Over the past twenty years we have seen some of the biggest names in popular music become knighted. Knighthood is one of the highest honors the nation of Great Britain can bestow upon a person.
There are different types of knights. It depends on what organization they are being knighted into. Most musicians are either Knights (KT) or Knights of the British Empire (KBE). Women who receive knighthood are known as Dames of the British Empire (DEB). However, there is a lower honor than knighthood which has been given to many famous musicians. Member of the British Empire (MBE) or Officer of the British Empire (OBE) are the highest honors one can receive without being officially knighted.
Here are 5 classes of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire:
- 1. Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) or Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE)
- 2. Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) or Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE)
- 3. Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
- 4. Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
- 5. Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
So how does one join the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, which will allow to use the title "Sir" or "Dame" (for women) before his or her name? It helps if you become a successful musician or/and do some highly visible charity work. So we prepared a special list of 11 famous musicians with knighthoods.
Before starting, here's the list of musicians, ranked CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), the highest honor a British subject can receive below a knight or dame:
- Annie Lenox
- Bee Gees
- Brian May
- Bryan Ferry
- David Gilmour
- Eric Clapton
- George Martin
- Petula Clark
- Ray Davies
- Robert Plant
- Rod Stewart
- Roger Daltrey
- Rolf Harris
- Trevor Horn
And also here's the list of musicians who turned down knighthoods:
- David Bowie (twice, rejecting CBE and then knighthood)
- Humphrey Lyttelton
- Ralph Vaughan Williams
- Hank Marvin
- Keith Richards
- George Melly
- Paul Weller
- John Lennon (sent MBE back)
So here's the actual list:
11. Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof is known for his hits with The Boomtown Rats such as "Rat Trap" and "I Don't Like Mondays." In addition, Geldof co-wrote the song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in reaction the 1983-85 famine in Ethiopia. It remains one of the best-selling singles of all time. Though it should be noted that since Geldof is not a citizen of the British Commonwealth, he cannot use the title "Sir," but rather, he is referred to as a Knight of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) (his full name is Robert Frederick Zenon Geldof, KBE).
10. Shirley Bassey
Welsh singer Shirley Bassey was made a Dame Commander of the British Order (DBE) in 1999, in recognition of her long and outstanding music career. Shirley Bassey is also best known for the Bond film theme songs, "Goldfinger," "Diamonds Are Forever," and "Moonraker."
9. Tom Jones
With hits such as "What's New Pussycat," "She's a Lady," and "It's Not Unusual," Tom Jones received knighthood in 2006 for his irresistible musical prowess.
8. Evelyn Glennie
Evelyn Glennie may not be the most famous name on this list, but she's a very remarkable percussionist. Having been deaf since the age of 12, Evelyn plays barefoot to feel the music. She's been featured on recordings with members of Genesis, Bobby McFerrin, Björk, and Bela Fleck.
7. Cliff Richard
Cliff Richard was sort of the England's answer to Elvis Presley. And with a total of over 21 million singles sold in the UK Cliff Richard was knighted in 1995 for his services to music and charity.
6. Van Morrison
With hits such as "Brown Eyed Girl," "Crazy Love," and "Into the Mystic," Van Morrison, a Northern Ireland native, is the most recently knighted rocker on this list (2015), and now proudly dons the title "Sir."
Being Irish, Bono cannot use "Sir" as part of his name. Instead he can sign his name as Paul David Hewson, KBE. Note: Bono's knighthood had nothing to do with his musical contributions - he was awarded the honor solely for his charitable efforts in Africa.
4. Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar, a sitar virtuoso, was also a musical and spiritual mentor to George Harrison. In fact, Harrison referred to him as the "Godfather of World Music." Shankar, who passed away in 2012 at age 92, was knighted in recognition for his services to music.
3. Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger accepted this honor in 2003, much to the chagrin of Rolling Stones colleague Keith Richards, who publicly noted his disdain for such titles. Jagger received knighthood for his services to music.
2. Elton John
Elton John was knighted shortly after his tribute to Princess Diana with the song "Candle in the Wind," which he retrofitted to honor the then recently departed princess. But officially, Sir Elton was knighted for both his contributions to music and his services to charity.
1. Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney is the only Beatle to officially receive this honor, and he was knighted in 1997. Back in 1965, all four Beatles were given MBEs, and shocked everyone by joking that they smoked pot in the palace bathrooms before meeting the Queen. Later, John Lennon, the working class hero, returned his MBE as a protest against violence and war.