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Elton John: Diana's Song

Princess Diana and Elton John
Princess Diana comforts pop star Elton John as he weeps at a memorial mass for Italian designer Gianni Versace in Milan on July 22. (Reuters)
By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, Sept. 5, 1997; Page D02

As part of Saturday's funeral ceremony at Westminster Abbey for Princess Diana, her longtime friend Elton John will perform "Candle in the Wind" with new lyrics by Bernie Taupin. The original, recorded in 1973, was a requiem for Marilyn Monroe and featured one of pop music's most famous valedictories, "Goodbye Norma Jean."

Where the original song addressed several issues with bittersweet lyrics about the destructiveness of celebrity, a hounding press and the tragedy of Monroe's death, the new version is purely celebratory about Princess Diana's life, both her personal compassion and public charitable works:

Goodbye England's rose; may you ever grow in our hearts.
You were the grace that placed itself where lines 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 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.
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.

When John and Taupin wrote "Candle in the Wind" in 1972, Marilyn Monroe was a distant American pop icon who had already been dead for a full decade. Princess Diana, on the other hand, had been a friend of John's since 1981, when he performed at Prince Andrew's 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle and received a thank-you letter from 19-year-old Diana Spencer, then engaged to Prince Charles.

Since the late '70s, John has been an unofficial court musician: companion to Princess Margaret at arts events, stalwart of Charles's annual Prince's Trust concerts for youth charities, frequent performer at private royal events. He was also close to Sarah Ferguson: John and then-wife Renate were seated in the front row at the royal wedding of Ferguson and Prince Andrew.

Less than two months ago, a visibly shaken John and Princess Diana sat together at the funeral of a mutual friend, slain fashion designer Gianni Versace. "She kept her cool for me . . . at Gianni's funeral and she held her composure. I've got to do the same for her," John told the ABC program "20/20" yesterday in an interview with Barbara Walters that will be broadcast tonight. "When I started crying and she put her arms around me and she was, that's exactly what she was like. She was such a caring and a very calming person."

John told Walters that being asked to sing at the funeral was "an incredible honor."

"I was invited to the funeral anyway," John notes. "And now I've been asked to sing. . . . Which is quite a daunting thing but I want to."

British television has already been showing montages of "Candle in the Wind" with footage of Princess Diana.

After the funeral, John said, he would go immediately to a studio to record a "piano and voice version" of the new song for release as a single. Sales proceeds will go to help fund the planned Princess Diana Trust, administered through Kensington Palace by Diana's sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale to carry on the charities she was associated with.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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