Brian May Recalls When Freddie Mercury Started Becoming A Virtuoso

By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta

September 13, 2021

Freddie Mercury's legacy is that of one of the most groundbreaking frontmen and versatile rock singers of the 20th century.

And while his potential might have been apparent to his Queen bandmates since their earliest gigs, guitarist Brian May points out that it wasn't until the band's first recording session that Freddie started to gain control of his voice.

In a recent deep dive into "Bohemian Rhapsody," YouTube music educator Rick Beato noted how perfectly in tune Freddie's vocals are on the song. May explained that it took a lot of work for Freddie to get to that point.

"He's a self-made man," May said. "He went in the studio — when we first went in [to record] — and he'd been singing with us live; we'd been rehearsing and writing and everything, and he was pretty out of control, I have to say. I mean, even he knew it. You know he'd run around screaming and posing and whatever, but the vocals would be kind of all over the place.

"He went in and we laid I think four tracks down, and Freddie said, 'I'm not having this. This is not good enough. I don't want to sound like that. And he went in again and again and again and worked on it, listening to it coming back and molded himself into that singer. So by the time he's on 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' he's phenomenal."

Freddie was able to sing perfect doubles and harmonies decades before software programs Melodyne were an option. May pointed to Freddie's performance on "You Take My Breath Away" from the following Queen album as another example of the heights he reached as a singer.

"He does an introduction for that where he's multi-tracked all himself, and it's so close it all phases," May continued. "He's so accurate ... it's incredible, and that's not an effect. There is no effect on there whatsoever. You listen to it and it's all delicately phasing with itself, all the separate parts, it's beautiful. I've never heard anybody do that quite to that degree of perfection."

Watch Beato's entire What Makes This Song Great video, featuring May, via the player above.

Photo: Hulton Archive
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