Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"Born to be kings, princes of the universe..."

            Freddie Mercury. I’m sure it’s fair to say that almost everyone has heard his song Bohemian Rhapsody at least once. Whether people love the song or hate it, most don’t know just how extraordinary and groundbreaking the production of Bo Rhap really was. In 1975, the most musically difficult song had a 24 track overdub. Bo Rhap blew this number out of the water, requiring 180 separate overdubs in order to create the song’s operatic feel. By the time it was finished, the tape was nearly transparent! If you haven’t heard it, I’m ashamed of you, and you should pause to listen:
            Now, back to Freddie Mercury. He was born as Farrokh Bulsara on September 5, 1946 in Zanzibar. He moved to London in the 1960s where he attended the Ealing College of Art. Believe it or not, a few of his paintings are rare collector’s items. He also created the design for Queen’s logo, incorporating the astrological signs of the four members.
Fun fact: the shirt that Freddie wears in the Days of Our Lives music video was hand painted by Freddie himself, using his cats as the models. Using this as an example, it’s easy to see why people thought Freddie was a bit eccentric. His stage costumes were often very androgynous and over-the-top (Queen is credited with the beginnings of Glam Rock). One of his goals was to bring ballet to the masses, something that is a theme throughout Queen’s early music videos. Yeah, Freddie Mercury was pretty out there, even for the 1970s (which is really saying something).
            Despite his flamboyant and friendly personality, Freddie was actually pretty shy and kept to himself about his creative process. However, it is known that he kept a keyboard next to his bed in case inspiration would strike while he was sleeping. It seems like Freddie just kind of went for it and threw down whatever came to mind. Then, of course, the other three band members would use their own creative genius to form the ideas into songs.
            And now, the questions everyone has been waiting for since 1975: What inspired Bohemian Rhapsody? And what the heck is it about? Freddie has been reported saying that even he doesn’t know. This begs the question, is he telling the truth? If Freddie doesn’t have a creative process, can he really be considered a creative genius? Absolutely. Here are the four requirements of being creative, as told by Gardner (35-36):
1.      Creative in a domain.
a.       That’s an easy one. Freddie is very musically gifted, as well as the artistic talents on the side.
2.      Regularly exhibit creativity.
a.       Freddie never stopped making music, even up until the day he died. One famous story is that he was very sick from AIDS when he had to shoot the Who Wants to Live Forever music video. When asked if he was too sick to perform, he supposedly downed a shot of whisky, said “I’ll f*****g do it, darling!,” and completed the video in one take.
3.      Devising of new questions.
a.       Especially with their album A Night At the Opera, Queen raised all kinds of questions about music. Most of their music was non-traditional Rock and Roll. Not to mention that Freddie’s stage performances were some of the most electric that people had seen at the time.
4.      Accepted in a particular culture.
a.       People were so divided over Queen’s music that it was laughable. Elton John personally hated Bo Rhap, but the DJ who aired it for the first time was in love with it. Want to see how amazingly widespread Queen’s influence became? Watch this clip from their performance at Live Aid where the entire audience knows the hand motions to Radio Gaga
So, was Freddie Mercury a creative genius? Me and every other die-hard Queen fan will argue that he absolutely was, but looking at Gardner’s definitions, it seems like we have the evidence to back it up. So if you’ve never heard of Queen, or only know Bo Rhap, go check out some of their awesome music! In my opinion, I Want to Break Free has the greatest music video (Queen smashing the patriarchy while dressed in drag) and Somebody to Love is the best song.

P.S. While Freddie is a creative genius, there is no doubt that the other three members of Queen (John Deacon, Roger Taylor, and Brian May) are also geniuses and crazy awesome as well.

(And my embarrassingly extensive Queen knowledge)


  1. First of all, I am a HUGE fan of Bohemian Rhapsody (Bo Rhap), and I love the idea of the post. You do a great job of getting the attention of your readers with your initial facts about the song. 180 overdubs?! That's insane! I also love that you argued against yourself in a way by asking, "If Freddie doesn’t have a creative process, can he really be considered a creative genius?" I've always heard the best way to make an argument is to blatantly state the counterargument. The way you back it up is thorough and fantastic. Really interesting choice in topic.

  2. I think it's important to point out as well that many other artists have listed Queen as their primary source of inspiration. The biggest example? I think of this after watching the Oscars, Lady Gaga. The second part of her name (?) is a direct reference to the Queen song. After a little research apparently she was singing the song and someone called her the lady gaga. Just goes to show how this band's creativity provided a legacy that still continues today.

  3. I love the part commenting on Freddie Mercury being subject to the whim and timing of his creativity. The fact that he kept a keyboard by his bedside was an acknowledgement that he does not control when inspiration will strike. This has been something we see in a lot of the creatives mentioned in class, particularly in the podcast of Elizabeth Gilbert as well. I find this partnership with creativity so interesting, and clearly it worked for Freddie Mercury as he is one of the most notable creatives of our time.


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