This song is a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, a famous actress and sex symbol who died of a drug overdose in 1962. The "candle in the wind" represents her short, but eventful life.
The song makes various references to the press coverage of Monroe. The famous opening line, "Goodbye Norma Jean," refers to her birth name: Norma Jean Mortenson, and how she gave up both her name and her privacy for the sake of celebrity.
Elton John starts the song with the line, “Goodbye Norma Jean,” and repeats this line before the last stanza. This line poses two different meanings. The first time it represents the change that took place in Marilyn’s life when she first entered her career. In the last stanza, it is as if Elton John is saying it in representation of her death. Although he never knew her, he states several times that he wished he could have known her because of what he saw in her in contrast to Hollywood. The line also reflects how distant the public really was from Marilyn Monroe. The entire song expresses Elton John’s bitterness to both Hollywood and the public. One example is in line 22 when he writes about how the paparazzi “hounded” her even after she died. This seems to become a common theme as multiple times he blames the public indirectly for her tragedy. He also brings this in through his metaphors in the first verse. “They whispered into your brain/they set you on the treadmill.” (“Elton John: Candle in the Wind Lyrics,” lines 6-7) These metaphors emphasize the poor impact Hollywood had on Marilyn.