Ahhhh back to one of my first introductions to Queen…
A Day at the Races, Queen’s first completely self-produced album, was released in 1976 with one very important track: Somebody to Love. It has been widely reputed to have been Freddie Mercury’s favorite song that he has ever wrote. Where did this inspiration come from though? Why is it so meaningful to him? I’ve come up with two reasons:
- When it comes to music, Aretha Franklin was one of Freddie Mercury’s biggest female role models. Her success as a soul singer as well as her fantastic voice landed her the nickname “Queen of Soul”. Her gospel songs inspired much of Freddie Mercury’s religious work, including “Somebody to Love.” Even his bandmates accepted his idol and worked their hardest to incorporate her feel into their music. Roger Taylor, Queen’s drummer, once said in an interview that, “‘Somebody to Love’ is Aretha Franklin-influenced. Freddie’s very much into that. We tried to keep that track in a loose, gospel-type feel. I think it’s the loosest track we’ve ever done.”
- As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Freddie was the self-proclaimed loneliest man in the world. The lyrics reflect a man calling out to God, asking why he works so hard, but can’t find love. A reflection of Freddie’s own love life. At the end of the song, the man finds hope and decides that he will not accept defeat, an ending that, were Freddie Mercury still alive, I would hope he would accomplish for himself.
Now for my favorite part: the music. Like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a major hit from Queen’s previous album, this song has a complex layering of vocal tracks which allows for one person to record themselves more than once in the same song. Unlike previously, this time the vocals were based on a gospel choir arrangement. Mercury, May, and Taylor multi-tracked their voices to create the impression of a 100-voice gospel choir. While you may have pity for John Deacon, Queen’s bassist and the only band member not to sing vocals on the track, don’t. He bowed down gracefully and on his own terms. Peter Hince, the head of Queen’s road crew at the time, recalled to Mojo Magazine that the video was “…filmed at Wessex Studios while they were making the A Day at the Races album.” He added: “Aesthetically, you had to have all four around the microphone, but John (Deacon) didn’t sing on the records. By his own admission he didn’t have the voice. He did sing on-stage but the crew always knew to keep the fader very low.”
The lyrics, especially combined with the gospel influence, create a song about faith, desperation and soul-searching; the singer questions both the lack of love experienced in his life and the role and existence of God.
Check it out here—> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kijpcUv-b8M