40 years ago Queen released Bohemian Rhapsody and music was never the same again. It was an instant hit with the fans while critics struggled to put a label on it. The six minute track opened with a ballad, transitioned into an operatic verse which then seamlessly blended into an epic Brian May facemelter of a guitar solo before ending introspectively as Freddie Mercury’s voice faded in the distant musical horizon.
The original masterpiece
The song has endured, and how! Over the years, various polls have consistently placed this as one of the best compositions in popular music history. Comparisons are often drawn with rock’s another magnum opus, Led Zepp’s Stairway to Heaven. Praise does not get higher than this. Given the complicated nature of the track, any attempt to cover it is fraught with peril. Yet, there are some covers out there prove how much of an influence this song has had on musicians.
Here are five of what I think are the best covers:
The Freddie Murcury Tribute Concert: Queen, Elton John and Axl Rose
As much of a visual delight as it is aural. A few months after Murcury’s death, over 70,000 screaming Queen fans congregated at the iconic Wembley Stadium for the Freddie Murcury Tribute Concert. For this track, the surviving members of Queen, Brian May (guitar), John Deacon (bass) and Roger Taylor (drums) joined forces with Elton John and a kilt-wearing Axl Rose. Watch out for Rose’s epic entrance and 70,000 fans singing along.
The Ten Tenors
This Australian group comprising of 10 classically trained tenors are known for their rendition of popular music ranging from AC/DC to Broadway show-tunes. It is no surprise that these trained musicians chose to train their vocal chords at the Queen masterpiece. The outcome? Hear it for yourself.
The Forest Rangers featuring The White Buffalo, Franky Perez and Billy Valentine
Before proceeding further, it needs to be said that this version is from the excellent Sons Of Anarchy, and much like the TV show, it packs quite the punch. This rendition begins with a kids choir singing the intro and just when you are settling down for the ride, a V-twin bellow of a voice takes over. Best enjoyed from the saddle of a mean old Hog.
Jake Shimabukuro – Ukulele Cover
If you have heard Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s covers of Somewhere over the Rainbow or What a Wonderful Worlld, you know that the ukulele can always add a laid back vibe to any song. This is no different. Jake Shimabukuro walks on to a TED talks stage and blows our minds with this instrumental cover.
Panic! At the Disco
It is not surprising that PATD attempted to cover this song. The Brendon Urie led rock collective are known for their eclectic sound, the kind that was perfected and immortalised by Bohemian Rhapsody itself. The live recording is of great quality and remains faithful to the original recording; perhaps a tad too faithful, in retrospect. You be the judge.
Have I missed any great covers? Do let me know.