When you look at the list of the biggest selling songs of all time, most have a story behind them – iconic and massively popular songs are usually part of an even bigger moment in history or culture. Perhaps the hugest of them all was the news story that shocked the world and made headlines for weeks – the death of Princess Diana in August 1997.
Following the princess's passing, in a car accident in Paris, public emotion was high, and there was demand for a fitting tribute for one of the most famous women in the world. And sometimes only a legend will do. Parallels were drawn between the life of Diana and movie actress Marilyn Monroe – both died aged 36, both were among the most photographed women in the world and struggled with celebrity, and both of them had a certain mythology around them. And they also had Elton John in common.
One of Diana's closest friends, Elton had previously sung a touching tribute to Marilyn, Candle in the Wind, taking it to Number 11 in 1974 and going Top 5 with a live version in 1988. With his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin came up with an updated version to be played at Diana's funeral.
Elton gave an emotional performance of the new song at the ceremony on the piano, before dashing off to the studio to record it so it could be released as a single, with all proceeds to be distributed between charities close to the princess's heart.
A Tower Records staff member stacking shelves with Candle In The Wind 97. Many record shops opened at midnight especially due to demand for the single (Rex)
Demand was higher than could possibly have been anticipated. In its first week, the song sold 658,000 copies, and in its second, a whopping 1.54 million! By its fourth week on sale it was already the biggest selling single of all time, lapping another charity song, Do They Know It's Christmas – which at that point stood at 3.52 million – in the process.
Candle in the Wind 1997, which was backed with another Elton song Something About The Way You Look Tonight, spent five weeks at Number 1 and has sold an incredible 4.9 million copies to date.
Fittingly for such a unique occasion, Candle In The Wind 1997 belongs very much to that moment – Elton has never performed the song again in public, preferring to stick with the original – and since becoming available for download in 2007, it's been bought 27,000 times. Streams are fairly quiet too: 68,000 since it was made available in 2015.
Whether it's because of huge news events, major movies or, more often that not, Christmas, each million-selling song brings back memories. Here's the Top 20 best sellers of all time:
|1||SOMETHING ABOUT THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT/CANDLE IN THE WIND 97||ELTON JOHN||1997|
|2||DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS?||BAND AID||1984|
|4||MULL OF KINTYRE/GIRLS' SCHOOL||WINGS||1977|
|5||YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT||JOHN TRAVOLTA & OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN||1978|
|6||RELAX||FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD||1983|
|7||RIVERS OF BABYLON/BROWN GIRL IN THE RING||BONEY M||1978|
|8||SHE LOVES YOU||THE BEATLES||1963|
|10||LOVE IS ALL AROUND||WET WET WET||1994|
|11||MARY'S BOY CHILD/OH MY LORD||BONEY M||1978|
|12||I JUST CALLED TO SAY I LOVE YOU||STEVIE WONDER||1984|
|13||UNCHAINED MELODY/(THERE'LL BE BLUEBIRDS OVER) THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER||ROBSON GREEN & JEROME FLYNN||1995|
|14||(EVERYTHING I DO) I DO IT FOR YOU||BRYAN ADAMS||1991|
|16||LAST CHRISTMAS/EVERYTHING SHE WANTS||WHAM!||1984|
|18||I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND||THE BEATLES||1963|
|19||ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE/EVERGREEN||WILL YOUNG||2002|
©2017 Official Charts Company . All rights reserved.
Look through the UK's biggest selling single of each year, from 1952 - 2016, below: