"Candle in the Wind 1997" is a song by Elton John, a re-written and re-recorded version of his 1973 song "Candle in the Wind". It was released on 13 September 1997 as a tribute single to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, with the global proceeds from the song going towards Diana's charities. In many countries, it was pressed as a double A-side with "Something About the Way You Look Tonight". It was produced by Sir George Martin.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, with certified sales, it is "the second best-selling single of all time." The Guinness World Records 2009 states that the song is "the biggest-selling single since UK and US singles charts began in the 1950s, having accumulated worldwide sales of 33 million copies".
After being released, "Candle in the Wind 1997" entered at number one in the UK Singles Chart, John's fourth UK number one single, and became the best-selling single in UK Chart history. In October it became John's ninth U.S. number one single, where it topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks, and is the best-selling single in Billboard history, and was the first single certified Diamond in the U.S. The song topped the German Singles Chart for seven weeks, the Australian ARIA Charts for six weeks, reached number one in Japan, Canada, France and music charts around the world.
The 1997 version won John the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards ceremony in 1998. At the 1998 Brit Awards the song was nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Single. The lyrics of the earlier version of "Candle in the Wind", written by Bernie Taupin, were a tribute to Marilyn Monroe. The opening lines of the 1973 version, "Goodbye Norma Jeane, though I never knew you at all," were adapted to "Goodbye England's rose, may you ever grow in our hearts." Most of the lyrics were adapted to suit the circumstances of Diana's life and death, but a notable omission, which needed no adaptation, was the line, "Even when you died, the press still hounded you." which was replaced with the lyric, "Even though we try, the truth brings us to tears."
On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris, France. The news shocked Elton John, as he and the Princess had been very good friends. Earlier in the summer, he had also lost another good friend, fashion designer Gianni Versace, whose funeral he had attended with Diana.
John sank into a deep depression, and to cope with the grief, wanted to pay a tribute to Diana. He contacted his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, asking him to revise the lyrics of their 1973 song "Candle in the Wind" to honour her. George Martin was contacted to help produce the song, and added a string quartet (Peter Manning, Keith Pascoe, Levine Andrade, and Andrew Shulman), and woodwind (Pippa Davies, oboe) to help balance the recording. It was recorded at Townhouse Studios in West London.
John publicly performed "Candle in the Wind 1997" only once, at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in Westminster Abbey on 6 September 1997. He continues to sing the original version of the song at his concerts, but has repeatedly turned down requests to perform the revised version, even for the memorial Concert for Diana in July 2007, having vowed never to perform it again unless asked by Diana's sons. The song has never been released (or re-released) on any of his other albums or compilations, not even on the 1997 Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute album (an official 2-CD release sanctioned by Diana's family that included other artists such as Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Queen, Celine Dion, and Rod Stewart). The song was included on "Diana, Princess of Wales: The BBC Recording of the Funeral Service". The soundtrack was released on September 30, 1997.
"Candle in the Wind" was expected to debut high on the charts, due to its tribute to the death of Diana. It became the fastest-selling single in the UK, selling 658,000 copies on its first day of release, and over 1.5 million in its first week. The single remained at number one on the UK Singles Chart for five weeks, and it eventually sold 4.93 million copies in the UK, overtaking the 13-year-old record held by Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?". It has been certified as the best-selling single of all time in the UK.
The chart success in the United States was similar. Released on 22 September 1997, "Candle in the Wind" debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, with first week sales at 3.5 million copies. The album/single stayed at the top of the charts for 14 consecutive weeks, a record for a male solo artist. It has the biggest sales for any song sold within a single calendar year when it sold 8,111,000 physical copies in 1997, despite being recorded as late as September of the same year. On January 17, 1998, it was knocked out of the number one spot on the Hot 100 chart by "Truly Madly Deeply" by Savage Garden. Billboard ranked it as the No. 1 song for 1997, despite being on the chart for only eight weeks in the chart year. To date, the song is the only number-one debut to top the Year-End Hot 100. It was on the chart for 35 more weeks, making it the #8 song of 1998, making "Candle in the Wind 1997" one of only three songs in the history of the chart to be ranked on the top ten of two separate Hot 100 year-end charts, along with Chubby Checker's "The Twist" (#10 in 1960 and #9 in 1962) and LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live" (#9 in 1997 and #5 in 1998); the latter had charted on the same period with the song. The best-selling single in Billboard history, and the only single ever certified Diamond in the United States at the time, the single shipped over 11 million copies in the U.S. In the U.S., the solo #1 single broke Elton John's "Kiki jinx." After five number-one solo hits in America in the 1970s, John hit #1 in a duet with Kiki Dee with 1976's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart". From then until "Candle in the Wind 1997", John did not record a number-one single by himself and only had two chart toppers altogether. The first of those was 1986's "That's What Friends Are For", where he joined forces with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder to form a quartet known as Dionne & Friends which helped raise money for AIDS research. Six years later John teamed with George Michael on a re-release of his earlier hit "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me".
The song has sold over 33 million copies worldwide, which makes it either the best-selling or the second best-selling single worldwide of all time. The confusion and debate on whether John's record is or is not the best-selling single in the world is due to a lack of information on sales for the record's main contender for the number-one spot, Bing Crosby's recording of "White Christmas," because Crosby's recording was released before the advent of the modern-day US and UK singles charts. However, after careful research, Guinness World Records in 2007 concluded that, worldwide, Crosby's recording of "White Christmas" has, in their estimation, sold at least 50 million copies, and that John's recording of "Candle in the Wind" has sold 33 million, making Crosby's recording the best-selling single of all time. However, an update in the 2009 edition of the book decided to further help settle the controversy amicably by naming both John's and Crosby's songs to be "winners" by stating that John's recording is the "best-selling single since UK and US singles charts began in the 1950s," while maintaining that "the best-selling single of all time was released before the first pop charts," and that this distinction belongs to "White Christmas," which it says "was listed as the world's best-selling single in the first-ever Guinness Book of Records (published in 1955) and – remarkably – still retains the title more than 50 years later."
In Canada, "Candle in the Wind 1997" spent three years in the top 20, with 46 non-consecutive weeks at the top spot. However, the song's unusual chart performance in Canada has also been explained as a structural factor; due to the relative lack of CD singles available for sale in Canadian stores. In Germany, the song is the 8th best selling pop hymn ever. Having spent six weeks at number one on the ARIA Charts, "Candle in the Wind 1997" is one of the all-time best-selling singles in Australia, being certified 14 times platinum with 56 weeks in the Top 100. According to Musiikkituottajat, the Finnish music industry federation, "Candle in the Wind 1997" is the best-selling single of all time in Finland, with quintuple-platinum sales of over 54,000 copies to date.
It is estimated that at the peak of sales, almost six copies of the single were sold per second. In the UK, the single grabbed the number one slot on the first day of its release, with more than 650,000 copies sold in 24 hours, becoming the fastest-selling record of all time in the UK charts. All artist and composer royalties and record company profits were donated to Diana's charities via the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.