Elton John sings at Princess Diana's funeral in 1997
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Those who watched the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, will remember Sir Elton John’s, 74, memorable performance where he sang his newly re-written song, Candle In The Wind. But it turns out there was some opposition from the Royal household towards the new track, for fear it was “too sentimental”.
He has written new words to the tune which is being widely played and sung throughout the nation in memorial to Diana
Rev Dr Wesley Carr
Diana was killed in a fatal car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997, a year after her divorce from Prince Charles.
The lyrics had been rewritten as a personal tribute by Sir Elton, and was a defining moment alongside Earl Spencer’s eulogy to his sister, in the funeral at Westminster Abbey watched by billions around the world.
As part of a freshly released set of government papers by the National Archives, the Dean of Westminster had to send a personal plea to Buckingham Palace in 1997 to allow the singer to perform the touching song, which went on to sell 33 million copies across the globe.
Westminster Abbey had reportedly put a solo saxophonist on standby to perform the song, in case the palace “refused” to allow the performance to take place.
The documents state that Rev Dr Wesley Carr managed to persuade the family by pointing out it’d be an “imaginative and generous” gesture to the public, as tensions ran high over the tragedy.
Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Ross, who was involved in negotiations over the service between the Palace and Diana’s family and officiated the service, said the song had captured the public mood.
In a note to a senior member of the royal household, he wrote: “This is a crucial point in the service and we would urge boldness.
“It is where the unexpected happens and something of the modern world that the princess represented.
“I respectfully suggest that anything classical or choral (even a popular classic such as something by Lloyd Webber) is inappropriate,” he added.
“Better would be the enclosed song by Elton John (known to millions and his music was enjoyed by the princess), which would be powerful.
“He has written new words to the tune which is being widely played and sung throughout the nation in memorial to Diana. It is all the time on the radio.”
Ross went on to describe Sir Elton’s track as “popular culture”, saying: “Its use here would be imaginative and generous to the millions who are feeling personally bereaved: it is popular culture at its best.
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“If it were thought the words were too sentimental (although that is by no means a bad thing given the national mood), they need not be printed – only sung.
“I would be prepared to discuss the significance of this suggestion over the phone with anyone.”
Dr Carr had also written to Buckingham Palace three days after Diana’s death, proposing a provisional order of service with the need for a change in musical pace during the funeral.
In the order, the iconic songwriters 1969 livelong Your Song was misnamed as Our Song.
Enclosing a copy of the lyrics, the Dean wrote: “Elton John to sing Our Song – a different style of music, popular and associated with the princess.”
The documents do not make clear how the amended version of Candle in the Wind, also known as Goodbye England’s Rose, became the preferred choice for the funeral.
In his 2019 autobiography, Sir Elton recalled how he had received a phone call from Sir Richard Branson suggesting that he revise the lyrics after noticing that many of those writing in a book of condolence in St James’s Palace were quoting the lyrics of the original song.
It is understood that that Candle in the Wind was the only song Sir Elton considered performing, believing that Branson’s request had come with the support of the Spencer family.
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