This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #317: Somebody to Love by Queen.
History has been very kind to Freddy Mercury and Queen.
However, when I was in my teens in high school on Cape Breton Island, many rude jokes were made about Freddy Mercury as rumours about his sexual orientation crept out. Despite having many great hits such as “Killer Queen”, “You’re My Best Friend”, “Tie Your Mother Down”, “We are The Champions/We Will Rock You”, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Somebody to Love”, no one I knew wore Queen patches on their denim jackets, no one played their songs as they drove their cars with the souped up speakers and of course, no one thought Freddy Mercury was anything other than weird because he was Gay. If you liked him; well, we all know what that would say about you, too.
With the passing of time, opinions on Mr. Mercury have come full circle. He is now regarded as one of the best frontman for any band in Rock n’ Roll history. What a powerful voice! What magnificent stage presence! What a good songwriter, too! And, most importantly of all, his sexual orientation doesn’t matter one whit to the vast majority of the people on this planet. The only aspect of his life that we, as fans, wish were different was his death from A.I.D.S. in 1991, one month before Christmas Eve.
The song, “Somebody To Love” was released in 1976, which was still a time when being Gay carried with the full weight of society’s disapproval. It wasn’t easy for Freddy Mercury to be his true self, any more that it was for any non-heterosexual to be open about who they were and how they loved. As is often the case when a singer/songwriter feels backed into a corner, they write about how they feel. For Mercury, this came out in the form of “Somebody to Love”. In the lyrics to this song, Mercury questions God as to why his life is so hard and why can’t he be happy as he is. It was a risky song to release because of the backlash that could have ensued. However, the song structure, complete with a Gospel-esque choir (as opposed to the English, school/church choir used in Bohemian Rhapsody) ensured that the song would be a hit regardless of what people may have read between the lines. “Somebody to Love” is a showstopper of a song and Freddy Mercury is at his finest as he sings from his heart. *(In 1985, Freddy Mercury met Jim Hutton, an Irishman, who he would spend the remainder of his life with. This obviously means that Mercury did, indeed, find somebody to love. Good for them both).
In 1992, the remaining members of Queen decided to hold a benefit concert at Wembley Stadium in London in honour of their friend, Freddy Mercury. All revenue generated from the sale of tickets and merchandise was being directed towards A.I.D.S.-related charities. While there were many memorable, heartfelt performances during that concert, two stood out for most folks: David Bowie/Annie Lennox with “Under Pressure” (which we will discuss in a future post) and George Michael, backed by a full Gospel choir, with “Somebody to Love”. It was arguably Michael’s best ever live performance. The significance of George Michael (a Gay man, too) standing in so capably and movingly for Mercury and all others who wondered if their moment would ever come served to elevate this performance to the realm of showstopper. I will post his tribute in the Comments section below.
As a high school boy, I had no real opinion about Queen because I didn’t know their music well back then. But, I didn’t correct anybody who mocked him, either. My ignorance for what it means to be a silent accomplice meant that life was probably harder for my classmates who loved differently that I did. For that I unequivocally apologize. One of the gifts that I have received as I matured into adulthood was an appreciation for the beauty of diversity. I am enriched beyond measure by getting the chance to share this planet with those who may follow a different religion, speak a different language, come from a different culture, or possess a different sexual orientation from me. I am the better for it all. My only hope is that I can return the favour by being a worthwhile ally in my present and future days.
Without further delay, here is the incomparable Freddy Mercury and “Queen” with “Somebody To Love”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Somebody To Love” by Queen can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Somebody To Love” by Queen, as covered by George Michael can be found here.
The link to the official website for Queen can be found here.
The link to the official website for George Michael can be found here.
The link to website for The Canadian AIDS Society can be found here.
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