‘Candle In The Wind’: A timeline of Elton John and Princess Diana’s precious friendship
13 May 2022, 11:43
2022 marks a quarter of a century since we lost Princess Diana.
It was one of the great tragedies of the 20th century, and her loss can still be felt today.
Fondly remembered for her philanthropy, charm, and spirited personality, Diana, Princess Of Wales will also continue to be remembered as “England's Rose”.
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But how did he come to perform at her funeral, and how did Elton and Diana become friends?
Here's all you need to know:
When did Elton John and Princess Diana meet?
Slightly taken aback by how the surreal events unfolded, he was when Princess Diana arrived at the party that his discomfort evaporated.
Elton said in his 2019 autobiography Me that “was blessed with an incredible social ease, an ability to make people feel totally comfortable in her company.”
They formed a bond almost immediately, with Elton recalling: “That night in 1981, she arrived in the ballroom and we immediately clicked. We ended up pretending to dance the Charleston while hooting at the disco’s feebleness.”
How did Elton and Diana become such good friends?
Elton wrote in his autobiography: “If I was bowled over by Diana, it was nothing compared with the impact she could have on straight men.
“They seemed completely to lose their minds in her presence: they were just utterly bewitched.”
What made the pair inseparable was the fact that they both suffered devastating losses in their friendship circles, and ensured they were each other’s shoulder to cry on.
Only weeks before Diana’s death, and after a minor falling out, they both attended the funeral of mutual friend Gianni Versace who was tragically murdered.
There’s a famous photo of Diana leaning over to console Elton, though he debunked the media story with the typical kind of humour in the face of adversity that was the cornerstone of their friendship.
“The warm words of comfort coming from her lips at that exact moment were actually: ‘God, I'd love a Polo.’”
Who came up with the idea to perform ‘Candle In The Wind’ at her funeral?
Six weeks after the death of Gianni Versace, Elton was confronted with the news that he’d lost another beloved friend: Diana.
Having been close to the royal family for some years, Elton was deemed a natural choice to pay tribute to Diana in front of the entire nation.
It was in fact Sir Richard Branson, with the blessing of the Spencer family, who approached Elton with the idea of re-writing the lyrics of his 1973 song ‘Candle In The Wind’.
Most notably, the opening lyrics were changed from "Goodbye Norma Jean, though I never knew you at all," to "Goodbye England's rose, may you ever grow in our hearts."
What happened at Princess Diana’s funeral?
The unwavering support of the dean, Very Rev Dr Wesley Carr, proved to be the deciding factor in Elton performing at Diana’s funeral, after the royal family initially resisted.
Documents that were released years later stated Dr Carr successfully argued that Elton’s tribute would be an ‘imaginative and generous’ gesture to the public who had turned against the Royal Family after the princess’s death.
And his performance encapsulated what Diana meant to the British public, symbolising the national outpouring of emotion after her life was tragically cut short.
It was considered one of the most iconic performances of the decade, and has since become synonymous with the late Princess Of Wales.
How well-received was ‘Candle In The Wind’?
Support for ‘Candle In The Wind’ was inextricably tied to the British public’s deep love for Princess Diana.
On its release it reached No.1 in the UK charts, and became the best-selling single in UK history at the time.
In the US, ‘Candle In The Wind’ became Elton’s 9th No.1 single in the US where it stayed for 14 weeks on the Billboard Charts, somewhat indicative of Diana’s global adoration.
It won Elton a Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Pop Performance, and is the highest selling single of all time, since records began.
Most importantly however, it was a heartfelt tribute from one of Diana’s true friends that resonated with the entire world.