When it comes to covering Freddie Mercury’s top ten songs as he and his Queen bandmates rocked the worldwide audience, this is no easy task to pull off. The majority of Queen’s biggest hits came from Mercury’s songwriting genius, which was backed by one of the best singing voices ever to grace the music industry. The date of this article’s write-up is December 22, 2022, thirty-one after his November 24, 1991 death. Even though it has been over three decades since his passing, his legacy continues to keep him alive and well in the hearts of millions of fans worldwide.
Born to Parsi-Indian parents as Farrokh Bulsara on September 5, 1946, the icon we know as Freddie Mercury spent the majority of his childhood at St. Peter’s Boarding School for Boys near Bombay, India. It was while at school he began responding to Freddie as his first name instead of Farrokh. When he was twelve years old, he formed the Hectics, a school band that covered songs belonging to Cliff Richard and Little Richard. By this time, the piano lessons he took were paying off but this wasn’t the only thing he had going for him. Thanks to Mercury’s extra incisors, he was able to use this vocal talent to his advantage which would eventually earn him recognition as one of the best singers in music history.
In addition to his vocal talent, Mercury had a knack for the piano. After graduating in 1963, he moved in with his parents, who were now living in Zanzibar, India. This was where Freddie Mercury was born before temporarily moving to England. However, the violence during the Zanzibar Revolution escalated to the point where the Bulsara family household fled back to England in order to escape it. While in the UK, Mercury studied graphic art and design in college until he earned his diploma in 1969. Fans of Queen may recognize its trademarked logo as an example of Mercury’s work.
With schooling now behind him, Mercury began to work at the Kensington Market. This is where he met Roger Taylor. As coworkers at the market, the two formed a friendship that included rooming together in a flat in London, England. At the time, Taylor had no idea Mercury had a singing voice. Up until 1970, these two men were performing in their own bands before Mercury rose to the occasion when Roger Taylor’s band, Smile, just lost their lead singer, Tim Staffell.
The lineup of Smile featured Brian May, Freddie Mercury, and Roger Taylor. In 1971, they welcomed John Deacon as their bass guitarist. It was also at this time that Smile’s name would be changed to Queen. This was a decision that first met with mixed reactions from the band members after Freddie Mercury suggested it. When it was pointed the idea was to come across as regality and not as a homosexual concept, the reservations gave way to see the potential behind this new name. It was also at this time Freddie Bulsara officially changed his name to Freddie Mercury. The decision to make this his new legal name came while he wrote the lyrics to the song, “My Fair King.”
When Queen debuted in 1973 with its self-titled album, Mercury designed the band’s own crest that featured a combination of zodiac signs. According to the zodiac sign chart, John Deacon and Roger Taylor were Leos while Brian May’s astrological sign was Cancer. Mercury’s was Virgo. So, the crest featured two lions, a crab, and two fairies that were designed around “Q” while the crown and the flaming phoenix were displayed inside.
Aside from Freddie Mercury’s incredible talent as a pianist, singer, and songwriter, he had the unique ability to wow the crowd, unlike any other stage performer. He was notorious for encouraging the audience to do more than just sit, watch, and listen. This was evident in their concerts, including the one held at Queen’s Wembley Stadium during the 1985 Live Aid concert. As far as fans, music critics, and even peers were concerned, Queen utterly stole the show as the grand highlight of a multi-band, multi-location concert that was arranged by Bob Geldof and his crew. Everywhere Mercury went, the room lit up. For a man that was also known to be shy, becoming the center of attention almost seemed supernatural.
Throughout the 1970s, scores of recording artists struggled to stand head over heels above the competition as they fought for the admiration of the fans, as well as the big record deals that would secure their future. For Queen, this was not a problem. As pointed out in the 2018 movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, EMI Records made a huge mistake by challenging Freddie Mercury and his Queen bandmates to favor red tape over creative expression. While the movie suggested Queen left EMI, the truth of the matter is Queen forced EMI’s hand by arranging for a DJ friend to play “Bohemian Rhapsody” on British radio. Throughout the 1970s, and even into the 1990s, Queen continually pushed the boundaries of musical creativity. Speaking from a fan’s point of view, only the charismatic Freddie Mercury was able to pull off what so many other artists attempted to do but failed. He knew how to wake people up without having to be so political about it. As flamboyant as he came across on stage, there was a deeply serious and sensitive man. He was bold enough to fight for what he believed in while at the same time remaining humble enough to be so likable.
