Saturday, December 30, 2017

How many rock stars have been knighted? (Updated December 2017)

The first rock stars to be honored by the Queen

In the past year,   Ray Davies (CBE)  was knighted for service to music, Victoria Beckham (more for her fashion and charity work),  Ed Sheeran and  Marty Wilde received lesser honors. Just a few days ago it was announced that Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey) and Barry Gibb will be knighted.

It's been 52 years since the Beatles became the first rock stars to  receive royal honors,   So how many British  rock stars have actually been knighted.? Ten rock stars can rightfully be called Sir. Included among the 'Sir's'  are  Sir Paul McCartney , Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Tom Jones   Sir Elton John , Sir Rod Stewart,  Sir George Ivan Morrison (Van Morrison) , Sir Ray Davies and now Sir Barry Gibb, and Sir Richard Starkey.  Being knighted  is  the highest honor, but many people  (most years as many as a 1000 people ) receive lesser honors each year, so  a good number of famous rock and pop  stars now have been honored by the realm.  

As we stated above, the Beatles were given the lesser honor of MBE's in 1965, but   John Lennon and George  Harrison had the misfortune of dying before anybody could get round to knighting them. Lennon famously gave back his MBE in 1969 with a note saying  “Your majesty, I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against, "Cold Turkey" slipping down the charts. With love, John Lennon.”

Recently, it was revealed that before he died, George Harrison was offered a promotion from MBE to CBE, but declined because,he would have preferred a knighthood (perhaps so he could be on par with Paul McCartney)  Oddly enough, Sir George Martin, the Beatles producer was actually knighted putting him above  George, John as well as Ringo and was only this year promoted to knighthood.. Perhaps being only the " fifth Beatle"  is not such a bad thing.
Jimmy Page was given a OBE for helping Brazilian children

Back to our story....
There is a Sir Mick Jagger,   but no Sir Keith Richards. None of the other Rolling Stones have received any honors at all. Keith made fun of Jagger for accepting the knighthood.

What about Bono and Bob Geldof who are sometimes called "Sir". These men are   Irishman have received honorary  knighthoods for their charity work. Bono was given his honor in 2007. 

Bob Geldof  received his honor back in 1986. Geldof is entitled to use the post-nominal letters "KBE" but, as he is not a citizen of a Commonwealth realm, he is precluded from using the title "Sir". Regardless, the nickname "Sir Bob" has stuck and media reports continue to refer to him as "Sir Bob Geldof".

Many   of the other notable figures of the British rock scene have  been given lesser honors. then Sir  CBE's , LVO's , MBE's etc, but these folks were not given the honorific of "Sir". You don't have to be a Sir to be are whole slew of lesser honors that the British government can bestow that allow you to put initials after name, but no Sir or Dame before it.  

Among those receiving lesser honors are:

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Dave Gilmour, (but not Roger Walters) , Brian May (but not the rest of Queen ) , Roger Daltrey (but not Pete Townshend) , Eric Clapton (CBE), the late  Robin and Maurice Gibb, Albert Hammond, Peter Asher, Gerry Marsden,  Joan Armatrading, Annie Lennox, Mark Knopfler ,Graham Nash (OBE) , Rod Stewart, Phil Collins (who is a LVO), Adele,  Kate  Bush (CBE) , and Gordon "Sting"  Sumner, Damon Albarn of Blur (OBE), Tim and Neil Finn,  Jools Holland of Squeeze (OBE) -though Jools  is more famous for his TV work. Folk rock legends  Ashley Hutchings(MBE)  and Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention,  Maddy Prior MBE , Martin Carthy MBE,  and Shirley Collins MBE.

David Bowie actually declined honors, as have Paul Weller, and Hank Marvin of the Shadows. 

Who else hasn't been given honours?  Ozzy Osbourne, Jeff Beck, Elvis Costello, Robbie Williams, , Keith Richard,  Peter Gabriel, Pete Townshend,   Charlie Watts, Steve Winwood, Roger Waters, Peter Noone (of Herman's Hermits) and John Paul Jones are among the most noted  rich stars who haven't been honored for services to the realm. As far as I know, no British punk star or new waver  has been honored. Also no American rock performers have received honors since they are   are not eligible for British honours.

Among the dead rock  British rock stars who were never given honors are George Michael, Freddie Mercury, Brian Jones, Keith Moon, Nick Drake, John Entwistle,  John Bonham, and Sandy Denny.

What about Popular Music and Musical theater types?
Lionel Bart,  Cameron McIntosh, Andrew Lloyd Webber (he's a Lord!)  and Tim Rice have been knighted. You can call them "Sir". Elaine Paige has been honored as well.

There have been no female  British " rock" stars who have been made Dames (the highest form of title for British females.) Perhaps that's because there have been  very few British female rock stars. The late Dusty Springfield was given a OBE, and as we noted above Joan Armatrading, Kate Bush, and Annie Lennox  and   Adele have been given lesser honors than a Dame-ship. In 2017, Posh Spice, Victoria Beckham was given a OBE!

Pop singers Shirley Bassey ! and Julie Andrews were made Dames, Olivia Newton John was made a CBE.

What about other countries honors?
Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Anka, and Joni Mitchell have received the Order of Canada.
Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder are among the many people who awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Reggae stars Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff have received the Jamaican order of merit.

