Re-written in the wake of his friend Princess Diana's car accident death on August 31, 1997, Elton John's "Candle In The Wind" was merely a maudlin tribute to Marilyn Monroe before tragedy struck. Diana died from her wounds in a Paris road tunnel crash, along with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, and the driver of their car, Henri Paul.
Details about the deadly behavior by the paparazzi and how they contributed the accident would shock the entertainment world which more or less declared war on them. 15 years later, sadly nothing much has changed.
John premiered his reworking of his Monroe tribute at Diana's funeral on September 6, 1997. In the days following her death, John contact his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin and Beatles producer George Martin to record this new version of the single. It was released on September 13 in the UK, and a week or so later here stateside.
John had lost his close friend, designer Gianni Versace, just a few months earlier that July, and John had already been in a deep depression.
Look back at everything that has changed in 15 years to the Princess' family. Her sons have had to bear the burden of her celebrity in death but they have held up valiantly.
Her death and the aftermath were covered relentlessly for days after, taking over cable and broadcast news for a week. The funeral was a ratings leader too.
Diana's friend Mother Teresa died the before, making the proceedings all the more somber.
Prince William is now married to wonderful girl, Kate Middleton. Prince Harry is now a globetrotting bro and nudist, and her ex-husband Prince Charles and his partner Camilla Parker Bowles were married in 2008.
Newsweek would even make a ghoulish Photoshop rendering of what Diana would have looked like at 50 in honor of Will and Kate's nuptials, complete with a faux Facebook profile. Frankly they made her look pretty haggard, and I doubt she would have aged that bad.
John would only perform his new version of "Candle" once, at the Diana funeral. The single would have two A-sides, "Candle" and "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" from his then upcoming album The Big Picture. Looking back it was kind of crass to have your own single attached to what was a charity item. The Big Picture itself was no big shakes on the pop charts though.
All proceeds from the "Candle" single were earmarked for a charitable trust established in Diana's name, which would go to support charities that she had worked with in life.
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The single was one of the last gasps of the CD and cassingle (cassette single) phenomenon. Most every family owned at least one copy it seems, though it was kind of morbid to listen to. You bought it more for the sentiment behind it. According to figures it has sold 28,458,225 copies worldwide.
There was a minor dispute as to whether it was in fact a bigger seller than Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" but upon closer inspection by the Guinness World Records people it was proclaimed the bigger single. But then in 2009 the Guinness folks -- with pressure from Crosby's ghost -- decided to give them both the honor.
Nothing has come close to it, sales-wise, but 15 years later with the advent of MP3s, ringtones, and YouTube, it hard to gauge the exact impact of a single.
You never know, "Call Me Maybe" may have topped it sometime last week.