Saturday, December 13, 2003
London An icon of rock rebelliousness officially joined the British establishment Friday -- and hardly anyone objected.
Rolling Stone Keith Richards was that rare dissenter as bandmate Mick Jagger -- the group's raffish, womanizing front man once convicted on a drug charge -- accepted a knighthood from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.
The lack of fuss marked a shift in British attitudes since 1965, when some outraged dignitaries returned their gold medals in protest after The Beatles were made Members of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE. Times change. Former Beatle Paul McCartney, Beatles' producer George Martin, Elton John and Cliff Richard preceded Jagger as rock knights.
Two other senior rockers -- Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Gary Brooker of Procol Harum -- were at the palace Thursday to collect MBEs for their charity work.
The announcement last year of Jagger's honor elicited a couple of angry letters to The Daily Telegraph. A Canadian woman whose husband, mother and grandfather all received honors wrote: "By giving a knighthood to a rogue like Mick Jagger, the prime minister has denigrated all the worthy recipients of honors from Her Majesty the Queen."
Jagger, 60 years old and still touring, sported a designer suit with leather lapels and black suede and leather sneakers for the occasion. He denied that he had betrayed his unconventional past, which epitomized the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" lifestyle.
"I don't think the establishment as we knew it exists any more," he told reporters. Honors are very nice "as long as you don't take it all too seriously."
Jagger laughed off the criticism from Richards, who denounced the knighthood as a disgrace.
"I think he would probably like to get the same honor himself," Jagger said. "It's like being given an ice cream -- one gets one and they all want one. It's nothing new. Keith likes to make a fuss."
Jagger came to the ceremony with his 92-year-old father, Joe -- who decades ago chided his son's passion for "jungle music" -- and daughters Karis, 32, and Elizabeth, 19.
Queen Elizabeth II was hospitalized Friday for knee surgery. Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, has been sharing the job of distributing knighthoods and had always been scheduled to preside at Friday's ceremonies.