Members: John Deacon, Brian May, Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor
Origin: London, England, UK
Years Active: 1971 – present
A one-of-a-kind foursome that combined Hard Rock bombast, singsongy music hall Pop, and campy Glam Rock theatricality, Queen rode its unlikely mix of elements to massive worldwide success, reigning as one of the world’s most popular bands for nearly 20 years.
Queen formed in London in 1971, when singer Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) teamed with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor to form a new group. Bassist John Deacon joined shortly afterward. The band’s self-titled debut album arrived in 1973, followed by a string of ’70s albums — Queen II, Sheer Heart Attack, A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, News of the World, and Jazz. Each achieved ever-increasing commercial success.
1975’s A Night At the Opera was reportedly the most expensive Rock album ever made at the time, but it yielded the ambitious multi-part mini-opera “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which became Queen’s breakthrough hit in the United States. 1980’s The Game brought their biggest U.S. success, spawning diverse hits in the mock-Rockabilly, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and the hard-rocking Funk, “Another One Bites the Dust.” The following year’s Greatest Hits and 1982’s Hot Space both included the David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure,” which became a worldwide hit.
Queen’s popularity in the U.S. and Britain began to wane in the ’80s. This led to the band spending several years concentrating its touring efforts on Asia, Latin America, and Africa, resulting in a large audience in those markets. A powerful performance at the Live Aid benefit concert in 1985 helped to reignite the band’s U.K. popularity, although their ’80s work didn’t find a wide audience in the U.S.
By end of the ’80s, Queen had scaled back its activities amid rumors of Mercury being seriously ill. On November 23, 1991, the singer issued an announcement that he had AIDS; he died the following day. The band’s three surviving members reunited in 1992 for the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness at London’s Wembley Stadium. The concert was a success and provided startup funding for the new HIV/AIDS charity organization, Mercury Phoenix Trust. The concert featured such guests as David Bowie, Def Leppard, Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, Annie Lennox, and Metallica.
Although Deacon retired from music in 1997, May and Taylor have remained active. Starting in 2004, May and Taylor revived the Queen name to tour with former Free and Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers as, “Queen + Paul Rodgers.” May and Taylor specifically noted that the vocalist would not be replacing Freddie Mercury as the singer for Queen. The collaboration led to lengthy and very successful world tours, and both a studio and live album, but ended in 2009. May and Taylor then partnered with American Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert for “Queen + Adam Lambert” in 2011. Since then, the collaboration has toured globally several times and released two live albums. Bohemian Rhapsody, a biographic film about the band, and aspects of Mercury’s private life, was released in 2018. It was a commercial success and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama. Rami Malek won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Mercury in the film.
Queen’s influence can be heard across numerous genres and a wide variety of artists and musicians, including Adele, Faith Hill, Foo Fighters, George Michael, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Muse, and Radiohead. Meanwhile, the original band’s ’70s catalog remains a cornerstone of Classic Rock radio.