Queen Elizabeth II reigned for 7 decades, inspiring generations of songwriters: NPR

The Queen has made her way into generations of pop music. We listen to part of several songs that mention the Queen – including songs by Duke Ellington, the Beatles and the Sex Pistols.



STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth reigned for seven decades before her death last week, and that was long enough to inspire generations of songwriters.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

They began writing about the Queen shortly after her accession to the throne in 1952. In the late 1950s, American Duke Ellington composed “The Queen’s Suite”.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUKE ELLINGTON “THE QUEEN’S SUITE”)

MARTIN: This composition was just for her. It was not marketed at the time. It was just a single copy of a single recording. And this unique pressing was presented to the Queen. It’s like an NFT, but she could touch it.

INSKEEP: A song by four of the queen’s subjects was more widely released. In 1969, the Beatles slipped it at the end of their album “Abbey Road”.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “HER MAJESTY”)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Her Majesty is a pretty girl, but she doesn’t have much to say. Her Majesty is a pretty girl, but she changes from day to day. I want to tell her that I love her very much, but I must have a belly full of wine. Her Majesty is a pretty girl. One day I will make her mine. Oh yeah. One day I will make her mine.

INSKEEP: (Laughs) Impressive.

MARTIN: In the 1970s, the Sex Pistols released this.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN”)

SEX PISTOLS: (Singing) God save the queen. We mean it, man. There is no future in England’s dream.

MARTIN: ‘God Save The Queen’ was released in time for Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee, marking 25 years on the throne. The BBC banned it as an anti-royal song. Earlier this year, the singer formerly known as Johnny Rotten clarified that he was railing against the institution, not Elizabeth.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SEX PISTOLS SONG, “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN”)

INSKEEP: In 2011, British folk singer and satirist Leon Rosselson released ‘On Her Silver Jubilee’, covering the early decades of Elizabeth’s reign, singing about how she carried out her royal duties in a kind of royal trance.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “ON HER SILVER JUBILEE”)

LEON ROSSELSON: (Vocals) Balmoral, Ascot, Sandringham, the ship launching routine, the palace banquets, the garden parties, always smiling and serene, unique symbol, model woman, never seen, always seen. So we watched her while she played queen.

INSKEEP: She played the role for just over 70 years. And this is a small sample of the music that accompanied his reign.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “ON HER SILVER JUBILEE”)

ROSSELSON: (Singing) And though regiments surround her, they can’t take her by surprise, she’s as poised as a picture. She is a show for everyone. With a drink…

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