Sunday, January 20, 2008

Candle in the Wind

The short, bittersweet life of actress Norma Jeane Mortenson, aka Marilyn Monroe, is a story full of triumph and tragedy, and the questions that still surround the circumstances of her death have not been satisfactorily explained- and probably never will. The perfect recipe for immortality.

"Candle" is Bernie writing in sensitive/sympathetic mode, as he not only commemorates her glamour and appeal, but also spares a thought for the woman behind the Hollywood-manufactured sex-bomb image and provides a lovely eulogy, all in keeping with the unwritten "old-time Hollywood mystique" theme of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, as summed up in the final verse:

Goodbye Norma Jean
From the young man in the 22nd row
Who sees you as something as more than sexual
More than just our Marilyn Monroe

Elton's arrangement, a bit surprisingly, is relatively simple- just the Classic Band's bass/drums/guitar/piano mix, as well as the outstanding harmony vocal mix they provided, set in a midtempo ballad style. Johnstone's guitar lick that follows the choruses is a nicely done and memorable touch.

This one was a single in the UK; it went to #11. "Bennie and the Jets" was released in the US in its stead. There have been a few cover versions; one which stands out is Sandy Denny's faithful cover on her 1977 LP Rendezvous. Over the decades, Elton has revisited it twice: first, in 1987 in a live version which appeared on the Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra album (you may remember the 18th Century French outfit he performed in), this time reaching #5 in the US and #6 in Britain; and again a few years later in a rewritten version, this time in tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, titled "Candle in the Wind 1997".

2007 came and went with no new cover of which I'm aware, which breaks that "every ten years" streak...

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