Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Sir Elton John believes mourning for Princess Diana 'got out of hand'

John's new memoir, 'Me', reveals many shocking details of his life, including a secret cancer diagnosis that almost killed him

Sir Elton John's new memoir is being touted as the rock autobiography of the century. 
Sir Elton John's new memoir is being touted as the rock autobiography of the century. 

In the days following Princess Diana's death, Sir Elton John recalls thinking "the mourning for her had got out of hand" as his musical ode to her topped charts around the world.

The rock superstar penned the confession about Diana, his close friend, in his new memoir, Me, which has revealed shocking new details about his life, including a secret cancer diagnosis that almost killed him two years ago.

John has written about everything from Princess Diana's death, to his health struggles, for the first time in the memoir, which will be released on October 15 but has been serialised by The Daily Mail.

Sir Elton John has spoken at length about his friendship with Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, in his new memoir. Getty Images
Sir Elton John has spoken at length about his friendship with Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, in his new memoir. Getty Images

John had the lyrics of his popular ballad Candle in the Wind rewritten for Diana's funeral, where he performed the new version of the song.

The two forged a close and long-lasting friendship after first meeting in 1981 at Prince Andrew's birthday.

'It almost felt like wallowing in her death'

The overwhelming response to the remastered song was unexpected, John writes, as it quickly became the biggest-selling single since the charts began.

"In the end, I started feeling really uncomfortable with the single’s longevity. Its success meant there was footage of Diana’s funeral week after week on Top Of The Pops — it almost felt like wallowing in her death, as if the mourning for her had got out of hand. I really didn’t think that was what Diana would have wanted."

John himself found it difficult to listen to the song. He listened to it once at his studio before it was released, and never listened to it again. The song's notoriety became so overwhelming that John "didn't want to prolong it any further". When Oprah Winfrey asked him to go on her talk show to discuss the funeral, he declined.

John says he doesn't remember much of performing the song at Princess Diana's funeral, but remembers the applause at the end. He also remembers seeing the Royal Family enter the church from his seat in the inner sanctum, and being appalled at the treatment of Prince William and Prince Harry.

"William and Harry looked completely shell-shocked. They were 15 and 12, and I thought the way they were treated that day was absolutely inhuman," he writes.

The princes William and Harry with (L to R) their grandfather, Prince Philip, their uncle, Earl Spencer, and their father, Prince Charles in the funeral cortege for Diana, Princess of Wales, on September 6, 1997. The Princess died on August 31, 1997 in a car accident in Paris. Jeff J. Mitchell / RTA/WPA Pool / AFP
The princes William and Harry with (L to R) their grandfather, Prince Philip, their uncle, Earl Spencer, and their father, Prince Charles in the funeral cortege for Diana, Princess of Wales, on September 6, 1997. AFP

"They were forced to walk through the streets of London behind their mother’s coffin, told to show no emotion and look straight ahead. It was a horrendous way to treat two kids who’d just lost their mum."

John's tell-all comes on the same day that an older Prince Harry, now 35, has announced all-out war on the British tabloid industry.

Prince Harry has filed legal proceedings against two mastheads he claims hacked his phone lines, just days after he and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, announced they would take legal action in a separate case against the Mail on Sunday after it published one of Meghan's private letters to her estranged father.

The announcement came on the penultimate day of the royal couple's tour of South Africa, days after Harry paid homage to his mother by visiting the same landmine clearance project in Angola that Princess Diana had been to a few months before her death.

Secret cancer diagnosis: John was '24 hours from death'

Another excerpt of Me, in The Daily Mail, revealed John's secret prostate cancer diagnosis, which left him "24 hours from death".

John was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017, and received treatment in Los Angeles. Ten days later, while performing in Las Vegas, the singer developed acute pain, which doctors discovered was a complication from his treatment operation. The star was forced to receive treatment for the next ten weeks, after which, doctors cured it by accident during a routine colonoscopy.

Thinking everything was back to normal, John went on tour in South America. It was then that he started feeling ill and "couldn't stop shaking". Cutting the tour short, he returned to the UK and was rushed to hospital.

"The doctors told David I was 24 hours away from death. If the South American tour had gone on for another day that would have been it: brown bread.

"So I was incredibly lucky – although, I have to say, I didn't feel terribly lucky at the time. I lay awake all night, wondering if I was going to die. In the hospital, alone at the dead of night, I'd prayed: Please don't let me die, please let me see my kids again, please give me a little longer."

John opted for surgery, rather than a course of radiation and chemotherapy, so he could avoid multiple trips to the hospital.

John's memoir reveals several other shocking aspects of his life, untold even by his recent autobiographical film Rocketman.

An episode is said to outline when Hollywood stars Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere almost had a "fist fight" over Princess Diana at a dinner party at his house until his husband David Furnish stopped them.

Another chapter recounts how he fell out with Diana after she pulled out of writing the foreword to a book for his Aids Foundation – but they later made up.

Updated: October 5, 2019 03:44 PM

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