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The Cute Knight

POP MUSIC | POP EYE

January 12, 1997|Dave Jennings, from London

So now it's Sir Paul McCartney, honored by Queen Elizabeth for "services to music," who joins '50s-'60s star Cliff Richard in a select group of pop musicians to ascend to the heights of peerage. Can we expect more to join those ranks?

How about McCartney's fellow surviving Beatles, George Harrison and Ringo Starr? Or their enduring contemporary, Mick Jagger? Or perhaps Elton John and Eric Clapton, two titans of English rock?

Not likely, say many who keep an eye on these matters. Though each of those figures is now an upstanding citizen, their pasts are littered with black marks ranging from fleeing Britain in tax exile to drug convictions. But then, McCartney himself has his own drug conviction, and he excoriated the British government in his 1972 song "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." Apparently, though, his considerable charitable works--including funding a school for the arts in Liverpool--outweighed his transgressions, the experts speculate.

But there's really no way to predict who will or will not be knighted, says Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke's Peerage, the famed directory of the British establishment. The selection system--officially solely the purview of Her Majesty, but unofficially subject to political promptings--is too murky. The knighting of Andrew Lloyd Webber a few years ago, he notes, may have had as much to do with his large contributions to the ruling Tory Party as to the arts.

"I think that the fact that there is no criterion, that it is a hit-and-miss affair, and the politicians play with these names for their own purposes, is very unfair," he says.

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