BOSTON — For pop singer Elton John, having a hit single is nothing new.
But revamping a song in memory of a princess - and having that be a hit single worldwide - is certainly a first.
Mr. John's eagerly awaited "Candle in the Wind 1997" and his new album "The Big Picture" (Rocket/A&M) are being released today in the United States. The new single is not on the new album, however, and record company officials say there are no plans for "Candle 1997" to appear on any future album.
John performed the song at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, at London's Westminster Abbey on Sept. 6. The moving tribute was well received by the thousands of mourners there and the estimated 2.5 billion people watching around the world. Within hours after the service, John recorded a studio version.
Profits generated by the song, including artist and songwriting royalties, will go to the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fund. The British government plans to waive tax receipts on its sales.
The accompanying single on the CD is "Something About the Way You Look Tonight," promoting John's new album. (John is doing late-night talk shows this week, as has been scheduled before his limited fall tour schedule.)
"I have been overwhelmed by public demands for the new version of 'Candle in the Wind' and I feel that this, alongside my new single, makes an appropriate personal tribute," John has said.
John and Diana were good friends. After being invited to perform at the princess's funeral, John chose "Candle in the Wind" and asked his longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin, to rework the lyrics. The original song, released on John's 1973 album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," was about Marilyn Monroe. Listeners familiar with the original will draw parallels between the two women, who lived short and glamorous, yet tragic lives, amid much publicity.
Changes in wording included replacing the opening line, "Goodbye Norma Jean," with "Goodbye England's Rose" (see lyrics, left).
Industry observers predict "Candle in the Wind 1997" will rocket to the top of the charts and possibly become the bestselling single of all time. The single has already sold quickly in many European countries, but John is trying to keep this sacred to Diana's memory.
He has requested that his performance at the funeral not be broadcast on video stations. He has also said he will not perform this version of the song again.
More than 8 million copies were ordered for sale in the United States. "It's really about the power of music and the worldwide connection," says a spokesman at A&M Records.
In anticipation of its popularity, record stores have been bracing themselves for this day. (Even Bloomingdale's is selling it.)
"We bought in big quantity," says Hedi Kim, general manager for the Greenwich Village Tower Records in New York, which offered the single for sale at midnight. "Put it this way, we bought more of the single than the [new] Rolling Stones."
The song is predicted to raise $15 million for the princess's favorite charities.
Candle in the Wind 1997
Written for Diana, Princess of Wales
Goodbye England's Rose,
May you ever grow in our hearts.
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart.
You called out to our country,
And you whispered to those in pain.
Now you belong to Heaven,
And the stars spell out your name.
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in.
And your footsteps will always fall here,
Along England's greenest hills;
Your candle's burned out long before
Your legend ever will.
Loveliness we've lost;
These empty days without your smile.
This torch we'll always carry
For our nation's Golden Child.
And even though we try,
The truth brings us to tears;
All our words cannot express
The joy you brought us through the years.
Goodbye England's Rose,
From a country lost without your soul,
Who'll miss the wings of your compassion
More than you will ever know.
- By Elton John and Bernie Taupin