Candle In The Wind wasn’t originally inspired by Marilyn Monroe, says Bernie Taupin

Bernie Taupin with Elton John
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Working alongside Elton John, lyricist Bernie Taupin became half of one of the greatest songwriting partnerships of all time, and Candle In The Wind - seemingly an ode to the late Marilyn Monroe - remains one of their finest moments. However, it turns out that the song was originally inspired by someone completely different.

Discussing the genesis of Candle In the Wind on the BBC’s Graham Norton Show, Taupin told the host: “I saw The Misfits and was fascinated by Montgomery Clift who died young. But then I wondered how many people would know who he was.”

A better-known lost icon was required, then. Enter Norma Jean: “Even though I didn’t care for Marilyn Monroe, people would think her a much more fragile character and more indicative of the ‘candle in the wind’ so I am glad I went with her,” admits Taupin. “Otherwise, history would have been very different.”

Released as a single in 1974, Candle In The Wind originally appeared on classic Elton John album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which was released almost exactly 50 years ago, on 5 October 1973.

Taupin also revealed to Norton that Candle In the Wind’s title came from Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s play of the same name, and admitted that the reworked version of the song that he penned for Diana, Princess of Wales’ funeral in 1997 isn’t something he spent too much time on or has returned to since.

“I re-wrote it in half an hour, it wasn’t difficult,” he explained. “I’ve only actually heard it a couple of times - once at the funeral and once in the studio so I don’t remember a word of it!”

Taupin is currently doing the media rounds in promotion of Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton and Me, his recently released memoir. You can watch the full interview on The Graham Norton Show, which airs on BBC One tonight at 10.40pm.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.