We Are Queen
In 1990, Queen was recognized by the Brit Awards for its Outstanding Contribution to British Music. This occurred a second time in 1992 but strictly to Freddie Mercury as an individual. Then in 2001, Queen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ten years after Freddie Mercury’s death. Two years later the group was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004, it was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. From there, Queen was also awarded a British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors’ Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection. When looking back to the earliest roots of Queen, the regality Freddie Mercury saw in the band certainly came to light after making so many great achievements.
Top 10 Freddie Mercury Queen Songs
#10 – Bicycle Race
Complimenting Brian May’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” was Freddie Mercury’s “Bicycle Race.” While May had Mercury sing about the female form with his song, Mercury’s performance of “Bicycle Race” included the vision of those same beautiful women. This was designed to be a fun song, which became evident with the ringing that came from the bicycle bells. The album Jazz featured “Bicycle Race” as Mercury’s take in the delight of riding his bike while also sharing his views about culture, politics, and religion. His dancing range between low and high notes was what made “Bicycle Race” a distinct favorite among fans who found this to be an enjoyable song to listen to. It also became a favorite tune used in commercials and other media footage that involved bicycles and motorcycles.
#9 – Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy
In 1976’s A Day at the Races, “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy” was a song written and sung by Freddie Mercury as someone waiting with anticipation for a night of romance. He, along with his Queen bandmates, realized yet another hit as this one peaked as high as number seventeen on the UK Singles Chart. Mercury performed this song as Queen’s lead singer, as well as the pianist. Although “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy” didn’t appear on any official US Billboard charts, it did become certified gold after selling 500,000 copies. It also was certified silver in the UK.
#8 – Princes of the Universe
Written by Freddie Mercury, “Princes of the Universe” was one of the songs he and his fellow Queen bandmates composed and performed for the 1986 movie and soundtrack, Highlander. This also became the theme song for the television series that followed it. That ran from 1992 until 1998. As the lead singer, Mercury performed as one of the immortals of a storyline that featured men and women living extended lifetimes compared to their mortal counterparts. Although the song itself didn’t chart anywhere else than Australia (it peaked at number thirty-two), it became a familiar global favorite. This became especially true after Adrian Paul starred as Duncan MacLeod on a popular television series that picked up where Christopher Lambert’s character, Connor MacLeod, left off from the movie and its sequels.
#7 – Don’t Stop Me Now
Released in 1979, “Don’t Stop Me Now” came from the album Jazz. This became a favorite song of choice featured in movies, television, and commercials. After 2004’s zombie-themed movie Shaun of the Dead was released, the popularity of Queen’s classic spiked to become a major fan favorite. Written and vocally performed by Freddie Mercury, this served as a revelation-style song for himself and his bandmates. They realized they were learning how to simply relax and enjoy making the music they were recording instead of stressing so much. Queen’s trademark musical sounds are heard loud and clear here with the multitrack vocals and instrumental composition. What’s heard in Jazz was a softer version than the guitar-heavy one that was featured in the Bohemian Rhapsody: The Original Soundtrack that was released in 2018. However, it was titled “Don’t Sto Me Now… Revisited.”
#6 – Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Imagine if Freddie Mercury sang this song during an era when a young Elvis Presley was first making a name for himself in the music industry. Believe it or not, the style of music Queen poured into “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” actually had some lesser-informed fans assume it came from some of Presley’s earlier work. However, this was a song written by Freddie Mercury in 1979. It was actually Mercury’s genius to come up with a song that suitably paid homage to Elvis Presley, as well as his other idol, Cliff Richard.
When it was released, it was popular enough to become a number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as Australia’s Kent Report, and the Canada Top Singles chart. It was also a number-one hit in the Netherlands. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number two. Among the majority of nations around the world, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was at least a top ten hit. In sales as a single, it was certified platinum with the BPI and the RIAA, as well as gold in Denmark, Italy, and the Netherlands.
#5 – Killer Queen
“Killer Queen” was the hit single from the 1974 album, Sheer Heart Attack. Written and sung by Freddie Mercury, this became a number-two hit for Queen on the UK Singles Chart. It was also the first song for Queen to appear on the US Billboard Hot 100 as it peaked as high as number twelve. This somewhat playful tune featured Mercury singing about a popular call girl who catered to a high-class collection of customers willing to pay for her services. Globally, “Killer Queen” became a fan favorite that was at least a top ten hit in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway.
