Comparing the record-breaking success of “Candle in the Wind 1997” — Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is now the second-best-selling single of all time — with the more modest impact of The Big Picture is pointless and churlish. John’s latest album is state-of-the-artist pop, heavy on the grand balladry, low on raw stress. It is the work of a man — two men, really, including lyricist Bernie Taupin — content in the knowledge that passing fashion and fickle celebrity are no match for a well-crafted love song. You see a little bit of yourself in The Big Picture — or you don’t.
The rewriting of John’s 1973 paean to Marilyn Monroe was a personal gesture that has become something else altogether — the touchstone for an overwhelming grief that all but eradicated the human complexities of the woman in the song. Unlike Monroe, Princess Diana was born to privilege, married into royalty and was willingly (for a time) sold as the fairy-tale symbol of a rotting, irrelevant institution. That she suffered in her marriage but used her position to help others is undeniable. That she was killed, literally or otherwise, by the paparazzi may never be known. This much is certain: “Candle in the Wind 1997” means the difference between comfort and sorrow for those in real need; John, his record label, Rocket, and the distributor, A&M, donate all proceeds from “Candle” to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. Notably, the retailers do not. Some bucks, apparently, stop there.