Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997” was both a tribute to a global icon and a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic, but the song didn’t leave much of an impression on its co-writer .
Appearing on Andy Cohen’s SiriusXM radio show Monday, lyricist Bernie Taupin spoke about updating “Candle in the Wind” 24 years after the song’s initial release in memory of the late Princess Diana in 1997.
“To this day, I still think it’s probably one of the best-selling singles of all time,” explained Taupin, who has collaborated with John since the 1960s. “It was quite extraordinary because it ‘was totally global.’
After noting that he finished writing the update “in about 5 or 10 minutes,” he added: “If you asked me again today to recite the lyrics, I wouldn’t be able to remember them with a word.”
The original version of “Candle in the Wind” appeared on John’s 1973 album, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe.
The song has experienced several cultural resurgences in the 50 years since its initial release. In 1986, John released a music video for the song featuring footage from an Australian concert which saw heavy rotation on MTV.
Four years later, he dedicated the song to Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who became an iconic figure in the HIV/AIDS crisis after contracting HIV through a blood transfusion.
John performed “Candle in the Wind 1997” at Diana’s funeral on September 6, 1997 and vowed to never sing it live again. The following year, the song earned him a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
In his conversation with Cohen, Taupin said he rewrote the song’s lyrics “largely as a favor to Elton, because he was very close to Diana.”
He added: “I didn’t know her. I paid very little interest in his daily life, like so many other people.
Now 73, Taupin is currently promoting a new memoir, “Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton and Me.” In addition to his long-time collaboration with John, he has also written songs for Alice Cooper and Emmylou Harris, among other artists.
Watch a clip of Bernie Taupin’s conversation with Andy Cohen below.