Princess Diana was an inspiration to many people who loved her for who she was, and musician and pop culture icon Elton John was no exception. The two shared a solid friendship, something that only became stronger as the years went by. As per Biography, they often went to high-profile events together, one example being the Live Aid concert in 1985, where they were seen talking to each other backstage.
According to Pop Sugar, Elton and Diana were friends for years, though their friendship had its share of highs and lows. At one point, they weren’t even speaking to each other. Thankfully, they found a way to reconcile despite their differences. One of the things that brought them closer was that they were both passionate about using their voices to talk about global issues. After Diana’s tragic death in 1997, John often expressed how he felt about the princess and her kindness.
Elton John wrote at length about his friend in his 2019 autobiography titled “Me” and mentioned that Diana was so charismatic that she could get along with anyone she met and could make others feel at ease (via Town & Country). He believes that her sons, Harry and William, have inherited this quality from their mother and have turned out to be as likeable as she was.
They came across each other at a party
As detailed by Harper’s Bazaar, Elton John first came across Princess Diana at a royal event in 1981. It was Prince Andrew’s 21st birthday bash, and according to Showbiz Cheat Sheet, John was asked to come to the event and sing for the guests. He obliged and even showed up early to the party. John recollected, “When I arrived, there was no one there but the dance band and Princess Diana. We danced the Charleston alone on the floor for 20 minutes.” What a way to meet, huh? The event got more animated as Princess Anne and the queen eventually joined in, making the party more memorable than John could have imagined.
According to Time, meeting Diana made him feel very connected to her. He remarked, “She was blessed with an incredible social ease, an ability to talk to anybody, to make herself seem ordinary.” Their meeting at the party was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Elton John was on good terms with the royal family
Elton John was closely associated with the royals even before he got to know Princess Diana. As per Time, John first met the royal family back in the 1970s, when he was called to Kensington Palace for a meal. His host was Princess Margaret, who loved listening to music and admired musicians. The dinner was an awkward affair, though. The princess and her husband, Lord Snowdown, ended up quarreling while eating, something that was unexpected. John recalled, “He [Lord Snowdown] stormed in midway through the meal and literally snarled ‘Where’s my f*cking dinner?’ at her. They had a huge row, and she fled the room in tears.”
Over the years, John became a regular guest at royal events. It helped that he was gaining popularity as a musician and becoming a much-loved celebrity. John interacted with several members of the royal family, such as Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II. In fact, Philip once even joked to John that he needed to do something about his yellow Aston Martin. He told John, “[The car] makes you look like a bloody fool. Get rid of it.”
Elton John knew how popular Diana was
For Elton John, his growing friendship with Princess Diana meant that he was frequently around her, and they often attended parties and social events together. Being in close proximity with Diana made it easy for the singer to notice just how popular she really was. According to John, men couldn’t help but be charmed by the princess whenever they met her. Even Hollywood stars weren’t immune.
In fact, John even had a term for this phenomenon, calling it the “Diana Effect” in his autobiography “Me” (via Time). He had a particularly interesting anecdote to share from one of their events. At a dinner party that included Princess Diana and well-known Hollywood stars Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone, John found that the two actors were so attracted to Diana that they almost ended up fighting each other for her attention. Stallone left, and John recalls him saying, “I never would have come if I’d known Prince f*ckin’ Charming was gonna be here. If I’d wanted her, I would’ve taken her!”
John noted in his autobiography that the princess was so endearing that she could even make Hollywood stars behave like teenagers.
The singer liked Prince Harry
Elton John got along well enough with Princess Diana to meet and interact with her kids, and he was particularly fond of Prince Harry. As per Harper’s Bazaar, they first met in the 1990s at Kensington Palace. It was a special lunch that was hosted by Princess Diana for Elton John and acclaimed fashion designer Gianni Versace.
