Sean Slaughter singing "Somebody to Love"

April 26, 2012

Queen: Rock 'n' roll royalty

What has made the band and its music so popular for so long? The songs, the smarts and the showmanship.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

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"A Night at the Opera" (1975)

"A Day at the Races" (1976)

"News of the World" (1977)

"Jazz" (1978)

"The Game" (1980)

"Greatest Hits I & II" (1995)

Ludwig said there were some emotionally powerful moments for him while working on the remastering, from hearing stuff he'd never heard before to listening to vocals that lead singer Freddie Mercury laid down near the end of his life. Mercury died in 1991 of bronchopneumonia, a complication of AIDS.

"Freddie knew he was dying, and he did those vocals knowing the band would have to finish them up for him," said Ludwig.


Queen formed in London in 1971 with Mercury, May, Taylor and bassist John Deacon. The band was originally influenced by progressive rock, but a few years into recording, they were turning out radio-friendly rock such as "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Killer Queen" and "Keep Yourself Alive." All of these were theatrical productions, and featured vocal gymnastics by Mercury and the rest of the band.

The album "A Night at the Opera" (1975) began a decade-long hit streak for Queen that included "We Are The Champions/We Will Rock You," which is played at virtually every kind of sporting event today, from high school basketball to NFL football.

The band's hitmaking prowess began to fade in the mid-'80s in the States, but after Mercury's death in 1991, its back catalog returned to the charts in a big way thanks to exposure in the film "Wayne's World" and a 1992 tribute concert for Mercury containing superstar renditions of classic songs -- most notably George Michaels' performance of "Somebody to Love" with the surviving members of Queen, which hit No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Today, Queen's music can be found all over the pop-culture landscape, from television shows like "Glee" and "American Idol" to "We Will Rock You: The Musical," a "Mamma Mia!"-style show built around the band's hits. And the songs' over-the-top productions and arrangements make them tailor-made for symphonic renditions like that of the PSO.

Portland rock radio host Mark Curdo of WCYY (94.3 FM) says Queen's music lives on today because Queen changed what it meant to be a rock band. Curdo thinks May's guitar style, Taylor's drumming and Mercury's skill and charisma at being a frontman raised the level of musicianship in rock, and challenged other bands to be better.

"To me, Queen elevated the game of being a rock band. They were so much more. They had great songs and great production, but they made rock music bigger than it had ever been," said Curdo. "The pageantry and excellence in musicianship Queen brought to rock music will influence artists forever."

Forever's a long time, but we're already at 40 years and counting. 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: RayRouthier


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