The pop singer and the princess first met in 1981 and quickly forged a loyal friendship.
Following the death of Diana on 31 August 1997, John famously re-recorded his hit single “Candle in the Wind” in her honour.
The ballad went on to become a number one hit after he performed it at the royal’s funeral, selling 33 million copies worldwide.
As many as 2,000 people – including global celebrities and politicians – attended the princess’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on 6 September 1997.
The ceremony was also broadcast around the world and was viewed by an estimated 2.5 billion people, making it one of the biggest TV events in history.
Writing in his new memoir, Me: Elton John, the singer says the global scale of public grief following her death was not “what she would have wanted”.
“The funeral version of ‘Candle in the Wind’ became the biggest-selling single since the charts began,” John wrote.
“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.”
The 72-year-old added that the longevity of the song made him feel “really uncomfortable”.
“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,” he said.
“I really didn’t think that was what Diana would have wanted and I didn’t want to do anything to prolong it any further.”
In a bid to quell the song’s popularity, John said he refused to discuss the funeral during television appearances and has not included the updated version of the song on any greatest hits albums.
Elsewhere in his memoirs, he reveals for the first that he was successfully treated for prostate cancer two years ago.
He was diagnosed in 2017 and opted for surgery rather than chemotherapy because he did not want the disease “hanging over” his family.
He said the surgery in Los Angeles was a “complete success” but he was later “24 hours from death” after contracting an infection in South America.
The drama encouraged his decision to retire from touring so he could spend more time with husband David Furnish and their sons Zachary and Elijah.
“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” he wrote.
“In a strange way, it felt like the time I spent recuperating was the answer to my prayers: if you want more time, you need to learn to live like this, you have to slow down.”
Me: Elton John Official Autobiography is released on 15 November
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