Why Elton John Almost Didn't Sing Candle In The Wind At Diana's Funeral

On August 31, 1997, Princess Diana died in a horrific car crash (via CNN). According to History, she was in Paris with her boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed. The pair had been relentlessly hounded by the media during their holiday. This ultimately led to a high-speed chase between paparazzi and the car she and Al-Fayed were traveling in. Shortly after leaving a hotel, their Mercedes limo crashed inside a tunnel. Diana, Al-Fayed, and the driver died. Her bodyguard was the sole survivor. Diana was only 36 and tragically left behind two young children, Prince William and Prince Harry.

A week later, the world mourned the princess' death at a public funeral. According to PopSugar, the televised event was viewed or heard by an estimated 2.5 billion people. Millions of others lined the funeral route from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey, where Diana's ceremony was held. Per The Mirror, several celebrities were in attendance, including Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Steven Spielberg, and more. Today writes that Elton John, Diana's close friend, performed. The royal family, however, was reportedly not keen on him doing so.

The royal family didn't want Candle in the Wind performed

According to Biography, Elton John and Princess Diana met at Prince Andrew's 21st birthday party in 1981. They danced the Charleston together and formed a friendship that would last several years. John later said he "loved her because she did so much for AIDS" at a time when other celebrities did not (via Showbiz CheatSheet). However, their friendship soured when Diana was unsupportive of a book that benefited John's AIDS foundation because she believed the contents would upset the queen. The two would reconcile when their mutual friend, Gianni Versace, died. They both attended his funeral and only weeks later, Diana would be dead.

Per The Mirror, John decided to perform "Candle in the Wind" at her funeral. Written about Marilyn Monroe, he changed the lyrics to celebrate Diana. The revised version is now referred to as "Candle in the Wind 1997." Upon hearing the song, the royal family did not want him to perform it. As Today puts it, they thought it was "too sentimental."

Dr. Wesley Carr, the Dean of Westminster, pleaded with the family and said the song would be "imaginative and generous" for the mourners (via NME). He added that it would be "inappropriate" to play classical music, as was suggested by the royal family. As fate would have it, John would go on to perform the song. As a result, "Candle in the Wind 1997" became a hit and a moving tribute to a friend gone too soon.