youth or somebody being cut short in the prime of their life. The song could have been about James Dean, it could have been about Montgomery Clift, it could have been about Jim Morrison … how we glamorize death, how we immortalize people.”
It was natural, then, that Elton John would want to adapt this song to Diana, so he asked Bernie Taupin to help him revise it to honour his friend. The original opening line was changed to “Goodbye England’s rose, may you ever grow in our hearts,” giving not only the feeling of a personal tribute, but also that the whole nation was paying hommage to their Princess. Bernie Taupin expressed this sentiment when he discussed the re-arrangement of the song’s lyrics. Though most of the lyrics were adapted to suit the circumstances of Diana’s passing, the line “Even when you died the press still hounded you…” was omitted and replaced by “Even though we try, the truth brings us to tears…” perhaps not to create any additional drama.
After the public performance he did of the song at the funeral service, Elton John has refused to sing the new version or to include it in compilations of his work.
“Candle In the Wind” became a touching tribute to an icon who dedicated herself to those in need and who was, and still is after many years, put under the scrutiny of the media for trivial personal matters instead of being recognised as a charitable woman and simply a good person.
May Princess Diana rest in peace.