After months of poor health, Queen Elizabeth II finally died today aged 96. Several tributes will be held to mark the death in Australia.
News of her passing was confirmed by the Royal Family’s official accounts. “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow,” a statement said.
Throughout her lengthy reign, musicians around Britain have released songs responding to her, both fondly and critically. Below are six songs about Queen Elizabeth II, with some made in admiration and others made in mockery.
The Sex Pistols – ‘God Save the Queen’
It feels right to start with the obvious. Much of Johnny Rotten and co.’s early reputation was built on this incendiary anthem: “She ain’t no human being / And there’s no future / In England’s dreaming,” Rotten howled in revulsion, lyrics taken up by punks across the country disillusioned with Britain in the 70s. The cover art was somehow even more inflammatory, with artist Jamie Reid defacing the Queen’s image.
In a moment of surprise correction, John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, praised the Queen earlier this year. “She’s put up with a lot,” he said. “I’ve got no animosity against any of the royal family. Never did. It’s the institution of it that bothers me and the assumption that I’m to pay for that.”
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The Smiths ‘The Queen Is Dead’
Man of opinions Morrissey, it’s fair to say, doesn’t exactly love the monarchy. The title track of The Smiths’ third album of the same name expressed notable anti-monarchist lyrics, with Morrissey mocking the Queen with the title ‘Lowness’. “I say, Charles, don’t you ever crave / To appear on the front of the Daily Mail / Dressed in your Mother’s bridal veil?” he sardonically chastised, and you can clearly picture the singer’s fiendish grin when he came up with those lines. A penny for Morrissey’s thoughts on this most notable of days.
Billy Bragg – ‘Rule Nor Reason’
The wonderful political folk singer-songwriter looked at the Queen’s life and discovered no glamour, only loneliness. “The Queen on her throne plays Shirley Bassey records when she’s all on her own / And she looks out the window and cries,” he pondered in the poignant ballad.
The Housemartins – ‘Flag Day’
One of Britain’s best indie pop bands toned down their typically jangly production for this considered affair. “Try shaking a box in front of the Queen / ‘Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams / It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean,” he sung ruefully. In a country suffering through a cost of living crisis while millions was recently found to pay off the victims of one of the Queen’s sons, Paul Heaton’s words still resonate decades later.
The Stones Roses – ‘Elizabeth My Dear’
Don’t let that title mislead you: Ian Brown holds no love for the Queen. Sounding very much like Simon and Garfunkel’s haunting ‘Scarborough Fair’, this short but far from sweet ballad sounds a world away from The Stone Roses’ usual fare. “Tear me apart and boil my bones / I’ll not rest ’til she’s lost her throne,” Brown sung hostilely, not hiding the contempt in his voice.
The Beatles – ‘Her Majesty’
In just 25 seconds of pure pop bliss, Paul McCartney hailed the Queen is “a pretty nice girl,” although one who “doesn’t have a lot to say”. “Someday I’m going to make her mine,” he insists as the song suddenly comes to an end. Were his words wryly mocking the royal? Did he genuinely have a crush on his head of state? It doesn’t really matter when a song is this softly sweet.