Brian May Says Queen’s Spirit Died With Freddie Mercury — How They Carried on ‘by Accident’

While classic rock fans will have a multitude of different answers regarding who their favorite bands are, they’re far likelier to agree about Queen’s role in music history. The “Bohemian Rhapsody” hitmakers, of course, emerged as one of the world’s most popular bands in the 1970s and 1980s. But the death of frontman Freddie Mercury in 1991 could have ended their legacy. Now co-founder Brian May explains how Queen soldiered on in the decades since then.

Freddie Mercury of Queen makes a fist on stage as he sings into a microphone.
Freddie Mercury of Queen | Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage

Freddie Mercury’s 1991 death shook the music world

Though Queen’s self-titled debut album released in 1973, it was “Bohemian Rhapsody” which secured them as a crossover hit in North America. Throughout the years, many more hit songs would follow. Tracks like “We Are the Champions,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Under Pressure” are as recognizable today as they were when they first released.

However, Mercury tragically died of bronchial pneumonia, a complication of AIDS, in November 1991. His death silenced not only one of music’s most distinctive voices but left Queen with no seemingly no way forward. The band once again hit the charts when “Bohemian Rhapsody” appeared in 1992 film Wayne’s World. But 1995’s Made in Heaven album remains Queen’s last.

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Brian May credits Queen’s continued life to a fateful meeting

But Queen didn’t fade away completely. Although the band hasn’t released much in the way of new music since Mercury’s death, it remains active in other ways. In an interview with Louder Sound, May explained why he and Queen co-founder Roger Taylor assumed Queen was done.

“Oh, we thought it was over. Roger and I were convinced it would be impossible to carry on. As soon as we lost Freddie, the spirit was gone. We didn’t even have the desire, to be honest. Made In Heaven was supposed to be the final chapter, then we both plugged into our solo work. And then completely by accident we met Paul Rodgers, and we thought: ‘Maybe let’s work with this guy who was a hero to us, and see what happens.’”

Rodgers is founder and former lead singer of bands Free and Bad Company. And after May and Taylor hit it off with him, a collaboration was born. The resulting musical act toured as “Queen + Paul Rodgers” in 2005. It marked Queen’s first tour since the mid-1980s.

Queen continues to tour and thrill audiences worldwide

In that tour with Rodgers, Queen found a way to keep their legacy alive. Of course, Mercury had a talent that could never be duplicated or replaced. But the band has often teamed up with other artists to present their impressive catalog of hits in a whole new way. Most notably, singer Adam Lambert has performed with Queen since 2012, leading to many successful tours.

The band’s ability to tour with other artists has certainly contributed greatly to the band’s status in music history. Longtime fans still get the chance to see Queen perform on stage, and new fans can discover the iconic music that Mercury helped create decades earlier. As May said, Mercury is very much the “spirit” of Queen. But at least in some way, that spirit carries on.

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