Elton John’s Ode to Yevgeny Prigozhin

Yevgeny Prigozhin
Yevgeny Prigozhin, 1961 – 2023.
Rest In Pieces.
Photo: УлПравда ТВ, CC BY 3.0.

Elton John reprises “Candle in the Wind / Goodbye England’s Rose” for the late leader of the Wagner private military group, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Sir Elton John is about to announce the release of his much-publicized ode to the late Russian oligarch, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Warming up the crowd of journalists jammed into his home recording studio, the mega-sequined mega-star coaxes his famous red piano through a medley of greatest hits. His long-time lyricist, Bernie Taupin, champagne coupe in hand, sprawls over an antique chaise lounge. He hazily observes this latest Elton John spectacle.

At last, Sir Elton addresses the party-on press conference. “Bernie and I were watching the Trump criminal thing, the motorcade on the telly, and I thought that rejigging Candle In The Wind / Goodbye England’s Rose would work as a tribute. You know… (singing at the piano) good-bye bad hair dye-job… y’ know, as a big procession carts him off to the nick (jail).”

Bernie interjects, a bit beyond tipsy. “Oi, but then I p-pointed out by, uh, time they convict ol’ bugguh, and try all ’em appeals, guvnor may not be physically able to sing n’ more.”

“And that’s what brought about the concept album,” continues John. “It’s called 12 Great Goodbyes. It’s a re-imagining of Candle In The Wind / Goodbye England’s Rose for twelve different celebrities.”

The duo hopes to have it all written and recorded in a few months, and ready for release whenever somebody really important or really crooked passes on, or gets put away. Even years from now. But right now, the moment of magic is upon us. It fills us. Completes us. Elton John bestows a musical gift from the album’s first single. Dedicated to Yevgeny Prigozhin:

“Good-bye Russia’s beast / May you always rest in pieces / You cheaped out on the in-flight meals/ Too much for Putin’s patience . . . (hums over piano arpeggios) . . . And it seems to me you lived your life / like a missile in your wing / The world would like to thank you / For the Wagner plane you were in.

We are all arm in arm, gently swaying and singing softly together. United by music. And grief. Inevitably, someone breaks the spell by asking if there’ll be a Donald Trump goodbye song. Bernie Taupin’s unsteady voice suddenly belches, “Z’all done, mate. Guvnor ‘n me jus’ r’corded it. Waitin’ for the jailbird to land. Ha. Ha. Ha.” In response to this breaking news, rhythmic clapping and chanting persuade Elton to grace us, tease us with a small sample:

“Good-bye bad hair dye-job / You are the Clown Prince of The Right / Your saggy ass looks winsome in orange prison stripes . . . (hums over piano arpeggios) . . . And it seems to Melania you lived your life / Like a buffoon in the wind / False erection claims / That Rudy can’t help you win.

We all sing along in this kumbaya moment. Taupin, face down on the sound board, mumbles a list of other celebrities who will soon have their own “goodbye” song. The list includes: King Charles II, Ringo Starr, Vladimir Putin, any Kardashian, any Pope, and American politician Ron DeSantis. “Yessssir, tha’ Ro’ ‘Sannis,“ rails Taupin, bolting awake from his stupor, “hizzznamesgonnabeee a re-e-e-al bitch to rhyme!”

As we file out to file our stories, the consensus is that Elton John and Bernie Taupin have, in these two songs, reclaimed a beauty that generally goes unregarded . . . the beautiful moment when evil people pass from our lives.

David Wollman