Freddie in his dying days continued to record until he’s too exhausted to proceed. That ethos is totally embodied in another song from Innuendo that became an anthem, “The Show Must Go On.” This seems to also be a mantra that the rest of the band members took to heart, and it turns out as years go by this helps sustain this band’s profile through the years.
The death of Freddie of course led to demand for fans to remember Freddie by, and in the UK, “Bohemian Rhapsody returned to No. 1 as fans grieved his death. In the US, Queen’s profile was revived thanks to then-Saturday Night Live star Mike Myers, who chose to feature his song in the opening scene in his movie Wayne’s World. This now-epic scene helped propel “Bohemian Rhapsody to a new peak at No. 2 (it peaked at No. 9 in its original chart run).
A few months later the surviving members decided to mount a tribute concert for the departed frontman to raise funds for AIDS charities. It was an awesome event, and for me the biggest highlights include David Bowie and Annie Lennox dueting on “Under Pressure” (with Annie displaying a distinctive stage look that is now one of her iconic personas).
I know Freddie is touted as arguably the best male pop/rock vocalist ever, but for me in second place is George Michael and I noticed they actually have similar timbres in their vocals. So it’s suitable that they got George to sing two numbers, “Somebody to Love” and in a duet with Lisa Stansfield, “These Are the Days of Our Lives”
Our mellow radio stations also did their part to keep Queen immortalized as they continue to heavily play songs like Brian May’s solo single “Too Much Love Will Kill You” (which was later released with Freddie’s’ vocals as a Queen track on their posthumous album, Made in Heaven) – Brian May and a track from the 1975 album A Night at the Opera, “Love of My Life” has an extended shelf life in these shores.
I only discovered Freddie’s Indian ethnicity only when there was another tribute concert being staged in India (without the presence of Queen members, though). I know based from a trivia book that Freddie’s birth surname was Bulsara and he was born in Zanzibar, an island off he coast of Africa that is now part of Tanzania. I thought he passed for a swarthy European then, but it turns out not only was he Indian, his name was Farokh. Check more details about his background from this elightening 2000 documenttary, Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story.
As the new millennium approached, some artists decided to pay homage by covering some of QUeen’s biggest hits. For instance, the Fugees‘ Wyclef Jean did a remix of “Another One Bites the Dust“.with help from fellow band member Pras Michel and singer Free.
But a big hit in Europe (especially in the UK that hit No. 1) is the boyband 5ive’s cover version of “We Will Rock You”, where they embellished with their own verses. Nohing compares to the original, of course, but itt’s still an entertaining listen to this day.
At this point, bassist John Deacon decided to leave the band and retire from show business altogether. The 2000s decade is an interesting period as the remaining two members of Queen decided to collaborate with singer Paul Rodgers and they toured and recorded under the moniker Queen + Paul Rodgers. Paul is no ordinary journeyman musician, as he had a slew of hits being part of some bands that are legendary for some rock classics like “All Right Now” when he was part of Free and his extended stint with Bad Company, with hits like “Feel Like Making Love“. Admittedly I didn’t pay much attention to this lineup and only got to listen to them recently. To my ears, as legendary as Paul Rodgers was, I don’t really think he’s a good fit performing Freddie’s songs. There are people who loved this lineup, but unfortunately I’m not really one of them. However, hearing Queen cover Paul’s hits were actually a great treat. Eventually in 2009, Paul decided to resume his solo career and reunite with Bad Company. Anyway, check out some of their collaboration with “Say It’s Not True” and “Cosmos Rocks” and enjoy listeningg to their take on “All Right Now” and “Feel Like Making Love”.
From 2011 to the present, Queen decided to choose a flamboyant performer as its new frontman, former American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert. I think Adam is more a better fit as he most closely has the charisma and performance chops that Freddie legendary has–boo to those detractors who think Adam is merely a karaoke clone.
In 2012 it was unearthed that Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury had attempted to collaborate on a few recordings, but Freddie decided to back out. One duet, “There Must Be More to Life than This“, was released as a single, and a demo version of the Jacksons’ “State of Shock” was revealed that Freddie was the original guest instead of Mick Jagger. The version with Mick Jagger was kinda suggestive, especially with Mick ad libbing about “needing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation” and that suggestive moan that closed the song. Here, it’s more of a slightly more wholesome jam and it’s one of those what-ifs.
I would be remiss that adding to Queen’s legend are all those cover versions paying tribute to them on YouTube. For instance, my favorite a capella group Pentatonix did their full version*1 of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the highlight of their classic covers EP. It’s a treat to hear Mitch Grassi convert himself into a guitar using a megaphone. Sadly this is also the last time we would see Avi Kaplan as part of the band as he chose to leave the group after this record and the tour supporting it. . This should’ve been nominated and granted a Grammy, if you ask me.
*1 They initially sang this as a snippet in their “Evolution of Music” medley.
After a decade in development hell, finally the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. I’ve heard criticism about taking liberties with chronology and some events in the band members’ lives, but I think that’s part and parcel of translating a biography into a film, that liberties shall be taken. Still it’s unquestionable the power of Queens’ music and Rami Malek‘s performance–he’s Oscar-bound in my opinion. I treated my mother to watch this film with me and I’m pleasantly surprised that she enjoyed it immensely, even if she noted about that issue with “Another One Bites the Dust”.
Still, there’s a side of me that wishes they be a bit more truthful to the chronology. There is this brilliant documentary with dramatization called the “Freddie Mercury Story” with two alternating subtitles; “The Great Pretender” or “Who Wants to Live Forever”. Makes me wish they have the Bohemian Rhapsody cast re-enact those scenes from this documentary. It will be nice to see how Rami would handle those as the actor in the dramatization also did a fabulous job.
No doubt Queen’s legacy is secure and will continue to hook generations of music lovers. On a parting note I’ll share three recent favorite covers paying tribute to Queen: Peter Hollens‘ “Queen Medley”, 10 Second Songs’ cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody:in 42 styles: and finally Voiceplay‘s 5-mi9nute Queen medley. Enjoy!