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Great Bands, Singers and Best Songs with a British Accent.

Penelope was a PR in London in the 70’s, then a Hollywood researcher. She was a freelance magazine journalist and teacher. Now she writes!

The Genre of Music with a British Accent

Every now and then a musician from the Britain Isles creates a piece of music, a sound, a ballad, a set of lyrics that is original - different from anything else out there (usually from the USA)


It is absolutely new.

Sometimes, when this happens, the singer's accent is 'English' (or Scottish or Irish or Welsh). It is not American. The poetry of the sound is peculiarly British. It says I'm from Britain cos I'm different; often a little "bit weird", or, "I live in the woods round a maypole" or "my father was a window cleaner", or even from a group of "toffs in a housing estate".

Unlike their brothers and sisters on the other side of the Atlantic whose voices and guitar playing come from ridin' through the sage, from standing by a hangin' tree, driving, driving through the night, in the rain, through Nebraska, sweatin' dark an' dirty in New Orleans or over 'Nam. Just listen to Neil Young, Billy Holiday, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Ronettes, Jimi Hendrix etc etc etc.

Those guys have grit or smooth in their voices, stronger sun 'n winds, souls born from souls who lived and were striven, tux'd souls from Sunset Boulevard, from the back doors in The Hood, those musicians who were, who are, who always will be A-me- r - i can. Their music contains the drama and the poetry and the spirit of the American story - with the accent which makes their sound aw -right.

The U S of A accent that puts rock in your roll, rides your pony. Dude.

British singers with their British accent just don't do that. Their music and sounds are particularly different.

They're telling a British story.

Woodstock 1969

Woodstock 1969. The Incredible String Band, a psychedelic folk band from Scotland performed a couple of their best pieces, with quite noticeable English accents, . Garlands in their braids, folk hippies, they pronounced each word 'diff er en -t- ly' - as only fairies and ancient wood's people on the best acid would. They were 'fr eeeeeeeeeeee' and 'beautiful - beyond compare'.

It's a long video, but it's the real thing. If you compare their act to everyone else's (ie. Blood Sweat and Tears, Credence Clearwater, Joan Baez etc) you get the 'difference' picture.

Then came The Beatles.

Did you Know this About Led Zeppelin?

'Stairway to Heaven' has played on the radio more than any other piece of music?

Back to back, rumor has it, the playing of it would last 40 years.

Robert Plant is English - and you can't hear his British accent at all, mate.

The Other British Groups.

Other British groups of the time, even blockbusting ones like the Rolling Stones and The Who (except for their chart topping "Happy Jack" release), and even Joe Cocker didn't usually use their British accents. Mick Jagger's "Angie" must be the most famous example of this. If he'd sung "Angie" with a British accent, what would it have sounded like? Not half as sexy for sure.

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Pink Floyd were British sounding most of the time. They sort of say England don't they? With the school kids shouting 'Another Brick in the Wall'. (The word 'Wall' is said with a W at the end, not an L...very London). There is a long version of 'The Wall' on youtube, but here is the shorter one.

Pink Floyd

English Accent Sound

Chris de Burgh's "Lady in Red", has to have a mention; the soft, long sound of 'dance' sung just as most people might say the word 'dance' in UK, romantically, with a rounder 'a' than other bands would have dared to (Police, Gensis, Eurythmics, Portis Head and on and on)

Generally, if you are British and you want to sing rock, or pop or modern of any sort, or jazz, even rap, and you don't want to be copying American (USA) bands, (and since lets face it, you don't have US of A in your bones) and you want to be doing your own music, not very original these days, I have noticed that you do it with a transcontinental accent. Listen to any British band, or solo singer since The Beatles and you can hardly detect where they are from. Check a small selection of even very individual sounding British musicians like:Tom Jones, The Cranberries, Kate Bush, Duffy, Hot Chip or recently Amy Winehouse.

I'm even going to stretch out a point here, with audacity and claim that, (in my opinion), they and thousands of other acts need to sing with an American accent - to make their music more legit, to connect it, intrinsically, to the style it was born from in the US; to make it sound. (because perhaps in a British accent the song would sound gutless and silly). If the vowels are American, the feelings fit.

There is one big original British band out now. They don't care about any of this accent business. They have their own and it's good and strong. They shout it at you. Use it to make their point. It is 'Arctic Monkey'. Working class British, take-it-or leave it; they sing like they've got nothing to lose - so take your clothes off - raw, true and brave. 'Elbow' is another band of lads who just go for it, British style, broad Manchester accent (though they sometimes lapse transcontinental too).


Windmills of your Mind

Here is a song, also a beautiful poem, sung by a British singer, Noel Harrison, with a perfectly ordinary British accent - also the theme music to the movie 'The Thomas Crown Affair'.

