Queen, Freddie Mercury, and The Imprint of Bohemian Rhapsody

Faultless sound of beauty, and ageless instrumentalists with a style that could never be replicated.  Queen will forever be a revolutionary group that changed history with their strong, powerful, and steady voices, their ability to write hit songs individually and as a group, and their support and protection they give one another as a group, individuals, and as artists is something to admire.

Queen was composed of Brian May (guitarist), Roger Taylor (drummer), John Deacon (bassist), and Freddie Mercury (pianist/ lead vocals). These four men became Queen in 1971.  In 1973, they were signed to EMI Records and Elektra Records.  In the same year, Queen released their debut album ‘Queen.’  Their debut album was hailed one of the most exciting developments ever in rock music.  It received a rave review from Rolling Stones Magazine that called them “…the first of a whole new wave of English rockers, and you’d best learn to love ’em now’ cause they’re here to stay. Regal bearings aside, Queen is a monster.”

In 1975, Queen released their second album ‘A Night at the Opera’, which was the album that brought us the classic Bohemian Rhapsody.  This unusual six minute suite was comprised of an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part, and a reflective coda, but no chorus. May, Taylor, and Mercury sang their vocal parts ten to twelve hours a day.  A hard, fast, and strong dedication to a work that was fully penned by Mercury.  Brian May said, “Bohemian Rhapsody was Freddie’s baby…We just helped him bring it to life.”  It took three weeks to record, the opera parts took more than seventy hours to complete, and one hundred and eighty overdubs were needed to track the recording we hear today.  In an article in the New York Times the producer, Roy Thomas Baker said, “The thing that makes it most ageless is the fact that it didn’t confine to any given genre of music. It doesn’t compete with anything. It’s in a world of its own.”

The record label didn’t want to release Bohemian Rhapsody as a single unless it was shortened because they believed it wouldn’t be a hit.  The band collectively refused to shorten it because they felt it would change the work.  Can you seriously image shortening that song?  The radio DJs and listeners ended up making the song a hit and proving the record labels wrong.  British DJ Kenny Everett received a copy of the song and played it on Capital Radio.  Everett played the song fourteen times in two days due to audience demands.  I think Everett was right when he said, “…it could be a half an hour long, it’s going to be number one for centuries.”  Bohemian Rhapsody topped the United Kingdom (UK) charts for nine weeks and sold more than a million copies by 1976.  The song peaked at number nine in the United States (U.S.) in 1976, which is insanity to me!  It reached number one again in the UK in 1991 upon Mercury’s death and number two in the U.S. with the release of the film Wayne’s World.  In 2004 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Queen was full of artists that I haven’t seen in today’s industry.  They were a talented group of songwriters that all penned number one hits to their legacy.  They understood that taking a chance and truly opening yourself up to the world is a risk that can and will be rewarded if you are brave enough to let people see your vulnerable side.  Queen was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002.

I wonder what Queen would have created had Freddie Mercury not passed away in 1991.  His vocal talents extending from bass in low F to soprano in high F is rare.  His ability to pen hits like A Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Somebody to Love, Don’t Stop Me Now, We Are the Champions, and Bohemian Rhapsody leaves me in awe every time I hear them.  Mercury was the flash.  The theatrical entertainer that made the live shows an experience.  I know I’m a week late, but September 5th was Freddie Mercury’s birthday as well as the yearly tradition of ‘Freddie for a day.’  On this day, the Mercury Phoenix Trust celebrates the life of the legendary Freddie Mercury, and continues to support the ongoing mission of finding a cure for AIDS.  People dress up as Freddie all over the world to help raise funds on this day through sponsorships.  Let’s continue to remember the man and the legend on this day, and to never forget the work and artistry that these four men shared with the world through all that is Queen.


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