image from telegraph.co.uk
According to Elton John, lyricist Bernie Taupin called “Candle in the Wind” “the best song we’ve ever written.” KL It charted three times in three decades with three versions. The original was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe and hit #11 in 1974 in the U.K. In the U.S., when DJs latched on to “Bennie and the Jets” the planned single release was aborted, RS500 but a live version would hit #6 on the pop chart and #2 on the adult contemporary chart in 1987.
The song’s greatest success came when Princess Diana died in a car crash on August 31, 1997. Elton proposed the idea to Taupin of revising the lyrics as a eulogy. Within the hour, Taupin had faxed the new words to John. HL Elton performed the only public performance of the revamped version at Diana’s funeral for a televised worldwide audience of more than 2.5 billion people. BR1 After the funeral, Elton headed to the studio with famed Beatles’ producer George Martin to record the song. BR1
When released in the U.K., the song went straight to #1 on the strength 658,000 copies sold in a single day. The song amassed 2 million in sales by the end of its second week and logged another million in the next week. MG In 2008, the song had moved more than 5 million, making it the U.K.’s biggest seller ever. MG
The U.S. matched that number just in advance orders BR1 and would go on to 11 million in sales. MG Worldwide, it ranks as one of the top 100 best-selling songs in the world. Only Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, with estimates as high as 56 million, has sold more. The song topped the charts in 11 countries,” BB100 most notably with an astonishing 45 weeks at #1 in Canada. MG Its 14 weeks atop the U.S. charts make it one of the biggest #1 pop songs in U.S. chart history.
Resources and Related Links:
- Elton John’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
- DMDB page for “Candle in the Wind 1997”
- BB100 Billboard (9/08). “All-Time Hot 100”.
- BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 860.
- HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh. (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 66.
- KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 447.
- MG Theo Morgan-Gan (year?). “The UK’s Best Selling Singles”
- RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.