London’s Townhouse Studios were booked late afternoon September 5, 1997, for a special recording of Candle In the Wind the following day.
At Westminster Abbey, at Diana’s funeral, Prince Harry reportedly buried his face in his hands and cried as the lyrics echoed through the Abbey.
Invited by Diana’s sister, Sarah McCorquodale, to perform at the funeral, Elton himself chose “Candle”. He then asked Bernie Taupin to reword the song. Bernie did his finest in just one and a half hours from his Los Angeles home, and faxed lyrics to Elton in New York on the Thursday before the funeral service.
After the service, Elton and producer Sir George Martin met at Townhouse to record the song in the afternoon. They were joined by just two engineers, a string quartet, and a woodwind player. By 11pm and two takes the track was complete. The single’s artwork of a white rose was completed the following morning. The third lease of life for “Candle” had begun.
But for “Candle” to become an official song of mourning is ironic, since it was relegated on its first U.S. release in 1973. R&B radio stations opted for the single’s B-side “Bennie and the Jets” instead. “Candle” lived on as an FM wave band standard.
Bernie actually took the title from a comment once made about the late singer Janis Joplin, and in Elton’s “To Be Continued” boxed set writer Eric V. Lustbader claims Bernie was never an avid Marilyn Monroe fan but wrote the song to illustrate how Hollywood can destroy the star which at first it seeks to create.
Over the years, 25 artists, everyone from Kathy Mattea to Richard Clayderman have covered the song. A second try in 1988 made “Candle” into a number six hit in the U.S. and number five in the U.K.. In 1990, Elton sang “Candle” at Farm Aid IV to lament the recent death of AIDS-stricken teenager Ryan White.
Even with lyrics which tell us nothing about Diana’s life or her friendship with Elton, “Candle ’97” now serves as a requiem for the public’s 16-year fascination with a woman who brought Monroe-like glamour to Buckingham Palace. For a song about death, “Candle” may outlive us all.
(Extracts from an article in U.S. publication Entertainment Weekly September 19, 1997)