The Fiftieth Anniversary Marilyn Monroe Memorial
August 5, 2012, commemorated the 50th anniversary of her death. In 1973, a mere eleven years after her passing, Elton John and Bernie Taupin penned the music and lyrics for “Candle In The Wind,” a musical tribute to the Hollywood legend.
Lyrics from the song, “Your candle burned out long before your legend ever did,” were then, and are today prophetic. For who knew in 1973, or even 1962 for that matter, that in death she would become larger than life. Half a century after her passing, the image of the most recognized blonde of all time is forever etched in our psyche. She is everywhere: On billboards, on television, in photographs, and in movies. An Internet search of her name returns over eighty-six million hits, astonishing considering there was no world wide web during her lifetime.
She is impersonated. She is copied. She is digitally recreated. She is embodied. She is unequivocally the most famous movie star and sex symbol the world has ever known, and likely ever will. She famously said, “That’s the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing. But if I’m going to be a symbol of something I’d rather have it sex than some other things they’ve got symbols of!” And yet, even though she was the representation of sex and sensuality during her lifetime, today she symbolizes so much more than just a “thing.” She is a star forever immortalized by the public. Her eyes, lips, and beauty mark are instantly recognized the world over, and at the same time we hold her close to our hearts because she is ours alone, individually. We relate to her. We experience her pains. We associate ourselves with her private struggles: A troubled childhood, broken relationships, addictions, insecurities, and sadness. She is an icon for all time, the standard for beauty and style, yet still a mere mortal, vulnerable, who suffered from challenges throughout her life that many have known and others will know all too well.
In her final interview she said, “Fame will go by and, so long, I’ve had you fame.” Ironically, fifty years later, fame has still not gone by. She experiences more fame and celebrity today than she could have even possibly imagined during her lifetime. Eighty-six years after her birth, the little girl from the orphanage still causes us to catch our breath.
Marilyn, your candle did indeed burn out long before your legend ever will.