Curious timing of "Candle in the Wind" release
Tim Whyte · October 5, 1997
To this day, one of my all-time favorite concerts was the Elton John show at the
Hollywood Bowl, way back in the early 1980s.
I was just a pimply high school kid then, working weekends at Del Taco. An older
buddy of mine a college student who also worked at Del Taco got the tickets and
invited me to the show. (A couple of years later, he would invite me to his wedding, and
I, still a flaky teen-ager, didn't make it simply because it was being held a few hours away
and I was busy with . . . heck, I don't remember. Teen-age stuff. I should have gone to the wedding.)
I have always been something of an Elton John fan. Even through my other music
"phases" hard rock, new wave, alternative, even a little country I've always
remembered Elton John's older times fondly.
It was a kick to see him in person. When he first came out on stage, he was standing
haughtily on his piano, wearing those oversized sunglasses.
It was an amazing show. He sang all of the biggies: "Rocket Man," "Your
Song," "Bennie and the Jets," and my own personal karaoke favorite,
I don't remember if he sang "Candle in the Wind."
But if he had, then, as now, I would have thought of it as Marilyn's song.
Now, Elton John's retooled version of that song has become the best-selling single of
all time. Surely you're aware of it. After the untimely death of Britain's Princess Diana, a
mourning England adopted "Candle in the Wind" as an anthem in memory of Diana.
In response, Elton John and Bernie Taupin teamed up to rewrite the lyrics to that song,
and Elton John sang it at the funeral of his good friend, Diana.
I have tremendous respect for Diana. I didn't get caught up in Diana-mania, but I did
see a videotape of the "Candle in the Wind" performance at her funeral. It was
heart-wrenching, and all in all a nice tribute to a lady, a princess, who deserved it.
But it didn't feel quite right.
That was Marilyn Monroe's song. And to tweak the lyrics as a tribute to someone else
sort of takes something away from the song's status as a tribute to the blonde bombshell
who, like Diana, died far too soon.
It also, I think, takes something away from the tribute to Diana. I know that everyone
involved, including, of course, Elton John, had the best of intentions, but didn't Diana
deserve her own song?
Several observers have commented that, hey, at least he didn't use one of his other past
hits, which would have been renamed: "Your Song . . . For Now."
Then, a few weeks after Diana's death, I heard the hype: The new "Candle in the
Wind" CD was being released here in the states, with much anticipation. The proceeds,
commendably, are being donated to charity in Diana's memory, so no one can be accused
of directly trying to profit from it.
But damn it, Elton, why did the single have to be released on the same day as your new album?
That's what I heard on the TV news: People are lining up at midnight to get the
new "Candle in the Wind" CD single, which is being released on the same day as
Elton John's new album, and don't forget to catch Elton on Oprah tomorrow.
Man. That didn't seem right. It sort of leads one to think: "I guess there's nothing
like a death of a friend to boost record sales, eh?"
But I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I am clinging to the hope that it
was just an innocent oversight, and no one in charge thought of how it might look. I so
much want to believe that Elton John wasn't privy to a discussion in which it was decided
that, since "Candle in the Wind" is a sure hit, maybe the not-for-charity album can
piggyback on its success, so let's release them on the same day and put Elton on the talk show circuit.
I hope the key players, especially Elton John, are better than that.
- 30 -
Tim Whyte is the magaging editor of
The Signal. His commentary appears on Sundays.
© 1997, THE SIGNAL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
for more Signal commentaries