The lyrics were written by Elton’s writing partner, Bernie Taupin, who got the idea for the title from a quote he read about Janis Joplin. According to Taupin, the song is more of a take on fame and celebrity than an ode to Marilyn Monroe. Said Taupin: “I think the biggest misconception about ‘Candle In The Wind’ is that I was this rabid Marilyn Monroe fanatic, which really couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not that I didn’t have a respect for her. It’s just that the song could just as easily have been about James Dean or Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain. I mean, it could have been about Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf. I mean, basically, anybody, any writer, actor, actress, or musician who died young and sort of became this iconic picture of Dorian Gray, that thing where they simply stopped aging. It’s a beauty frozen in time.
In a way, I’m fascinated with that concept. So it’s really about how fame affects the man or woman in the street, that whole adulation thing and the fanaticism of fandom. It’s pretty freaky how people really believe these people are somehow different from us. It’s a theme that’s figured prominently in a lot of our songs, and I think it’ll probably continue to do so.”
When Elton got the lyrics, he had no trouble writing the music. He understood the stress caused by constant media attention, and felt Monroe must have been in terrible pain her whole life.