I have a lot of thoughts swimming around in my brain right now, and I’m not sure how much of it I’m ready to share at this point. So instead, this week I’ll skip all that and write about one of my other recurring themes on this site: rediscovering a great song from an earlier time in my life. This time the song is “Innuendo” by Queen.
Queen was a British band active from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. I did not grow up listening to Queen. I was vaguely aware that there was a band called Queen, and my earliest memories of hearing music on the radio as a preschooler include a song called Another One Bites The Dust, but I don’t think I connected the name Queen to that song until I started actually listening to Queen in my mid-teens. Much of Queen’s later work was far more popular in Europe than in the USA, for a variety of reasons, so they were absent from the music that was around me in elementary school and my early teens.
Queen experienced a resurgence of popularity in the USA in the winter of 1991-92, for two reasons: lead singer Freddie Mercury’s death, and the release of the movie Wayne’s World, which featured a scene where the main characters drive around singing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I was watching MTV a lot at the time, I was 15, and the channel often aired both tributes to the recently deceased Freddie Mercury and a remixed music video of Bohemian Rhapsody, combining scenes from Wayne’s World with scenes from the original 1975 music video. Queen was one of the first bands I got into whose heyday was before my time.
Despite this, however, my knowledge of Queen does not extend deep into their catalog, beyond their two greatest hits albums and the 2005 live CD from the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour. (In this century, after Freddie Mercury’s death, two of the original members of Queen, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, have done tours performing Queen songs with other lead singers, but they have billed themselves as “Queen + [whoever is on vocals]” rather than just Queen.) Innuendo, the song I posted above, was on the album of the same name, the last released in Mercury’s lifetime, but not on the US version of either of the two greatest hits albums. Until a few weeks ago, I had heard the song exactly once. I was in the car at some point in late high school; by that time I knew enough Queen music to recognize Freddie’s voice, but this was not a song I had heard before. A few weeks ago, I was looking up something about Queen on Wikipedia (who knows why, it’s me and it’s Wikipedia, that’s enough of a reason), and I came upon a mention of the song Innuendo, and I thought, that’s that song I remember hearing once, the one that goes “yeah, we’ll keep on fighting.” I should go listen to it, because it’s 2018 and you can find stuff like that on the Internet. So I did. (And I was wrong; the song contains the lines “we’ll keep on trying,” and “we’ll keep on smiling,” but no “we’ll keep on fighting.” It is definitely the song I was thinking of, though.)
Freddie Mercury died of AIDS-related complications less than a year after this song was released. Rumors had long circulated about Freddie having been in sexual relationships with men, and when some noticed his health declining, rumors had circulated about his having contracted AIDS. But Freddie never said anything public about either of these topics until days before his death. By the time Innuendo was recorded, the band knew that Freddie was dying.
And this is a really deep song, full of great quotes that can be interpreted as wisdom from one nearing the end of his life to pass on to the next generation, the kind of wisdom I need to hear these days.
While [all this variety of bad stuff happens in the world]… oh yes, we’ll keep on trying.
You can be anything you want to be.
And whatever will be will be, till the end of time.
Thank you, Internet, for helping me unpack this song that’s been stuck in a corner of my brain for the last quarter-century.