Blending a sense of tough masculinity with bizarre glamour, progressive rock and edgy metal, and pop pleasantries ("You're My Best Friend") with operatic classics ("Bohemian Rhapsody"), Queen became one of the most successful rock bands of the 70s and early 80s. Brian May's raucous guitar kept their guns blazing, but it was lead singer Freddie Mercury's quirky humor, rangy vocals and consummate showmanship which made Queen a premier concert attraction.
The band formed in England in 1971 after guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, who together had been in the bands Beat Unlimited and a college group called Smile, joined with singer and sometime piano player Mercury. Bassist John Deacon joined shortly thereafter, and they were signed to EMI Records. Their first single "Keep Yourself Alive" and self-titled debut album Queen came out in '73, but it was 74's Sheer Heart Attack which put them on the map.
It went to number two in the UK and "Killer Queen" became the band's first U.S. hit.
The 1975 release of the masterpiece A Night At The Opera would make them superstars, staying on the top of the British charts for nine weeks. The album had a little bit of everything including the seven minute single "Bohemian Rhapsody", a mini opera written by Mercury. They put together a video for the song, which in the pre MTV days was a rarity.
1976's A Day At The Races, included the single, "Somebody To Love," and in 1977, News of the World went Top Ten with its double-A sided "We Will Rock You," written by May, and Mercury's "We Are The Champions". "Champions" was supposedly a gay rights song that was ironically overtaken by its use as a macho anthem for winning sports teams worldwide. The hits kept coming on 1978's Jazz, which included another double A hit single, "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Bicycle Race".
The Game gave Queen their first U.S. number 1 album in July 1980. The group's soundtrack for the movie Flash Gordon was another success, and late in 1981, they scored with "Under Pressure," a collaboration with David Bowie. After a flurry of solo ventures, the group returned in fine form in 1984 with the satirical "Radio Gaga" followed by "I Want To Break Free" and its controversial cross-dressing video.
After a stunning performance at 1985's Live Aid, Queen's members concentrated on solo activities until 1991's Innuendo gave them their third UK #1, and the album of the same name also topped the UK charts. The career of the group effectively ended with the death from AIDS of lead singer Freddie Mercury in 1991. "Bohemian Rhapsody" was immediately reissued to raise money for AIDS research projects, and soared to the top of the British charts. The song also climbed to #2 in 1992 after featuring in the movie Wayne's World, outperforming its original entry.
A memorial concert for Mercury took place at London's Wembley Stadium on May 20 1992, featuring Liza Minnelli, Elton John, Guns N'Roses, George Michael, David Bowie and Annie Lennox. Of the remaining members Brian May's solo career enjoyed the highest profile, while Roger Taylor worked with the Cross.
In 2002, May, Deacon and Taylor collaborated with comedian and novelist Ben Elton on a musical featuring Queen's songs. Developed in association with Robert De Niro's Tribeca Productions, We Will Rock You opened at London's Dominion Theatre on 14 May.