It was a “surreal” moment for Elton John as sang “Candle in the Wind” for the mourners at Westminster Abbey on Sept. 6, 1997.
“What was going through my mind was, ‘Don’t sing a wrong note. Be stoic. Don’t break down and just do it to the best you can possibly do it without showing any emotion whatsoever’. My heart was beating quite a lot, I have to say,” he said in a 2008 documentary according to The Telegraph.
Princess Diana’s tragic and sudden death rocked the world and was particularly hard for the people who really knew her, including many of her famous friends who have opened up about her in the last two decades since she died.
Richard Branson, an English businessman and founder of Virgin Group who vacationed with Princess Diana in her lifetime and is close with John, opened up in recent years about watching John perform at the funeral. This year, he shared that it was his idea to change the lyrics of the song in honor of the People’s Princess.
“I rang Elton John and said how about re-writing ‘Candle in the Wind,’ and I’ll try to get the Archbishop to accept it into the funeral service, which he did,” Branson said earlier this year on his smoothfm show, according to The Daily Mail. “The song was magical.”
The late George Michael was also among mourners at Westminster Abbey that day. Before his death, he opened up about the relationship with Diana he’d kept private and his feelings about her tragic death.
“I bawled my eyes out at the service,” Michael said. “I had forgotten my hanky, and I was really streaming. I was one of the few people in that part of Westminster Abbey that was really blubbering, and I remember thinking: ‘God, this is going to be really embarrassing.’”
The singer revealed that after Diana’s tragic death, he always regretted they didn’t get a chance to know each other better, according to The Mirror.
“Diana was the only person that I knew who made me feel like an ordinary person. That’s what I thought was so amazing about her,” he said. “I could have kept in a lot more contact with her, because we really got on well. But I was always reluctant to call her up. It was almost like a mate of mine who doesn’t want to call me up too much in case it looks strange – because he thinks that everybody else is calling me up.
“It was the same equation with Diana and I. She meant so much to so many people, including me,” he said.