Sir Brian May was among those recognised at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday by King Charles after he was given a knighthood in the New Year Honours.
As the virtuoso guitarist in rock band Queen, the 75-year-old is responsible for some of the biggest riffs in popular music, from the solo on Don’t Stop Me Now to the melodic strums of Somebody To Love.
Alongside late frontman Freddie Mercury, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor, he scored numerous number ones during the group’s 80s heyday, touring the world.
The musician, astrophysicist and animal welfare advocate was formally recognised for his services to music and charity.
He opted for the customary outfit of a dark-coloured morning suit, which he paired with a dark red patterned waistcoat and white shirt.
Sir Brian received his knighthood from the king himself, with whom he shares an affinity for environmental causes, and he revealed that it ‘meant a lot’.
The pair enjoyed a brief chat after King Charles had bestowed the honour upon him with the traditional sword taps on each shoulder.
Sir Brian told the PA news agency afterwards: ‘I am very happy, smiling from ear-to-ear, particularly because it was the King, which means a lot.
‘We’ve had a certain amount of contact over the years and we’re of an age, so I have a strong feeling for him and it was a lovely moment.
‘We discussed the fact that we are of an age and he was wondering if my knees were holding out for the kneeling part of the ceremony. I said: “Yes, just about.”‘
He added: ‘To receive this award I suppose feels like getting approval, like when you get a gold star at school – perhaps you’ve done something and you know what you’ve achieved and if you get that seal of approbation from above, then it’s a very good feeling, it’s very special.’
Sir Brian is no stranger to Buckingham Palace, having performed during the Golden Jubilee in 2002, famously playing a solo guitar version of God Save The Queen from the roof of the famous royal residence.
In June last year he also performed at the Platinum Jubilee, where the late monarch tapped the beat of We Will Rock You on a teacup at the end of a very popular sketch featuring Paddington Bear.
Speaking about this, he added: ‘During the rehearsal period I was coming through quite often, lingering among the paintings.
‘It’s just great, the pictures are incredible, we had lots of adventures trying to figure out how we were going to achieve that performance on the roof, which was actually pretty difficult, technically.
‘And on the day pretty much none of it worked that morning, so there’s a lot of scrambling around and scratching of heads and I only actually got to hear myself and the orchestra about 10 minutes before the actual performance, it was pretty hair-raising but very exciting.’
Sir Brian, who had a heart attack in 2020, also revealed that there might be tour for him and Queen to keep rocking on to later this year.
‘We’re thinking about touring, I can say that. I’m hoping I stay in good health – at the moment I seem to be in pretty good health, which is always great.
‘It’s not been an easy road and there’s been times I thought I would never do it again.
‘But we all seem to be OK so we’re looking at doing some touring, and of course we tour at the top level and it’s very high energy and high demand on your fitness.
‘If we don’t go out until October or whatever I’ll be working on my fitness from now on,’ he said.
Adressing his knighthood when it was announced, Sir Brian (or ‘Sir Bri’, as he suggested) admitted he now feels a new responsibility to ‘behave in a way which benefits the country and the rest of the population.’
Former Treasury permanent secretary Sir Tom Scholar became a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath having been summarily sacked by short-lived prime minister Liz Truss on her first day in office.
The UK’s ambassador in Kyiv, Dame Melinda Simmons, also received a damehood for her services to British foreign policy.
Saxophonist and broadcaster YolanDa Brown was also made an OBE for services to music, music education and to broadcasting.
Originally from Barking in London, the 40-year-old’s music brings together reggae, jazz and soul, and she has collaborated with acts such as Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones and Rick Astley.
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