In 1986, Queen’s music came alive in the movie The Highlander. The movie is about a Scottish swordsman, a Highlander, who, throughout the movie, becomes conscious that he’s no longer mortal, he is immortal. While reluctant to accept that fact, he is told that if he falls in love that it will be in the end of him. I’m not going to spoil the movie but it’s a Type A ending.
Queen was commissioned to write this song for the movie and, after watching the first cut of the film, Brian May took a liking to it. While in the cab on his way back from viewing the film, Brian wrote the line “Who wants to live forever”. Inspiration came from the scene where Connor Macleod (Christopher Lambert) takes his dying wife Heather (Biettie Edney) in his arms at the time of her death. Due to this powerful and emotion-evoking scene, this scene stuck in Brian’s mind. This would later become the scene where the song is played.
The song is meant to be from the perspective of the main character, the Highlander. This excerpt from the movie lets you in on what his mind set is like during this song: “Being a Highlander isn’t always easy. The immortal beings are able to love us mortals, but then they have to watch us grow old and die while they remain unchanged.” Brian May tapped into this unusual source of agony when he wrote “Who Wants to Live Forever” for the soundtrack. He sings the first verse, while Freddie takes over for the rests of the song.
Another contributing factor to the power of this song was through the music video. Instead of drag queens or raving concerts, this music video is…simple and yet impactful. It was filmed in an old warehouse which made the piece acoustically astounding. While Freddie Mercury stands tall, center stage, and looks as regal as ever in his tuxedo suit, he’s not what draws my attention. This video features the National Philharmonic Orchestra with 40 choir boys. Encapsulating everything are hundreds and hundreds of candles. The entire vibe from the video rests somewhere between chills and pure, theatrical art.
Still not interested? Check out the music video and look for Roger Taylor, the drummer, who stated in an interview for Queen’s Greatest Hits II that during the filming he was belligerently drunk. See if you can spot him!—> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jtpf8N5IDE