The Rock Band Queen and Their Impact on the Issue of AIDS Essay Example
Though they were highly controversial during their time, Queen has come to be known as one of the best rock bands in history. From pushing the boundaries of rock music to embracing sexuality freedom they build a legacy. Now nearly 50 years later, they remain a large influence on musicians today. Not only did Queen change the way artist now create and perform music, but Freddie also heavily impacted stigmas in our society by tackling topics like homosexuality and the AIDS crisis.
Throughout the decades, popularity in music genres have changed, however, Queen remains timeless due to the nature of the extensive variation in their discography. The reason they continue to be everlasting is that they pushed the limitations set upon rock music by experimenting with other sounds and genres, and were innovative in their songwriting. Queen created music that appealed to people of all ages and backgrounds and connected their music with different cultures to be more experimental in their work to produce an original sound. Mercury even commented in an interview on their musical style. “I think, in a funny way, when we do a Queen album they are like four solo projects within themselves…So it is like four little solo projects working side by side then we put them all together.” Each member of the band contributed to writing songs for albums, each differing from the others’ styles. In fact, each member of Queen has written a number one song which has led to all four of them being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. A record no other band has achieved.
The journey to Queen becoming an international sensation was not easy. They released two albums, Queen and Queen II, before they found fame. Their big break took off with the six-minute song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a mock opera as Mercury called it, when it charted at number one for nine weeks straight on the British charts. Queen had taken the traditional English predilection for song structure and tossed it out the window. The song starts off with an a Capella intro and then slowly turns into a piano ballad which serves as the ‘middle’ of the song. Then after the tempo shifts an operatic section filled with lots of Galileo’s follow and the song ends. With the success of the song, Queen became more confident in their creations and continued to create musical masterpieces that broke the standard for song structure such as The Prophet’s Song and In the Lap of the Gods…Revisited. As time went on their music style evolved to fit the eras, their more profound songs came towards the end when Freddie became sick. Yet they still maintained that same spark of creativity in their early and later works.
Even though they were strong together as a band, they each had their own talents. May, Taylor, and Mercury all ventured off course to do solo albums. Each of the three divulged themselves immensely into their works, all showcasing the talent and variations of their creativeness. Freddie’s specifically did well as even on his solo albums he managed to exceed music critics expectations. He continued to experiment with different sounds and even featured Montserrat Cabellé, a Spanish operatic soprano artist, on the Barcelona album. “…artists like Freddie Mercury, who have problematized the deﬁnitions and distinctions of ‘opera’ as a musical form through the appropriation of operatic musical devices, narrative structures and iconography into the sphere of popular music.” As his career progressed Mercury continued to stun people with the extents of his musical abilities. He also advanced in his songwriting ability by using various instruments and artists to help accomplish that unique Freddie sound.
Being the musical icon that they were, Queen became an important part of music history. The way that Queen went about their music was an inspiration to many. The fact that they did what they wanted to do with their music and performances rather than to please what people wanted was what really motivated young artists. Many musicians’ in today’s generation have been influenced by this band. From the Backstreet Boys to 5 Seconds of Summer, Queen has been an inspiration to all. Even Lady Gaga has Queen to thank for as she came up with her stage name after being inspired by their hit song Radio Ga Ga.
Lady Gaga even performed with Brian May himself at one point in her music career. But Queen’s impact stretches even further than just a celebrity’s stage name. The presence that Queen had on stage when they performed was different and innovative for the standards of their time. With today’s musicians they do not simply just sing their songs on stage anymore but put on an entire performance to captivate the crowd. The time and effort spent on routines can be seen in the performances of artists today. Beyoncé’s Coachella performance is a prime example of the extent artists go to keep their audiences captured in today’s world. Her performance was streamed live and drawled in nearly 485 thousand people to see her performance alone.
Going further into the method of Queens performances, it should be known that being a rock band in the 70s and late 80s held many notions of what should be. In the beginning Queen was not always perceived well as they didn’t always follow those boundaries. Then again, Queen wasn’t particularly known to be a cookie-cutter band that stuck to what worked. Queen tended to stray from the ordinary and always performed to shock and wow the crowds. The main thing that stunned audiences was the ever so flamboyant stage presence Mercury put on. During this time being gay was not openly accepted, but rather a very ‘hush hush’ situation. So, Freddie acting wildly eccentric on stage and wearing unconventional clothing made some people look the other away.
