I love late 1970s and 1980s rock and roll, and my husband and I have been seeing some of our favorite, iconic bands while they are still touring. Some good friends invited us to join them at a Queen concert last week in Boston, and it was fantastic.
Of course, we knew that since the premature death of Freddie Mercury at the age of 45 in 1991, it would not be the same as back at the height of their popularity, but we had heard good things about American vocalist Adam Lambert who has been partnering with Roger Taylor and Brian May of Queen for the last twelve years. As a runner-up in 2009’s American Idol, Lambert’s voice, persona and familiarity with all the Queen hits made for an amazing experience – definitely worth flying to Boston for, especially as they played all our favorite hits! We were not disappointed with the music or the showmanship.
So, what is the story of the British musicians who founded this legendary rock band? In 1970, London was a vibrant hub for rock music, when vocalist Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor created Queen. The following year bassist John Deacon joined, and the band became more mainstream by the mid-1970s with hits like ‘Killer Queen’ and the iconic number one hit ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in 1975. Apparently, the band was in an elevator (the British call it a lift) when they found out they had reached the top of the charts and their euphoric jumping up and down caused it to stop between floors for a while. As Freddie Mercury commented, thankfully they did not suffocate! In July 2012, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was voted the UK’s Favourite (British spelling) Number One Single of all-time, beating 1200 other chart-toppers in the 60-year history of the UK charts.
Back in Boston last week, we were impressed how Adam Lambert honored Freddie Mercury during the show, even weaving a short recording of Freddie performing into the show. Anyone who has seen 2018’s biographical musical drama movie, also called ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, will be familiar with some of the history of the original lead singer of Queen. His given name was Farrokh Bulsara and although he was British, he was born in the British territory of Zanzibar and spent some of his childhood in India because of his Father’s work for the British government. Moving to England and studying in London in the late 1960s, he met Brian May and Roger Taylor who were part of the band Smile. When that band’s lead singer quit, Farrokh took on the role, changed the band’s name to Queen and his own to Freddie Mercury.
Adam Lambert also showed great respect and appreciation for what he described as ‘rock and roll legends’ Brian May and Roger Taylor – and for men in their mid-70s, I was very impressed. Brian May is not only a brilliant guitarist, building his own red guitar as a teenager, but also an extremely intelligent man. He has a bachelor’s degree and a PHD in astrophysics from Imperial College London, and he applied his knowledge of physics to the recording studio, creating echoes for soundtracks. He is a published author and devoted to animal welfare. Earlier this year King Charles awarded him a knighthood for services to music and charity. He appears to have made a complete recovery from the near fatal heart attack he experienced in 2020.
Drummer Roger Taylor also showed energy and skill last week. As a teenager he played the ukulele and guitar before turning to drums. He studied biology and dentistry before committing to music as a career. He has also had a successful solo career alongside his ongoing participation in Queen. Taylor was a key player in the creation of the mega-successful London musical We Will Rock You, a futuristic production inspired by the songs and creativity of Queen that my husband and I saw before emigrating to the USA in 2009. By the way, don’t be confused by the other famous drummer – Roger Taylor of Duran Duran, who rose to fame a few years later than Queen.
There is a lot more information at www.britannica.com.
I will leave you this week with a quote from Freddy Mercury himself, which proved to be accurate: “I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend.” He definitely is and his legacy lives on.
God Bless America!
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