John revealed that Prince Harry was very shy at first but was sweet throughout their interaction, and the singer liked him immediately. He said, “What a joy it has been to see that young boy grow to inherit his mother’s warmth, sense of humor and courage to stand up and champion the causes he truly believes in.” According to Town & Country, John really admires Prince Harry’s dedication to speaking up for important causes, such as putting an end to AIDS across the world and his transparency on the importance of mental health.
Elton John has remained on good terms with Prince Harry through the years and even sang at his wedding in 2018.
They had a rocky phase
In the 1990s, Elton John and Princess Diana’s friendship went into a rough phase when they couldn’t see eye to eye on a book. According to Time, Diana was supposed to write the introduction in a photography book that was meant to help the AIDS Foundation, but she decided to withdraw from the project. John later remarked, “I think Buckingham Palace didn’t like the idea of a member of the royal family having anything to do with a book that featured shots of naked guys with towels draped around them.”
As reported by Showbiz Cheat Sheet, the book was a collaborative effort between Elton John and Gianni Versace. The problem was that the book included pictures of the royal family as well as shots of nude male models. Princess Diana wasn’t pleased about this and didn’t want to upset the queen, which is why she decided to distance herself from the project. This was troubling for John, who hadn’t expected his friend to back out.
Despite the hiccups, the book did get released, and its proceeds were donated to John’s AIDS foundation. However, this incident led to Princess Diana and Elton John not speaking to each other.
Elton tried to talk to Diana
When they ended up having a falling-out over the photography book, Elton John did try to make an effort to reach out to Princess Diana and figure out what had happened, writing to her and seeking an explanation. However, he was confused and upset about her actions. John said of the incident, “I wrote back to her, calling her out, telling her how much money she had cost the AIDS Foundation, reminding her that she had seen the book” (via Biography).
Diana did get back to him with a letter but was quite formal and didn’t speak to him the way she used to. John got even more agitated after receiving her reply, and they ended up not communicating for a time. John later said, “It’s one of those things that friends sometimes do. You know, they’re too proud to pick up the phone.” Their differences, thankfully, didn’t last.
Elton John was worried about Princess Diana
Even though Elton John and Princess Diana weren’t on speaking terms, the singer couldn’t help but feel concerned. As per Biography, he sensed that something was off but wasn’t sure. John recalled, “She seemed to be losing touch with all sorts of really close friends, who would be honest with her, and surrounding herself instead with people who told her what she wanted to hear.”
According to The Telegraph, John said that the ones who could help were pushed away toward the end of Diana’s life, and she relied on “the wrong people” for comfort. John commented, “I always thought the people that really felt for her and really were true to her she just was a bit airy fairy towards in the end.”
Also, as noted by Time, John had noticed long before their divorce that Diana didn’t have a warm relationship with Prince Charles.
They set aside their differences in 1997
Elton John and Princess Diana crossed paths once more when tragedy struck in July 1997. They lost their close friend, Gianni Versace, who was murdered outside his home. The event brought Diana and John together again: They met at the funeral and bonded over their shared loss. According to The Washington Post, Princess Diana was a great source of strength for John at that point. He said, “She kept her cool for me … at Gianni’s funeral and she held her composure. … When I started crying and she put her arms around me and she was, that’s exactly what she was like.” John called Diana “a caring and very calming person.”
Per Showbiz Cheat Sheet, Diana had reached out to John as soon as she found out about Versace to check on her friend and his mental health. John never forgot that gesture. He said, “I loved her because she did so much for AIDS and she was a great friend to me. We had our fallings out, but we reconciled in the end.” That summer was unforgettable for Elton John, who lost Versace and Diana in the space of only weeks. The events felt surreal to the musician, who couldn’t quite come to terms with what was happening.
Princess Diana passed away shortly after the reconciliation
Elton John and Princes Diana didn’t get much time together after their reunion. Sadly, in August 1997, tragedy struck again when Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris. According to Harper’s Bazaar, the princess was being pursued by paparazzi when the devastating accident occurred. As per The Washington Post, Elton John was asked to perform at his friend’s funeral. He said back then, “I was invited to the funeral anyway, and now I’ve been asked to sing … which is quite a daunting thing but I want to.”
