Ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, Bee Gee’s Barry Gibb tapped as British knights

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A Beatle and a Bee Gee are among the celebrated citizens who have been selected for knighthood and other awards given in the name of Britain’s monarch.

Britain’s Cabinet Office publishes a list of the people receiving honours for merit, service or bravery twice a year: just before New Year’s Eve, and on the Saturday in June when Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday is officially observed.

The New Year’s Honours List made public late Friday revealed that Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and Barry Gibb, the oldest and last surviving of the brothers who made up the pop group the Bee Gees, have been tapped as knights.

The process starts with nominations from the public, which first are reviewed by a specialist committee and then by a main honours committee. The nominations are then sent to the prime minister before the various honours are bestowed by the Queen or senior royals.

The children’s author celebrated for War Horse, a politician who fought in vain to keep Britain in the European Union, and many others, including renowned researchers, volunteers and actors, also made the honours list.

Ringo, 77, real name Richard Starkey, joined the Beatles as a replacement drummer for Pete Best in 1962 and occasionally sang lead vocals, notably in Yellow Submarine and With a Little Help from my Friends.

There were flashier drummers in the rock pantheon — Keith Moon and Ginger Baker come to mind — but Starr fit the band’s approach perfectly, playing with uncanny style and imagination as the band’s music branched out from its early American rock influences. The drum parts in Ticket to RideRain and Strawberry Fields Forever are all seen as masterful contributions to timeless songs.

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“It’s great!” Starr said of his knighthood in a brief message to the Associated Press. “It’s an honour and a pleasure to be considered and acknowledged for my music and my charity work, both of which I love.”

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Beatle in 1988 and again in 2015 for his solo career after the group split up.

The knighthood will allow Starr to join Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John and Van Morrison as 1960s rock royalty honoured by the queen.

‘A moment in life to be treasured’

Gibb, 71, the last surviving member of the Bee Gees, said he was dedicating his knighthood to his late band mates, twin brothers Robin Gibb, who died in 2012, and Maurice Gibb, who died in 2003.

“I want to acknowledge how responsible my brothers are for this honour,” said Gibb. “It is as much theirs as it is mine.”

He was recognized for services to music and charity.

Barry Gibb

Bee Gee’s co-founder Barry Gibb acknowledged his brothers for their contributions to the band’s success. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

“This is a moment in life to be treasured and never forgotten,” he said.

The Bee Gees formed in the late 1950s and enjoyed two distinct periods of commercial success: first as a Beatles-influenced pop band and later as leading avatars of the disco movement, particularly on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that achieved global fame. The band enjoyed phenomenal success in the disco era of the 1970s, consistently topping the singles charts and racking up huge album sales.

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‘Sir Joey the war horse’

English author Michael Morpurgo, 74, says he is giving his knighthood to Joey, the fictional horse at the centre of his book and play War Horse.

The story, set at the start of the First World War, chronicles the friendship between a young boy and his horse, Joey. It was staged using life-size horse puppets that enchanted audiences.

Morpurgo is being knighted for his charitable works as well as for his writing, but he says the honour is really about War Horse and the impact of the production staged by the National Theatre.

“There was never a knight that has owed so much to his horse as this one — and in fact, we will give the knighthood to Joey and call him Sir Joey,” said Morpurgo.

Morpurgo, a former school teacher, said it was the “great good fortune” of his writing life to be associated with the play.​

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