In celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday in 2016, the monarch had a number of special requests on her party playlist. A longtime fondness for musicals since many made their way from Broadway to the West End of London in the 1940s—everything from Oklahoma! and Anne Get Your Gun—the Queen’s musical tastes also spanned the big bands of the 1930s and ’40s like Lester Lanin and World War II melodies of the era to the 1951 Irving Berlin-penned Fred Astaire hit “Cheek to Cheek” and songs honoring the commonwealth, including Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gary Barlow and the Commonwealth Band’s “Sing,” written for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and featuring the Military Wives Choir.
Whether she was giving a nod to the band who used her namesake title by tapping along to Queen’s anthemic “We Will Rock You” during her Platinum Jubilee celebration or dancing to a disco classic, if there were a more extended playlist curated by the Queen, it would have revealed that the sovereign’s musical preferences crisscrossed even more genres.
Here’s a collection of songs the late Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed years before her reign and through its end.
1. “Praise, my soul, the King of heaven” (1834)
Written by Henry Francis Lyte
The Queen loved and admired the Christian hymn “Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,” originally written by Anglican clergyman Henry Francis Lyte and first published in 1834. Drawing from Psalm 103, the song was first published in Lyte’s publication The Spirit of the Psalms, which was used at his congregation in southern England. Later set to music by John Goss in 1868, the hymn was played during the 1947 royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburg, along with her other favorite hymnal”The Lord’s My Shepherd.”
2. “Leaning on a Lampost,” George Formby (1937)
Written by Noel Gay
First performed in the 1937 Feather Your Nest by Val Rosing and George Formby, it was the latter performer’s sole recording for Regal Zonophone Records that would make the song popular. The Queen was such a fan of Formby, a British comedian who would knock out more light-hearted tunes in the 1930s and ’40s, that she once entertained the idea of becoming president of the George Formby Appreciation Society, according to Gyles Brandreth, a family friend of the royals. At one point, the Queen even received a letter from the George Formby Society asking her to be its president.
A correspondence secretary told the Queen that “you’re the head of the armed forces, the head of the Church of England, I don’t think you can be president of the George Formby Appreciation Society,” said Brandreth, to which Her Majesty replied, “Well, I do see that, but you see I love George Formby. … I know all his songs and I can sing them.”
Created in 1961 after the death of the popular performer, The George Formby Society has more than 1,200 members worldwide and annual conventions that still continue in Blackpool, England.
3. “The White Cliffs of Dover,” Dame Vera Lynn (1942)
Written by Nat Burton
A teen when World War II first broke out, and still some years shy of taking over the throne in 1952, following the death of her father King George IV, wartime songs always had a special resonance with the Queen. “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover” was one particular song the Queen requested on her 90th birthday. Originally composed by Walter Kent and written by Nat Burton in 1941, the song was made famous as a WWII tune by Vera Lynn in 1942. Burton wrote the song a year after the Royal Air Force and German Luftwaffe aircraft fought over southern England, including the white cliffs in Dover, England in the Battle of Britain. By 1941, Nazi Germany had already occupied much of Europe and was still bombing Great Britain.
In 1969 Lynn, who died in 2020 at the age of 103, would be appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1975.
4. “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better),” from Annie Get Your Gun (1946) Composed by Irving Berlin
Already a fan of Howard Keel’s production of “Oklahoma!” the namesake of the show that traveled from Broadway to the West End of London in the ’40s, another classic musical always stuck in the Queen’s memory. Composed by Irving Berlin for the 1946 show Anne Get Your Gun, the rousing “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” plays during a sharpshooting contest between the characters of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler. First performed by Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton, it was Dolores Gray and Bill Johnson’s 1947 rendition that made its way to London Coliseum, which was a favorite of the Queen’s.
5. “Sweet Caroline,” Neil Diamond (1969)
Written by Neil Diamond
At the Queen’s 2022 Platinum Jubilee celebration, honoring her 70 years on the throne, Rod Stewart, who the Queen knighted in 2016, was asked to perform a Neil Diamond classic. First singing his 1973 song “Baby Jane,” Stewart then broke into Diamond’s 1969 anthem “Sweet Caroline,” a song personally requested by the 96-year-old monarch. “The BBC said, ‘Rod we need you to sing ‘Sweet Caroline,’ it’s the Queen’s favorite you have to sing it,’” revealed Stewart’s wife Penny Lancaster, who also served as a special constable with the City of London Police during the Jubilee, following his performance. “[He] didn’t have much of a choice.”
Though the Queen sat out Stewart’s live performance during the Platinum Party at The Palace concert, which also featured performances by Queen, Diana Ross, and Ed Sheeran, the royal family—Prince Charles, Camilla, Prince William, Prince George, The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, and Princess Charlotte—waved their Union Jack flags singing along to the “Sweet Caroline” chants of so good, so good, and bah bah bah.
6. “Dancing Queen,” ABBA (1976)
Written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson
The most fitting title for a “dancing queen,” following a dinner party at Windsor Castle, prompting Her Majesty to smile and make her way to the dance floor and dance to the 1976 ABBA hit.
“I always try to dance when this song comes on,” the Queen reportedly said, “because I am the Queen and I like to dance.”
7. “We Will Rock You,” Queen (1977)
Written by Brian May
Apparently, Queen Elizabeth II liked Queen’s 1977 classic more than anyone expected. Kicking off the Platinum Jubilee, the Queen recorded a skit featuring the British fictional children’s character Paddington Bear and closed the sketch with the two tapping their tea cups to the opening drum thumps of “We Will Rock You.”
“Of course, it was wonderful because our bit was preceded by The Queen herself talking to Paddington Bear and then doing the little We Will Rock You [clink clink] on her tea cup,” said Queen drummer Roger Taylor of the Queen’s nod to Queen. “It was fantastic.”
Queen guitarist Brian May, who pitched the idea, added, “I asked for that. I said, ‘Would The Queen tap it’ and they wouldn’t give us an answer. And we didn’t know until the day before. They said, ‘Oh we might get somebody Royal to do it for you.’”
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