Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Pop Princess: William Cook Inspects Diana's CD Collection and Discovers She Was a Pleb at Heart. (Music)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Pop Princess: William Cook Inspects Diana's CD Collection and Discovers She Was a Pleb at Heart. (Music)

Article excerpt

Princess Diana never appeared on Desert Island Discs, but now we have the next best thing. In October, her former butler Paul Burrell will stand trial at the Old Bailey, charged with stealing 302 of her personal items -- charges that he denies -- including, allegedly, 21 records, 19 CDs and ten cassette tapes. It's a much more comprehensive cross-section than the eight tunes you're allowed on the BBC's desert island and, as a musical biography, it is also far more intimate. Unlike on Desert Island Discs, these records were played in private. Consequently, they are gloriously free from the self-conscious constraints of fashionable good taste.

Diana was our Pop Princess, an unpretentious populist who bopped along to high street pin-ups such as Duran Duran and Wham!. Di didn't just like Simon Le Bon and George Michael, she looked like them. Yet the first big surprise about this melodic back catalogue is its wealth of classical music. Beethoven and Wagner, Turandot and La Traviata, Mozart and Rachmaninov piano concertos, plus Romeo and Juliet -- by both Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. It's a resolutely Romantic mix--fans of Karlheinz Stockhausen won't find much to tap their feet to -- but still displays a genuine appreciadon of orchestral music, which suggests that Di wasn't a cultural lightweight.

However, the most revealing records in this haul are not timeless concert-hall classics, but songs from the era in which Diana lived. Michael Jackson's "Bad", "Foreign Affair" by Tina Turner and "Flying Colours" by Chris de Burgh -- it's a sign of pop's democratic omnipotence that the wife of the heir to the throne, and the mother of his likely successor, listened to the same, middle-of-the-road music as any other middle-aged mum in Middle England.

Those are some of the CDs. …

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