© 2022 All Rights reserved WUSF
News, Jazz, NPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

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

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 soon after she took the throne in 1952. In the late 1950s, the American Duke Ellington composed "The Queen's Suite."

(SOUNDBITE OF DUKE ELLINGTON'S "THE QUEEN'S SUITE")

MARTIN: This composition was just for her. It wasn't commercially released at the time. It was just a single copy of a single record. And that single 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 distributed. In 1969, the Beatles slipped this on to the end of their album "Abbey Road."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HER MAJESTY")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl, but she doesn't have a lot to say. Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl, but she changes from day to day. I want to tell her that I love her a lot, but I've got to get a belly full of wine. Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl. Someday, I'm going to make her mine. Oh, yeah. Someday, I'm going to make her mine.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Impressive.

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN")

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

MARTIN: "God Save The Queen" came out 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEX PISTOLS SONG, "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN")

INSKEEP: In 2011, British folk singer and satirist Leon Rosselson released "On Her Silver Jubilee," covering the first few decades of Elizabeth's reign, singing about how she fulfilled her royal functions in a kind of royal trance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON HER SILVER JUBILEE")

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

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON HER SILVER JUBILEE")

ROSSELSON: (Singing) And though regiments around her, they can't take her by surprise, she's as poised as a picture. She's a sight for all to see. With a glass... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.