It is 'The Windmills of your Mind'. When was the last time you heard that sort of accent in music?

© 2011 Penelope Hart


BrianGrubb on August 29, 2014:

Spinal Tap! Wait....

jeff on April 02, 2014:

Squeeze - Cool for cats. And a newer one

The 1975 -Chocolate

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on February 19, 2013:


dubmakers on February 19, 2013:

Very cool idea for a hub, love it!!

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on November 14, 2012:

Thanks for adding so many British accent groups to the list! I'm going to include one or two of them in a re- write. Appreciated your comment immensely. Watch this spot.

Judi Brown from UK on November 14, 2012:

As you say, sometimes a Brit accent just won't do - not sure it always suits heavy rock - but "indie" music definitely suits Brits. Love, among others, The Smiths, Pulp, Sex Pistols, The Jam - all easily identifiable as British.

Interesting hub!

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on November 14, 2012:

It would be neat! Nice of you to come and comment and pleased you liked the hub.

Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on November 14, 2012:

A neat hub, and the music you chose really does bring out the difference. I wish we could see more of this, but not just from the UK - from all over the world.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on September 19, 2012:

What a great comment, thank you! I wasn't a 60's rocker really, I was a late 60's rocker and all 70's child - so your information is excellent for this Hub. I'll look for Coxon (Blur).

scottsalot from Oakland California on September 18, 2012:


I think Syd Barrett was one of the first of the 60's rockers to really embrace his British accent in song. You should listen to Graham Coxon (formerly of Blur) too!

WD Curry 111 from Space Coast on January 02, 2012:

This is good, but now I feel old.

Micheal from United Kingdom on January 02, 2012:

Well Goodlady,

Bordering on the controversial I would wager lol.

Great selection of songs and I agree, you make a valid point.

In general, if us Brits want to crack the US of A market we have to sing with an American twang!

There are bands, that stick with their regional accents, regardless of the market they are trying to sell in, but they are pretty rare.

30 years ago on UK TV, even British comedians, presenters and film actors spoke with a US accent? It is rather odd but true.

This excellent hub, is a slice of social history in terms of popular culture. And it continues today.

Voted up interesting and useful. Well done again.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on December 12, 2011:

I suppose it is a flash from the past Chatkath! It's the only past I've ever known. Or we've ever known.

Nice to have you in the present!

Thanks for being around and taking interest in this Hub. Really appreciate it.

Kathy from California on December 12, 2011:

Great selection GoodLady and a wonderful flash from the past! I thoroughly enjoyed this Hub! Amazing is the power that music has on our moods and the memories that surface! Up, awesome, interesting and useful! Thanks for sharing.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on December 12, 2011:

Hi Lady_E

Had a look at your slang Hub! Nice one, thanks.

My very best friend fell in love with her husband listening to Lady in Red - it's their song.

Brings back a time doesn't it?

Elena from London, UK on December 12, 2011:

Lovely Selection... I love "Lady in Red". It's also interesting to read what you wrote about "dance".

I have added this as a link to one of my "British Slangs" Hubs. People would love to read it.


Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on December 11, 2011:

Nice of you to drop in and comment, thanks. Yes, that line from Penny Lane sounds like that and what about "She lwvs mi yea yea...and with a lwv laek that you know you can't go wrong"!

JBunce from Minneapolis, Minnesota on December 11, 2011:

Fascinating subject and good hub. I've thought about this topic before but never read anything about it... never occurred to me to write about it either, thanks. One other Beatles song I wanted to mention: I always thought "Penny Lane" had McCartney's accent much more noticeable than it usually is. For instance, the line "The barber shaves another customer" came out sounding... to me, at any rate... like "the bah-bah shaves anutha coostamuh". (Spell check going insane now...)

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on December 10, 2011:

Wonder where you were in England 30 years ago? Nice to have you around today, thanks for dropping in. And for your vote! That's just so nice.

Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on December 10, 2011:

Thank for a good jog of my memory, Now I do remember most of the groups but not elbow. I have been away from England for thirty years now.

Voting you great hub up.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on December 10, 2011:

I love Elbow too. Thanks for your comments Jools99. I should have mentioned Mattafix! They're British, a fusion of hip hop, R&B and Raggae, even a bit of rap...and they are great too. Do you know them? "Gangster Blues", beautiful. Even have the British accent.

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on December 10, 2011:

I enjoyed your hub GoodLady. My favourite of those you mention is Elbow. I'm not keen on the latest craze, rapping in a British accent (usually Cockney), now I like Cockneys well enough but all of this rapping sounds like I'm being read street poetry by some geezer outside the pie and mash shop! I'll keep my rap American thanks.

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