Though that didn’t prevent Freddie from being true to himself. When he performed on stage he did so very extravagantly, making their shows a theatrical event. Freddie always wanted to hype up the crowds as much as he possibly could. “… they have an element of humor which I hope come across…If I’m seen to be having fun on stage I think it kind of comes across as just good.” Freddie’s entire goal in his performances was to entertain the crowd as he sang. He ran around on stage and wore the lavish costumes he did to have fun and hoped that his energy would transfer to the crowd. Freddie created a character to show to crowds and even used things like his own microphone as a prop to play around with. Freddie has been dubbed as one of the best front man of all time by many. His most notable performance in Queen was at Live Aid which has be renounced as the best rock concert ever.
As it’s been said, Queen wasn’t afraid to cause a little controversy when it came to their music. Their one song ‘I Want to Break Free’ was not a problem for the band until they released the music video. When filming the music video for the song the band decided to dress in drag to do a parody of sort for a UK soap opera to represent the female empowered song. Though it was actually Taylor’s idea, the band, Freddie specifically, was scrutinized by the American media for being too homosexual, and was even banned by MTV. However, their somewhat severed relation with the US did little to their confidence as dressing in drag eventually became a somewhat common occurrence for Queen. In Mercury’s ‘The Great Pretender’ video from his solo album he and Roger Taylor again dressed up in drag. And at Mercury’s 39th birthday party he celebrated by throwing a large and extravagant party with a requirement that everyone come in drag.
Freddie made many distinct decisions in life that made him the icon he was, but his most prominent mark left was during the AIDS crisis. AIDS became a national crisis in the U.S. around the early 1980s. It was an increasing epidemic that almost specifically targeted gay men. It became known to the public as the ‘gay disease’ and thus caused for many people to turn a blind eye. But that would soon change when Freddie Mercury passed away from AIDS on November 24th, 1991. Though the media questioned him repeatedly, he did not address his illness until the day before he died. However, his death quickly became a very prominent event during the AIDS crisis. In a TIME, newsletter Freddie Mercury is mentioned. “But getting stars to speak up was vital at a time when President Reagan’s administration ‘was in total denial,’ as Bayer puts it, and more treatment options were desperately needed. And by the time Mercury died, it was already clear that celebrities could make a major difference. Case in point: Rock Hudson.” What this quote is trying to convey is that when Mercury fell ill to AIDS it was during a period when the government refused to look into treatments and people with the disease were either too afraid to speak up or were ignored because of people’s denial. However, when he died and admitted to the public just hours before that he had the disease, it sparked hope in others with the disease to speak up. Rock Hudson as mentioned in the quote is one of the celebrities who spoke up about his disease after Mercury’s death.
As for the actual members of Queen, the three decided to set up the Mercury Phoenix Trust in Freddie’s name shortly after his death to help raise funding for AIDS research and even made arrangements to put on a tribute concert involving many famous artists to raise awareness for AIDS. The Freddie Mercury Tribute to this day is the largest tribute concert put on for a deceased musician. With all 72,000 tickets sold out in just under five hours and watched by an estimated one billion people, it was a major event that helped in acknowledging the AIDS crisis. Taylor, May, and Decan had set up The Mercury Phoenix Trust as a way to help raise awareness for AIDS and support the medical research into finding a cure. “…The mercury phoenix trust works on is still awareness…awareness and education.” In an old interview Brian May talks about the true mission of the trust to this day and how it has been put in place to help with the AIDS/HIV epidemic. In the last 21 years the trust foundation has raised and given away $15 million in Freddie’s name and has funded over seven hundred projects to help combat the global fight against AIDS/HIV.
Queen as a whole was a cultural phenomenon that took the world by storm with their musical talents and outlandish ideas. Their unique direction of music has captivated people all around the world to this day. Through expressing themselves in any way through music and stage presence, Queen shifted the idea of musicians. Their legacy lives on still and has influenced the musicians of today in how they perform and create music. Some musicians in today’s entertainment have even spoken on how Queen was an inspiration to them. However, Queen was not simply just another rock band.
With front-man Freddie Mercury they became much more as they helped in transforming the cultures around controversial topics. With Mercury being a gay man in his time while being as successful as he was helped to destigmatize the homophobic culture around the LGBT+ community. He and the other members even expressed freedom in their sexualities and indulged themselves in other cultures. Even on his deathbed, Mercury was still shaking up the world. Hours before his death he revealed he had AIDS and after his death the support of fans helped bring more awareness to AIDS as they mourned him. So, by stepping outside the boundaries assigned Queen became a living icon in music history as their journey of self-expression and uniqueness has become an influence for all.