Bernie Taupin Says Candle In The Wind Wasn't Actually Inspired By The Hollywood Star You Thought

Sir Elton John's long-time lyricist says he went ahead with writing the song even though he "didn't care for Marilyn Monroe".
Elton John and Bernie Taupin in 2019
Elton John and Bernie Taupin in 2019
Future Publishing via Getty Images

“Goodbye Norma Jean,” Sir Elton John sings at the beginning of his hit song Candle In The Wind, which looks back on the life of screen legend Marilyn Monroe.

However, during a new interview, the music icon’s long-time songwriting partner Bernie Taupin revealed the song was actually inspired by a very different Hollywood star.

Bernie has now worked alongside the singer for decades, contributing lyrics while Sir Elton largely focuses on music.

During an interview on Friday’s edition of Graham Norton’s BBC talk show, the lyricist revealed he first wanted to write a song called Candle In The Wind after coming across the book of the same name by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

“I liked the title of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book, which is a metaphor for a life snuffed out too soon,” he explained.

“At the same time, 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.”

Montgomery Clift in the early 1950s
Montgomery Clift in the early 1950s
John Kobal Foundation via Getty Images

Bernie then admitted: “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.

“Otherwise, history would have been very different.”

Marilyn Monroe pictured in London in 1956
Marilyn Monroe pictured in London in 1956
Reg Davis via Getty Images

Candle In The Wind was rewritten more than 20 years after its original release to commemorate the death of Princess Diana.

While Bernie recently confessed the reimagined version didn’t leave too much of a lasting impression on him, he reiterated this during his Graham Norton interview.

“I re-wrote it in half an hour, it wasn’t difficult,” he claimed. “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!”

Of his and Sir Elton’s creative process, he added: “Elton always takes what he is given and never questions what the lyrics are actually about until later in the day when it is all recorded.”

This certainly proved to be the case earlier this year, when the Grammy winner found out the origin story of one of his biggest hits – a full 50 years after its original release.

Watch Bernie Taupin’s interview on Friday’s The Graham Norton Show airing at 10.40pm on BBC One.


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