Being honored by the Queen isn’t exactly new for legendary British musicians. But there are levels to these distinctions, rendering rock stars who have been knighted as a class unto themselves.
All the way back in 1965, the four Beatles were awarded MBEs (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for their services to entertainment. In more recent years, other famous figures such as Sting, Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant have been awarded the slightly more prestigious OBE (Officer of … ) and CBE (Commander of … ) distinctions for their musical contributions.
Only a select few, however, have been granted the status of Knight of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, which includes the sword ceremony, plenty of pomp and circumstance – and the distinction of being called “Sir,” as long as you are a citizen of the United Kingdom. While a variety of artists, actors, scientists and other figures of note have become Sirs (or in the case of female recipients, Dames), knighted rockers are an extremely exclusive group.
If some fans have their way, the list will keep growing. There are ongoing campaigns to bestow knighthoods on Jimmy Page and Brian May, though the respective guitarists for Led Zeppelin and Queen have yet to reach the final stage. But other stars most certainly have.
Bob Geldof, KBE
Although many consider the “British Elvis” Cliff Richard to be the first knighted pop star, that honor actually falls to Boomtown Rats frontman and Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof. The singer and activist was knighted in 1986 because of his work on behalf of famine relief. The only catch is that he’s technically not “Sir Bob,” a title reserved for British citizens. As an Irishman, Geldof is allowed to follow his name with the initials KBE (Knight Commander of the British Empire).
Sir George Martin
The late producer George Martin, best known for his work with the Beatles, has earned his share of honors, including an Oscar, a Grammy and entry into the Rock in Roll Hall of Fame. In 1996, he was named a Knight Bachelor for his musical contributions to the world.