Queen knights singer Honors: Elton John's title was such a sure thing, no one would make book on it.

December 31, 1997|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- Call him Sir Elton.

Rock star Elton John, 50, whose singing of "Candle in the Wind" broke hearts and raised hopes at the funeral of Britain's Princess Diana late this summer, receives a knighthood in the New Year Honors List published today.

For weeks, there was speculation the flamboyant rocker would headline the list of honors recipients drawn up by Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Tony Blair and assorted British government ministries.

The honors -- nearly a thousand of them -- range from lordships to such designated initials as MBE, for Member of the Order of the British Empire. It is the first list to be presented since Blair was elected prime minister last May. The queen makes the formal presentations next year.

The award to Elton John was such a sure thing that British bookmakers wouldn't even fancy a wager on the singer's getting the prize.

"My joy at now receiving this great new honor is immeasurable," John said after becoming the third British pop star to receive the award, following in the footsteps of Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard.

Born Reginald Dwight in a middle-class London suburb, Elton Hercules John carved out a now-legendary singing career, belting out such hits as "Your Song," "Crocodile Rock" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."

But he also battled the rock-and-roll demons of drugs and drink. Clean and sober in the 1990s, he continued to perform worldwide.

But the last year thrust him into a bigger spotlight, as he publicly grieved for his friends who died, designer Gianni Versace and then Diana, Princess of Wales.

Diana's family, the Spencers, asked John to perform at the funeral.

In less than two days time, he and lyricist Bernie Taupin re-wrote their 1970s hit "Candle In The Wind," which was originally an ode to Marilyn Monroe. Then, in front of thousands at Westminster Abbey, and hundreds of millions who watched on television, John performed the haunting song, opening with the memorable line: "Goodbye England's Rose."

Later that afternoon, he re-recorded the work, vowing to never perform it again.

The song went on to become the biggest single ever, selling 33 million copies and raising more than $32 million for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

The citation said his knighthood was for "services to music and for charitable services."

John said, "I am particularly delighted that this honor shows an appreciation of all the hard work of everyone connected with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and the many other HIV/AIDS organizations and charitable causes with which I am pleased to be associated."

Two others close to Diana also received honors.

Michael Gibbins, Diana's senior aide and the treasurer of her memorial fund, gets an LVO -- Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order.

Sidney Clarke receives a Royal Victorian Medal. He drove Diana's hearse through a storm of flowers to her resting place at the Spencer family estate 70 miles north of London.

Sir Robert Fellowes, Private Secretary to the Queen, receives the Order of the Bath. He is married to Diana's older sister, Lady Jane.

Hundreds more earned honors on the list, a grab bag of the great and good, the famous, sports stars, media moguls and ordinary Britons such as railroad workers, teachers and scoutmasters who perform extraordinary services to society.

Screen legend Deborah Kerr, 76, receives a CBE (Commander, Order of the British Empire) as do entertainer Petula Clark and James Dyson, the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner.

Andy Green, who drove the Thrust supersonic car to 763 mph and the land speed record, receives the OBE (Officer, Order of the British Empire). So does racehorse trainer Jenny Pitman, the only woman to train a Grand National steeplechase winner.

Four new life peers were handed out to new members of the House of Lords.

Chris Patten, Britain's last governor of Hong Kong, receives a Companion of Honor.

"Looking back, it has been quite a year," said Patten, who tearfully presided over the handover of Hong Kong to China. "I doubt whether I will go through another one like it."

Pub Date: 12/31/97

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