December 9, 2022

Johnny Rotten’s Surprising Tribute To Queen Elizabeth

Tributes have streamed in from all corners of the globe in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death at the age of 96. Some have come from expected places, such as heads of state like U.S. president Joe Biden, who, alongside his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, released a statement calling Queen Elizabeth a steadying presence in a world of constant change (via the White House). Perhaps unsurprisingly, English singer Elton John, who was knighted by the queen in 1998, also paid his respects to the late monarch live on stage in Toronto, Canada, the same day that the queen died.

At the concert, John said (via Billboard) that the queen had led the U.K. “through some of our greatest and darkest moments with grace and decency and genuine caring, and warmth.” He then dedicated a rendition of his hit “Don’t Let the Sun Down on Me” to Elizabeth. Among all the notable tributes and words of condolences shared by well-known artists, though, none were perhaps as surprising as those from John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten, the lead singer of the seminal English punk band the Sex Pistols. As music fans are well aware, one of the Pistols’ best-known songs, “God Save the Queen,” was banned in 1977 by the BBC for its perceived anti-monarchist sentiments (per History).

He recently changed his tune about the British royals

“God Save the Queen” controversy notwithstanding, John Lydon recently offered an olive branch of sorts to the British royal family. Or rather, he clarified that his issue with the British monarchy had less to do with the people themselves but with the institution itself, as he wrote in an op-ed for the British publication The Times. Lydon’s words were written on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, marking 70 years on the English throne, as the royal family website notes.

In that op-ed published in June 2022, Lydon wrote (via The Times), “God bless the Queen. She’s put up with a lot. … I’ve got no animosity against any one 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. There’s where I draw the line. It’s like, ‘No, you’re not getting ski holidays on my tax.'” In that same piece, Lydon also clarified that he was never an anarchist, despite claiming that political ideology in another Sex Pistols classic, “Anarchy in the U.K.” In The Times, Lydon wrote, “Anarchy is a terrible idea. Let’s get that clear.” 

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Lydon paid his respects to the queen on Twitter

When the death of Queen Elizabeth was announced, John Lydon took to Twitter to pay his respects, and accordingly, they were kind. In his tweet, Lydon posted an unaltered picture of the queen, the same image that the Sex Pistols edited for the “God Save the Queen” single sleeve, which is now considered among the most iconic images in all punk rock history (via The Telegraph). In the tweet, Lydon also wrote, “Rest in Peace Queen Elizabeth II. Send her victorious,” before a general sign-off from all those at the John Lydon website.

The phrase “send her victorious” was taken from the original version of “God Save the Queen,” the British national anthem, via the royal family website. From the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, the official national anthem used female pronouns as was reflected in the title, but that was quickly updated in light of the queen’s death. The words to the anthem have now been updated with “king” as Elizabeth’s son, Charles, is now King Charles III of Great Britain (pictured). The same tribute to Elizabeth from Lydon was also shared on the Twitter feed of Public Image Ltd, Lydon’s post Sex Pistols music project.