Earlier this month, a Tory MP launched a campaign to secure a knighthood for Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. So we decided to look back at which musical acts received similar nods from the royals, starting with The Beatles. In ’64, all four moptops received MBE’s from Queen Elizabeth II. Over 30 years later, Macca was knighted (for his services to music).
Bono was granted an honorary knighthood in 2007 – and apparently his youngest son thought the ceremony was being held so pops could become a Jedi. Unfortunately for the U2 man, he can’t be called ‘Sir’ (as that title’s reserved for UK/British Commonwealth citizens) – but we’re happy to call him Jedi Bono.
Not everyone accepts these awards, though. Back in 2000, David Bowie was offered a CBE (Commander Of The British Empire), and three years later, a knighthood – but he rejected both, stating: “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for.”
Roger Daltrey earned a CBE in 2004, for both his contributions to music and to charity, having raised more than £2 million for the Teenage Cancer Trust. He said of the honour: “I’m so very pleased. It’s really great to be honoured by my country. I feel undeserving of such an honour.” Don’t worry – he’s still anti-establishment, but he thinks the Queen’s an “amazing” and “exceptional woman”.
Bob Geldof Not too shabby, Mr. Geldof – a Nobel Peace Prize nom, a Man Of Peace award and an honorary knighthood – you’ve done pretty well for yourself, sir. In 1986, he received the honour from the Queen for raising more than £150 million for famine relief for Live Aid. We can’t actually call him ‘Sir’, since he’s not a Commonwealth dweller, but it sounds nicer than Bob Geldof KBE.
Even though Bob Geldof beat him to the honour by nine years, in 1995, Cliff Richard was technically the first rock man to be knighted. Apparently he’s been campaigning for Sex Pistol Steve Jones to receive the award, too, having said: “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if you got a knighthood. I’ll have a word with Her Majesty when I get back (to England).”
Tom Jones was deemed OBE worthy in 1999 (and we’re sure Fresh Prince‘s Carlton would’ve agreed he’d earned it). Upon winning the award, the ‘Sex Bomb’-singer said: “When you first come into show business and get a hit record, it is the start of something. As time goes by it just gets better. This is the best thing I have had. It’s a wonderful feeling, a heady feeling.”
For all those campaigning for Jimmy Page to be knighted, there’s a chance, since Led Zep man Robert Plant already earned the CBE honour back in 2009 for “services to popular music”. He certainly wouldn’t have won any awards for ‘best haircut’ back then, though.
Brian May It’s only fitting that the Queen man received an honour from the Queen herself, having earned a CBE in 2005 for his contributions to the music industry. There’s been a campaign running for him to be knighted, as well – maybe a joint ceremony with Jimmy Page could be in the works?
Another CBE recipient, Sting earned his award in 2003, stating: “I’m surprised and flattered to receive this honour…If my mum and dad were still here they would be made up.”
Welsh singer Shirley Bassey (the voice behind the James Bond themes) was named a DBE, or Dame Commander Of The Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire, in 1999. A few years later, she was invited back to perform at the 2002 Party At The Palace, for the Queen’s 50th Jubilee Party.
Paul Weller was offered a CBE in 2006, but he turned it down because, as his spokeswoman said, “Paul was surprised and flattered, but it wasn’t really for him.” At least he accepted NME‘s Godlike Genius Award.
Rod Stewart received the CBE honour in 2007 for his services to music. “It’s a marvellous occasion. We’re the only country in the world to honour the common man,” he said of the award. And being the everlasting rock ‘n’ roll rebel he is, he donned a skull and crossbones tie to pick to the award.
Mick Jagger was knighted in 2003 – but it was one of the most controversial acceptances we’ve seen. Some were disappointed that he accepted something that contradicted his anti-establishment mindset, while others believed he hadn’t contributed enough to charity to be worthy of such an honour. It’s safe to say that he’s the greatest dancer out there who can call himself ‘Sir’, though.
The man of many titles, producer/composer/musician George Martin earned a CBE, largely for being “The Fifth Beatle”. Martin was made a Knight Bachelor in 1996 for his services to the music industry and popular culture.
Hank Marvin from The Shadows was offered an OBE in 2004, but he declined, citing “personal reasons”. His bandmates Bruce Welch and Brian Bennett had previously accepted the honour, though.
Eric Clapton was named OBE in 1994, but was promoted to CBE ten years later. Upon receiving the honour, he said: “I had a rebellious streak in me. As a kid I would not have been able to accept this. I was very immature about the way I looked at that. I was against the establishment. Now I have grown up, I really think it is an important thing to be able to set an example of some kind.”
It would now seem strange to call him anything but Sir Elton. In 1998, Elton John earned his title for “services to music and charitable services”. At his ceremony, he said: “I’ve had a long career and worked hard. But I think the turning point came in 1990 when I got sober and started to do some charity work, particularly for the AIDS problem. A knighthood is the icing on the cake.”
A family affair, the two surviving Bee Gees brothers, Barry and Robin Gibb, accepted the joint honour of CBE (also accepting on behalf of the late Maurice Gibb) in 2004. Barry stated: “It would have been wonderful for all three of us to be here – knowing Mo, this would have been right up his alley.”
One of the most recent recipients, Annie Lennox was awarded an OBE in 2011 for her “tireless charity campaigns and championing of humanitarian causes”. Ahead of the ceremony, she dropped hints about wearing a fake leopard print hat to collect her award – good thing she didn’t…although the one she chose wasn’t much better.