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Candle in the Wind

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"Candle in the Wind"
Cover of the 1986 live version
Single by Elton John
from the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
B-side"Bennie and the Jets"
Released22 February 1974 (1974-02-22)
RecordedMay 1973
GenrePop rock · soft rock
Producer(s)Gus Dudgeon
Elton John singles chronology
"Bennie and the Jets"
"Candle in the Wind"
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"

"Candle in the Wind" is a threnody written by English musician Elton John and songwriter Bernie Taupin, and performed by John. It was originally written in 1973, in honour of Marilyn Monroe, who had died 11 years earlier.[1]

In 1997, John performed a rewritten version of the song, "Candle in the Wind 1997", as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine listed the original version of the song at No. 347 of its 500 greatest songs of all time.[2]

Original version[edit]

The original version, which is in the key of E major appeared on John's 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and was released as a single in 1974. The lyrics of the song are a sympathetic portrayal of the life of Marilyn Monroe. The song's opening line "Goodbye, Norma Jean" refers to Monroe's real name, Norma Jeane (more commonly spelled Jean) Baker. Taupin was inspired to write the lyrics after hearing the phrase "candle in the wind" used by Clive Davis in tribute to Janis Joplin: "I just kept hearing this term [and] I thought, what a great way of describing someone’s life".[3]

In the Eagle Vision Classic Albums documentary on the making of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Taupin said the song is about "the idea of fame or youth or somebody being cut short in the prime of their life. The song could have been about James Dean, it could have been about Montgomery Clift, it could have been about Jim Morrison ... how we glamorise death, how we immortalise people."[4] Taupin has noted that the theory about him being a "rabid Marilyn Monroe fanatic" has been a common misconception: "It's not that I didn't have respect for her. It's just that the song could just as easily have been about James Dean or Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf. I mean, basically, anybody, any writer, actor, actress, or musician who died young and sort of became this iconic picture of Dorian Gray, that thing where they simply stopped aging. It's a beauty frozen in time."[3]

In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2014, Taupin disputed the implication that he was a Monroe fan: "She is absolutely not someone I admired a lot as a kid or anything. She was just a metaphor for fame and dying young, and people sort of overdoing the indulgence, and those that do die young". On the song itself, he stated: "I think it's one of the best marriages of lyric and melody that Elton and I have ever put together. But it doesn't change the fact that I wasn't particularly enamored by Marilyn Monroe."[5]

The single release of the original song reached No. 11 in the UK charts in 1974. At the time, it was not released as a single in the United States as "Bennie and the Jets" was chosen instead.


This version was ranked No. 347 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004. In 2010, the ranking dropped to No. 356.[6]

During a concert on 7 April 1990 at Farm Aid IV, John dedicated the song to Ryan White, who had been suffering from AIDS. White died of AIDS complications the next day. John performed the song "Skyline Pigeon" at White's funeral.



Chart (1974) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[7] 5
Ireland (IRMA)[8] 8
New Zealand (Listener)[9] 5
UK Singles (OCC)[10] 11


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[11] Gold 400,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

1986 live version[edit]

On 14 December 1986, a live version of the song was recorded in Sydney, Australia. This version features only Elton John backing himself on the piano, and atmospheric keyboard textures and bass pedals, which were played by John via MIDI and keyboardist Fred Mandel. It was released in 1987 on the album Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and as a single.

In 1988, it reached number five on the UK Singles Chart and number six on the US Billboard Hot 100 making a return for John to chart inside the Top 40 in both countries after "Heartache All Over the World" and "Slow Rivers", two of his singles from his 20th album in 1986, Leather Jackets failed to reach the top 40 in either country.

Despite problems with his vocal cords at the time, the performance also earned John a Grammy nomination in 1988 for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.[citation needed]


Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1988 "Candle in the Wind (live 1986)" Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male[12] Nominated



Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1987–1988) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[14] 92
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[15] 5
Germany (Official German Charts)[16] 55
Ireland (IRMA)[8] 4
UK Singles (OCC)[17] 5
US Billboard Hot 100[18] 6
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[19] 2

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1988) Position
US Billboard Hot 100[20][21] 71

1997 version[edit]

"Candle in the Wind 1997" or "Goodbye England's Rose" was a new recording of "Candle in the Wind", with new lyrics, written and recorded as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales who had died in an auto crash in August, 1997. Released in September 1997, the song peaked at No. 1 in the United Kingdom, becoming John's fourth No. 1 single. It also peaked at No. 1 in several other countries. This version was produced by George Martin. Guinness World Records lists this version as the second-best selling single in the world, with 33 million copies sold [22] and as the highest-selling single since charts began in the 1950s.

2003 acoustic remix[edit]

Using the same vocal take as the original 1973 recording, engineer Greg Penny stripped away all instrumentation except Davey Johnstone's acoustic guitar. Even the double-tracking of the lead vocal was removed, leaving Elton and the original backing vocal arrangement of Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone. The remix first appeared as a bonus track on the 30th Anniversary edition of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and subsequently on the 2003 EP Remixed.

Live performances[edit]

From its release until in 1984, John heavily performed this song with his band.[23] From 1985 onwards, John played it solo mostly at the encore of his concerts and he rarely played this song with the band since then.[23]


  1. ^ Ben Brantley (11 October 2004). "Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Painted in Words". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  2. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004. Archived from the original on 22 June 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Behind the Song: Elton John, "Candle in the Wind"". September 2020.
  4. ^ "Elton John- the Making of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Part 4". YouTube.
  5. ^ "Elton John & Bernie Taupin on 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'". Rolling Stone. 14 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Candle in the Wind ranked 356th greatest song". Rolling Stone. 11 December 2003. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  7. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. pp. 158–159. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  8. ^ a b "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Candle in the Wind". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  9. ^ "flavour of new zealand – search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Archived from the original on 19 August 2017. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  11. ^ "British single certifications – Elton John – Candle in the Wind". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Grammy Awards: Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male". rockonthenet.com. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  13. ^ "About". Fred Mandel Music. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  14. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. pp. 158–159. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  15. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0932." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  16. ^ "Elton John – Candle in the Wind" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  17. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  18. ^ "Elton John Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  19. ^ "Elton John Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  20. ^ "1988 The Year in Music & Video: Top Pop Singles". Billboard. Vol. 100, no. 52. 24 December 1988. p. Y-20.
  21. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1988". Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  22. ^ "Best-selling single". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  23. ^ a b "Candle in the Wind by Elton John Song Statistics | setlist.fm". www.setlist.fm. Retrieved 25 May 2022.