As reported by Reuters, singing at the funeral was incredibly tough for John. In fact, he was so scared of messing up the lyrics of the song “Candle in the Wind” that he used a teleprompter that was placed close to his piano. His performance was seen by scores of fans who were mourning Princess Diana’s death in different parts of the world. As per Harper’s Bazaar, singing at the event was a “surreal” experience for the singer, who was trying to remain strong and stoic while singing in front of so many people. According to the Independent, approximately 2,000 people were present at the funeral. John told himself, “Don’t break down and just do it to the best you can possibly do it without showing any emotion whatsoever.”
Elton John didn't know how to feel after Diana died
Losing Princess Diana was devastating for Elton John, who didn’t know how to cope. According to The Telegraph, the musician found out about his friend’s death after someone sent him a fax with their condolences.
John was especially confused about the kind of attention his new version of “Candle in the wind” received from the public. According to the Independent, the singer recreated the song for Diana as a tribute. The ballad became extremely popular among listeners, and it’s estimated that at least 33 million copies were sold globally.
However, John was not okay with the kind of attention Diana’s death received. He said, “There was part of me that couldn’t understand why anyone would want to listen to it. Under what circumstances would you play it? I never did.” He was uneasy about how long the song remained on top of the charts, adding, “[I]t almost felt like wallowing in her death, as if the mourning for her had got out of hand.”
As far as John was concerned, the hype around the song wasn’t a good thing. He distanced himself from it, not talking about the funeral or his performance in any of his television interviews. Also, the singer firmly believed that Diana wouldn’t have liked the kind of attention the song received. He made it a point to never include it in his greatest hits albums as a mark of respect to Princess Diana.
Elton John supported Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Even after Princess Diana’s death, Elton John didn’t forget the bond that they shared. He was around for her sons, Harry and William, and tried to lend his support whenever he could. When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were called out for using a private plane to visit him in France in 2019, John was livid and made his views clear on Twitter. He wrote that he was quite hurt by the explosive media accounts on the couple’s visit, stating, “Prince Harry’s Mother, Diana Princess Of Wales was one of my dearest friends. I feel a profound sense of obligation to protect Harry and his family from the unnecessary press intrusion that contributed to Diana’s untimely death.”
He further wrote that the private plane that Harry and Meghan used was carbon-neutral and that it was something that John had arranged on his own. He wrote, “To support Prince Harry’s commitment to the environment, we ensured their flight was carbon neutral, by making the appropriate contribution to Carbon Footprint.” As per the BBC, John said that he decided to arrange the plane to ensure that the couple was adequately protected during their travels. Also, he requested the media to leave Harry and Meghan alone and respect their privacy.
Elton John has honored Princess Diana several times over the years
For Elton John, it has always been important to remember Princess Diana in different ways. As per Harper’s Bazaar, he performed at a music concert for Diana with William and Harry by his side in 2007. Harry said at the concert, “This evening is about all that my mother loved: her music, her charities, her dance and all her friends.”
John also made sure to show up for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding celebrations in 2011 and said that he believed that Diana would have been over the moon to see Prince William and Kate together. He also said that he felt that they were lovely as a couple.
In 2017, John remembered Diana again, speaking about her on the 20th anniversary of her death. He told the BBC that Diana had a warmth and positivity that could be very comforting for others around her and make them feel like things would eventually work out. He also wrote a touching tribute on one of his social media accounts: “20 years ago today, the world lost an angel.”
John let go of other work commitments to attend Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018. He even performed “Your Song” for the royal family at the lunch reception, as confirmed by a statement from Kensington Palace, which read, “Sir Elton performed for the newly married couple in recognition of the close connection he has with Prince Harry and his family.”
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