Freddie Mercury would have been 70

Various artists have sung with Queen since his death, but Freddie Mercury has never been replaced.

freddie.mercuryIt’s almost certainly true that the band Queen, and its lead singer/ keyboardist/songwriter Freddie Mercury, are bigger now than they were at the time of Mercury’s death on the evening of 24 November 1991.

“In the UK, Queen has now spent more collective weeks on the UK Album Charts than any other musical act (including The Beatles), and Queen’s Greatest Hits is the highest-selling album of all time in the UK. Two of Mercury’s songs, We Are the Champions and Bohemian Rhapsody, have also each been voted as the greatest song of all time in major polls by Sony Ericsson and Guinness World Records, respectively.

There have been several stories about Donald Trump’s repeated unauthorized use of We Are The Champions. The outrage, not just from Queen’s guitarist Brian May, but from Queen’s fans, points out that Mercury was a bisexual man who died from AIDS, and that the Trump/Pence platform isn’t exactly gay-friendly.

Others note that Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, was also an immigrant, “a brown-skinned man born in Zanzibar who went to school in India, and whose family immigrated to England because of unrest in their country in 1964. He was brought up in the Zoroastrian faith. Freddie Mercury, in short, embodies just about everything Trump’s fakakta wall wants to keep out of our country.”

My own sense of Mercury’s impact has grown since his passing as well. He died the same year that a friend of mine also died of an AIDS-related illness. Reading Freddie and Me further enhanced my appreciation for the artist.

Freddie’s death triggered the remaining members of Queen to create The Mercury Phoenix Trust, funded in the beginning by the massively successful Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness.

Various artists have sung with Queen since Mercury’s death, including Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert, but Freddie Mercury has never been replaced.

Some Queen songs

– links to all

12. We Will Rock You (segued with We Are the Champions, 1978) – Anthemic. Hearing this too often at minor league baseball parks SHOULD have ruined this song for me forever, but it did not

11. Play the Game (#42 in 1980) – Spacey beginning, great guitar solo by Brian May

10. Keep Yourself Alive (1973) – Written by guitarist Brian May, it was one of the songs on their original demo for its record label. More fine guitar work.

9. You’re My Best Friend (#16 in 1976) – The Daughter was recently watching some show which was using his song in an ad. I realized its timeless quality.

8. We Are the Champions -oft-covered, usually off-key, by winning sports teams. “In 2011, a team of scientific researchers concluded that the song was the catchiest in the history of popular music.” Who am I to argue with science?

7. Somebody to Love (#13 in 1977) – I did not know that they “multi-tracked their voices to create a 100-voice gospel choir”, but surely love the effect

6. Bicycle Race (#24 in 1979) – it starts with a cappella chorus (unaccompanied by instruments). And it’s about bicycles, with a video of naked women riding that got banned in several countries.

5. Killer Queen (#12 in 1975) – their first American hit, I loved the tight harmony vocals and its theatrical style

4. Crazy Little Thing Called Love (#1 for four weeks in 1980) – a rockabilly hit that sounds like Elvis. “Mercury played rhythm guitar while performing the song live, which was the first time he played guitar in concert with Queen.”

3. Another One Bites the Dust (#1 for three weeks in 1980) – this lives on the bass line. It also was #2 in the rhythm & blues charts for three weeks. Also, check out Another One Drives a Duster.

2. Bohemian Rhapsody (#9 in 1976, #2 in #1992) – In the UK, it was #1 for NINE weeks in its original release, and five more weeks a decade and a half later. Its inclusion in the movie Wayne’s World in 1992 brought it new life. It is often covered. Here’s the Muppets and a whole bunch Mark Evanier linked to. Plus Kids react to Bohemian Rhapsody.

1. Under Pressure, with David Bowie (#29 in 1982) – this was #1 in the UK, and I thought it would have fared better in the US. In any case, my affection for Bowie, even before his sudden death, propelled this to be my favorite Queen song. And they were right to sue Vanilla Ice for copyright infringement.

Q is for Queen

When I first heard the songs of the rock group Queen in the mid-1970s, I thought it was a very good group with songs such as:
*Killer Queen (#12 on the Billboard charts in the United States in 1975)
*You’re My Best Friend (#9 in 1976)
*Bicycle Race (#24 in 1978) – hey, I ride sometimes
*the rockabilly sensibilities of Crazy Little Thing Called Love (the group’s first #1, in 1980)
*Play The Game (#42 in 1980)
*the bass line-insistent Another One Bites The Dust (another #1, in 1980)
*the goofy fun of Flash (as in Gordon) (#42 in 1981)

Then Freddie Mercury died of AIDS in 1991, coincidentally the same year my friend Vito died of the same disease, and I thought the legacy of the band was over. Well, except for that annoying Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby in 1990 (#1), which swiped the instrumentation and the tune of the 1981 Queen/David Bowie performance Under Pressure (#29).

But not only did the band continue to play with other vocalists, but many of their original songs lived on.

We Are The Champions has inspired re-releases (1991 Gulf War, 1994 & 1998 World Cup, e.g.) and cover versions by various winning teams in sports around the world, usually performed very badly. The other side of that 1977 #4 single, We Will Rock You has become one of those songs that get played a great deal at US sporting events. The songs were re-released in 1992 and went to #52.

The performance of Somebody to Love on the soundtrack to the new US TV show Glee has created interest in the original (#13 in 1977) and the George Michael and Queen version (#30 in 1993), recorded for the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

The title of Radio Ga Ga (#16 in 1984) was the inspiration for the name of the currently popular phenomenon known as Lady Gaga.

Is this…

But almost certainly, the most significant song in Queen’s oeuvre is the tiny rock opera Bohemian Rhapsody. Charting in the US in early 1976 (#9), it gained new life when it appeared in the 1992 movie Wayne’s World, when it got all the way to #2. Arguably, the best cover version is by the Muppets. (alternate location).

This is Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Cool’s favorite band, and after re-examining their music, I can better appreciate why.

So what are the rest of the members of Queen doing now?

Bassist John Deacon is retired from the music business. Drummer Roger Taylor is touring with vocalist Paul Rodgers.

The brilliant Brian May is also touring with Rodgers and Taylor. When I say brilliant, I don’t just mean his extraordinary guitar licks. In 2008, he completed “his Doctoral Thesis in Astrophysics…successfully submitted the new version of his thesis on Interplanetary Dust.” A story about him recently appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal: Queen Guitarist Brian May Digs Badgers Even If the Farmers Loathe Them.

Of course, the story of Freddie Mercury is told. I did enjoy reading a comic book trade story from the past couple of years called Freddie & Me, which I discussed briefly. Unfortunately, the direct link to Coverville #496, which features the rare Michael Jackson/Freddie Mercury demo to the Jacksons’ hit “State of Shock” doesn’t work; look for it on iTunes.

QUEEN lives on through its music.

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