The funeral singer

I was discussing today with a friend the fact that Elton John repurposed his song Candle in the Wind for Lady Diana’s funeral. Our topic of discussion was: Is this legitimate?

In other words, can a writer cannibalize his own work? Is it ok to take a song that eulogizes Marilyn Monroe, change around a few lyrics, and end up with a song that eulogizes Princess Diana Spencer?

In this case the question is particularly fraught because the original lyrics were actually written by Bernie Taupin, not Elton John. But for now, let us gloss over that inconvenient fact.

Suppose we decide that it is ok to borrow a song you wrote honoring deceased person A, and re-purpose it to honor recently deceased person B. Are there any limits?

For example, could Elton John legitimately go on the road with variations of this song, performing custom versions for Micheal Jackson, George Michaels, Davy Jones, Prince? Would anybody have a problem with Candle and the Prince? I mean, you know, on ethical grounds.

If not, I see a rich future ahead for once top-charting singer / songwriters. Why not repurpose those old songs, and bring comfort to new generations of grieving fans?

I can see a whole new career ahead for Elton John and other intrepid troubadours, based on a sound and time tested business model. After all, one thing we know for sure about the future is that famous people will continue to die.

It is only prudent to have a song ready.

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