In 2018, this song charted again after the movie Bohemian Rhapsody brought some of Queen’s greatest classics back to life. That year witnessed “Killer Queen” peak as high as number twelve on the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. In sales, it became certified double platinum with the Recording Industry Association of America. It also became platinum in the British Phonographic Industry. In Denmark, Italy, and Portugal, “Killer Queen” was certified gold.
#4 – Somebody to Love
From A Day at the Races, “Somebody to Love” was an easy-listening song about Queen’s quest to find that special someone to make life feel more complete. In order to achieve the impact the song’s writer, Freddie Mercury hoped for, a gospel choir was brought in. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number one. The US Billboard Hot 100 peaked “Somebody to Love” as high as number thirteen. The genius behind Queen’s performance of this song was meshing gospel and rock together in a beautifully harmonious tune that won over fans from two very different genres of music. In many ways, this served as inspiration for Christian groups to step up their creativity to shape contemporary Christian music into a new level of prominence it hadn’t achieved before.
#3 – We Are the Champions
Usually on the radio, “We Are the Champions” is a song that’s played directly behind “We Will Rock You.” Written by Freddie Mercury, this slow-paced song serves as a stark contrast to the thumpy song that was written by guitarist Brian May. The popularity and timelessness of “We Are the Champions” is so immense that it becomes a standard in sporting venues each time the winning team earns a championship. This was a song designed to get the audience involved, encouraging them to sing along in what really is a song about triumph.
As a single, “We Are the Champions” became a number four hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, when paired up with “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions” was a number two hit. Globally, this became a top-ten hit in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway. Between 1992 and 2019, “We Are the Champions” appeared in multiple music charts worldwide, peaking as high as number eleven on the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. That happened in 2018, the same year the movie about Freddie Mercury and Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” came out.
#2 – Under Pressure (featuring David Bowie)
“Under Pressure” was a song that was credited to Queen as a songwriter but John Deacon pointed out this was Freddie Mercury’s brainchild more than anything. While Mercury sang as lead vocalist, David Bowie also shared this role with his signature sound. This was a collaborated number that became a concert staple from the year it was released in 1981 until 1986. “Under Pressure” became a number-one hit on the Canada Top Singles Chart, the UK Singles Chart, and the Netherlands. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number twenty-nine. Among several nations, “Under Pressure” became a top ten hit. It was one of Queen’s most dramatic songs that remains a cult favorite among scores of fans who will testify this is their personal favorite. The builds, the riffs, and how beautifully Bowie and Mercury played off each other as vocalists were what made this song become so legendary.
This was also a song that got Vanilla Ice into trouble when he sampled it for his 1990 single “Ice Ice Baby.” When the song was released, he failed to acknowledge David Bowie and Queen in the songwriting credits. It was enough to file a lawsuit in order to correct this mistake. From the 1982 album, Hot Space, the July 1981 recording of this song took place at the same time and location as David Bowie while he was recording “Cat People (Putting Out Fire).” The two artists met and Queen realized the missing element to turn “Under Pressure” into a potential hit was David Bowie.
#1 – Bohemian Rhapsody
“Bohemian Rhapsody” isn’t just a song. This became Queen’s statement to the music industry that nobody was going to dictate to the band how things should be done as a recording artist. This came from the 1975 album, A Night at the Opera. Written by Freddie Mercury, this six-minute mock opera didn’t hold anything back. “Bohemian Rhapsody” bounced back and forth between musical styles from ballads to hard rock until it came to an end with the trademark hit against the giant cymbal at the end. This song was performed as a progressive story that featured the protagonist, sung by Freddie Mercury. Not only was this regarded as one of the greatest rock songs in history, but it also became Queen’s most popular.
When “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released for the first time, it peaked at the very top of the UK Singles Chart. When it was released again in 1991 after Freddy Mercury’s death, it topped the UK Singles Chart a second time. It also became a chart-topper in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. The US Billboard Hot 100 peaked “Bohemian Rhapsody” at number nine in 1976, then at number two in 1992 after it was featured in the movie, Wayne’s World. In 2004, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Since its release, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has earned diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America.
What “Bohemian Rhapsody” did was open up new doors for so many recording artists. With so many styles of music covered in just under six minutes of one of the most genius songs ever created, it showed just how talented Queen was as a group. It also showed how brilliant Freddie Mercury was as a singer and songwriter. He turned a simple guy into an anti-hero with so much passion that this easily became Queen’s signature song. It was enough to use it as a title for the 2018 movie that focused on Freddie Mercury and Queen as a band that revolutionized the music genre at every level.
Updated October 13, 2023
Top 10 Freddie Mercury Queen Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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