Beatle McCartney knighted Sir Paul by queen
March 11, 1997
Web posted at: 12:02 p.m. EST (1702 GMT)
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LONDON (CNN) -- Paul McCartney, the Beatle who joked 30
years ago about smoking marijuana in the Buckingham Palace
toilets, went back to see Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday to
collect a knighthood for helping to revolutionize pop music.
The impish lad from Liverpool, one of the most successful
songwriters in history, became Sir Paul in a centuries-old
ceremony of pomp and solemnity.
But outside the palace, it was just like the old days as
central London was treated to the screaming adulation that
marked Beatlemania in the 1960s.
Hundreds of tourists and die-hard fans of the Fab Four,
wearing Beatles T-shirts and badges, gathered outside the
palace gates for a glimpse of McCartney. As they waited they
sang old Beatles songs and played Beatles cassettes on sound
The crowds screamed as McCartney swept through the gates in
his chauffeur-driven limousine and he answered with a thumbs-
On the way out he lowered the car window to smile and wave to
the fans. His wife Linda, who is fighting breast cancer, and
his four children were not with him. McCartney admitted he
was very nervous before the ceremony but said it had been a
"Proud to be British, wonderful day and it's a long way from
a little terrace (street) in Liverpool," he told reporters.
It was the second trip to Buckingham Palace for McCartney,
now 54, who has made an estimated $642 million fortune from
his talent for dreamy ballads such as "Yesterday" and catchy
pop songs like "Band on the Run."
Along with the three other Beatles, McCartney collected an
MBE (Member of the British Empire) medal in 1965 -- and
shocked the stuffy British establishment by joking that the
band had smoked marijuana in the palace toilets before
meeting the queen.
McCartney described his first visit to the palace, which
attracted thousands of Beatles fans, in the typically
iconoclastic tones of the 1960s.
"It's a keen pad and I liked the staff. I thought they'd be
dukes and things but they were just fellas. The queen was
lovely. She was just like a mum to us," he said.
McCartney dedicated his knighthood to fellow Beatles George
Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon -- shot dead in New
York in 1980 -- and the people of the northwestern port of
Aides say he won't be calling himself "Sir Paul" -- the title
conferred when the queen tapped him on each shoulder with a
naked sword as he knelt on the investiture stool.
"He's always been a modest chap and he won't be getting us
all bowing and scraping," one aide said.
Lennon, McCartney's co-songwriter, sent back his MBE in 1969
in protest of the Vietnam War. But McCartney, always the
Beatles' diplomat, kept his.
McCartney's knighthood is considered long overdue even by the
conservative standards used in Britain, which sees most such
honors going to judges, scientists and politicians.
Cliff Richard, Britain's other enduring 1960s pop star, was
knighted in 1995. George Martin, the musical genius who
produced virtually all the Beatles hits, got the award last
McCartney formed the group Wings after the Beatles split up
in 1970, and made records with stars like Michael Jackson and
Stevie Wonder before trying his hand at composing classical
He now lives a quiet life on his organic farm in southern
England with Linda, his vegetarian wife of 27 years. A
spokesman for the former Beatle said Linda was fine but had
not accompanied him to the palace because Paul wanted to keep
the family out of the spotlight.
McCartney was not the only celebrity to meet the queen
Tuesday. Actress and author Joan Collins received the Order
of the British Empire medallion and ribbon.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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