The band Queen is an icon in music culture. With catchy songs like “We Are the Champions” and inspiring songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it’s easy to see why Queen stays relevant even to new fans. On Spotify, the band ranks as the 26th most listened to artist in the world with an average of 32.5 million monthly listeners. 2018 even spawned a movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” primarily based on Freddie Mercury’s life.
However, the other members of the band are often overlooked despite being incredible musicians in their own rights. For example, Brian May, the lead guitarist, has written many incredible but seemingly forgotten songs.
May attended Imperial College to study astrophysics and formed a band called Smile in 1968 with fellow classmate Tim Staffel. Roger Taylor joined as the band’s drummer. Freddie Mercury, then known as Farrokh Bulsara, became a fan of the group and joined in 1970. That year, Staffel left the group, leading the band to rename themselves “Queen” and add on bassist John Deacon in 1971.
All were great musicians and each member wrote their own songs. This helped to create the strange and unique sound that is Queen. May in particular made up a large portion of songs that were not only unique to Queen, but unique to the music commonly written at the time.
May’s “‘39” tells the story of a group of time travelers leaving their loved ones to see what the future has to hold. The song is based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, specifically time dilation—the theory that as something moves faster in space, it experiences time relative to its speed, causing it to experience less aging. The song is a masterpiece, containing inspirational lyrics, soulful musicality and intelligence founded in May’s field of study. Taking on a folk-country sound, the song pervades nostalgia of a time forgotten.
Easily considered one of the most famous Queen songs, “We Will Rock You” has been played during sports games, dances and television shows that demand audience participation. With the simple stomp-stomp-clap beat, audiences everywhere are able to “play along” with their favorite band. This sense of belonging formed a bond between the band and their fans, making them feel like they were a part of the band.
In the late ‘80s, Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with AIDs—a disease that was considered a death sentence during this time. Many who were diagnosed, mostly men, succumbed to death within a few years and sometimes even a few months.
Mercury refused to rest and continued making music until the day he died. May wrote the song “The Show Must Go On” in his honor, and reported that Mercury was able to sing the entire song in one take, despite its difficult vocals and his failing health. “I have to find the will to carry on,” May wrote in the song.
Through May’s wonderful compositions, Queen fans find fun, perseverance and wistfulness. His songs, though some not as well known as his fellow bandmates, have deeper meanings behind them. He dedicated his songs to his wife, children, parents and bandmates, showing his love for them through his art.
May’s passion showed through his continued work with the band after Mercury’s death. He obtained his doctorate in astrophysics in the field of study of the motions of interplanetary dust and participated in different advocacy groups.
Through his pursuit of different passions, his music reflects the mosaic of his personality. So, log on to Spotify and let the musicality of Queen take you on a journey that no other band could provide.