11 Famous Musicians Who Were Knighted

Sirs and Dames of the music world...

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11 Famous Musicians Who Were Knighted
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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
  • Sting
  • 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

Rank: KBE

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).

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10. Shirley Bassey

Rank: Dame

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."

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9. Tom Jones

Rank: Sir

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.

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8. Evelyn Glennie

Rank: Dame

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.

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7. Cliff Richard

Rank: Sir

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.

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6. Van Morrison

Rank: Sir

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."

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5. Bono

Rank: KBE

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.

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4. Ravi Shankar

Rank: KBE

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.

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3. Mick Jagger

Rank: Sir

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.

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2. Elton John

Rank: Sir

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.

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1. Paul McCartney

Rank: Sir

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.

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24 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Maiden95
    Peter Gabriel should be knighted not only for almost 50 years of consistently great and boundary pushing music but because of his activism too. Oh and Bruce Dickinson
    bullsonparade89
    All kissing the royal arse, this is why Bowie was King!
    Jimmyoism
    Rolf Harris has done a bit more kissing than just the royal arse...
    cITIzens_EraZed
     I believe Bowie literally did a bit more than kissing asses after drug induced nights with Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger
    Spinnerweb
    Keith Richards rejected it? Cool, I wondered why he wasn't a knight when Mick Jagger was.
    ElPanda
    How useless the monarchy is. Fuck this entitled "Sir" shit.
    slapsymcdougal
    Such edge. Much egalitarianism. Much ignorance of what you actually get out of the honours system(hint, postnomial letters and nothing else).
    Eifler121
    I'd be super honored to get one. It's like, not only do you have a lot of fans, which is limited to certain kinds of people, you're relevant enough to be said to be a part of the actual identity of your country. I'm not British, but Presidential medal of freedom is basically a similar thing.