Why are rock stars given honors?    Many  reasons  are given, certainly it's true that groups like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles all have done wonders for the British economy,  Many  of the people knighted have been artistically important.  Doing charity work helps too, but clearly being a wonderful person is not a requirement , or Mick Jagger would not have been knighted. Also surprisingly, being a tax exile seems to have not  kept stars from being honored.

Also at Felpin's Pond
Can you write hit song after age 50?


  1. Hi, I am currently petitioning to have Ozzy Osbourne Knighted. I had originally campaigned for all four original members of Black Sabbath to receive a knighthood but was informed by someone from the U.K Cabinet that it would be highly unlikely that the whole band would one and that I would have a greater chance of having the prominent member of the band nominated first.
    So, far I have managed to gather about 2,641 signatures, and hopefully I will have enough by the closing date of the petition, the 6th of July 2014,the 7th Anniversary of when Ozzy received his star on the "Birmingham Walk Of Stars"...(he was the first one chosen for the start of this famous landmark of Birmingham.)
    So, If I am successful with my petition, you could then add Ozzy Osbourne to your list of Rockers who have received a Knighthood. Cheers! :D \m/\m/

  2. Replies
    1. He's not under any obligation. I am just doing all I can to make it happen, but in the end, it's really up to Ozzy whether he will accept it or not if I am successful with my campaign.
      Cheers and thank you for writing this awesome article and for replying to my comment Felpin. :D \m/\m/

    2. gerry marston what a guy brilliant guy never lets you down smashin cause this land the place i love and here he stays

  3. Sir Paul McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth 2 because of petitions so he could become Knighted. Ringo Starr was not Knighted because there is no petition for him. George Harrison was an American citizen...Late John Lennon was nearly an American in 1980 if he had not been shot.

    1. George became a Swiss citizen, not an American citizen. This was after the insult of being offered a CBE. He didn't want inheritance taxes going to Her Majesty.

    2. I can't verify if George obtained Swiss Citizenship, but I do know he owned a estate in Montagnola in his last years. George was living in the USA when he died, but like Pam says, it does not appear that he obtained American citizenship.

  4. Only Two people of power is able and allow knight anyone of the UK is Queen Elizabeth 2 and Prince one else is allowed to do this. I am not British ...I know this about I signed a petition for Christopher Lee to be knighted of Tulsa World Newspaper.

  5. Sir Paul McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth 2 of 1997 because of his time, and effort for Liverpool Academy of Arts to bring to modern today's look and dedicated to the late John Lennon.

  6. Sir Paul McCartney was knighted and seen on various News program across the United States including CNN 1997.

  7. Beatles were a member MBE...all of them must have this before they can become Knighted...this is for everyone or a huge petition to Queen Elizabeth 2 and to Prince Charles.

    No one can be Knighted illegally in the is automatically he or she is arrested.

  8. All Countries view the Knight as Sir or Lady...they view them as an Ambassadors. They respect them by calling he or she Sir or Lady. This includes the United States of America...must call Paul McCartney-Sir.

  9. He or she does not have to be member of royalty to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth 2 or by Prince Charles...they must have MBE...which stand for Member British Excellence or there is huge petition for anyone to be knighted..Queen Elizabeth 2 and Prince Charles are only two can decide who gets Knighted and who gets left out..They know Richard Starkey is not is unfair to Ringo Starr. It is unfair to Late John Lennon. It is unfair to Late George Harrison...No one can control Queen Elizabeth 2 and Prince Charles...who they Knight..who they don't Knight. Sir Paul McCartney can go up in Rank based on Queen Elizabeth 2 and Prince Charles 2..they could Knight Sir Paul McCartney to Lord Paul McCartney. It could be whimsical decision...just because he is there.

  10. Thanks for your comments, Carol.

  11. If you believe Tom Jones is solely about 'it's Not Unusual', then you need to get out more. As but a few of many recommendations, go review that tiny career you believe him to have had, look at his popularity and its longevity, look at his ability to diversify, and one more......have a glance at his generosity of self & overall personality and UK elder statesman, and at how beloved Tom is by so many of his musical peers regardless of their ages or genre of music. Finally......listen to those pipes. You have, (but only A Lot) seriously undervalued and underestimated Tom Jones - Period!

    1. Yes, Lindsay I must have been trying to be funny when I wrote -

      "Tom Jones was knighted for "services to music". It's hard to see how "It's Not Unusual" is a service to music. Maybe they have to meet a quota of Welshmen."

      It comes off as harsh and yes he is great singer and entertainer. So I will delete it...

  12. David Bowie is SO cool. He's not a Knight. He acknowledges this.
    Now, THAT is nobility!!!

    1. Well David Bowie, was once a "Duke" of course, the "Thin White Duke".

  13. Many of the other notable figures of the British rock scene have been given lesser honors. CBE's , LVO's , MBE's etc, but these folks were not given the honorific of "Sir". rock music news

  14. Jools Holland is technically a punk/new wave musician.

    Some more that I can think of:
    Noddy Holder is an MBE.
    Damon Albarn was given an OBE last year.
    Rod Stewart is now a knight.
    Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull is an MBE.
    Ray Davies is a CBE.

    1. Thanks!. I didn't know about Rod Stewart.

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  16. The first British Pop Star to be knighted was Cliff Richard in 1995. Not the Beatles. Get the records straight.

    1. The article states that Beatles were first British rock stars to be given honors (to be inducted into a order of chivalry ), sorry if this unclear. Thanks.