Rock legend Freddie Mercury would have turned 67 today. It's astonishing to think it's been 22 years since his death. He left behind a musical legacy with Queen that is untouchable. Many Queen songs have become integral cornerstones of rock and roll history -- think of the cultural impact of "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You," "Killer Queen," and "Another One Bites the Dust," just to name a very few.
Queen continued recording as long as Freddie was able -- he wanted to get down as much material as possible during his illness. The supergroup are best known for their legendary '70s output, and that is indeed their peak era. But they also released some gems during the '80s and into the early '90s that perhaps aren't as well known, but are worthy of closer attention by fans who may have missed them the first time around, or by new fans who are just discovering the immense legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen.
In remembrance of Freddie Mercury and in celebration of his birthday, here are 5 of Queen's finest recordings from the '80s and early '90s:
"Who Wants To Live Forever" - A Kind of Magic, 1986
Freddie at his most epic -- nobody could do big, powerful ballads like Freddie Mercury. This remarkable gem was included in the band's 1986 album "A Kind of Magic" as well as the film Highlander. Chill-inducingly powerful.
"Innuendo" - Innuendo, 1991
Released only ten months before Freddie's death, "Innuendo" was an ambitious album that was a bit of a return to the progressive-rock style of their '70s output. The title track in particular is a triumph that returned the band to #1 on the UK singles charts for the first time since "Under Pressure," their classic duet with David Bowie, a decade early -- and allowed Freddie Mercury to ascend to the top one more time during his lifetime.
"I Want It All" - The Miracle, 1989
The lead single from Queen's 1989 album "The Miracle," "I Want it All" is a hard-rocking track that became a mainstay on US rock radio as well as becoming a major single in the UK and throughout Europe.
"Radio Ga Ga" - The Works, 1984
Queen's biggest hit during the MTV era was the atmospheric, synth-driven "Radio Ga Ga" from their 1984 album "The Works." It was heavily inspired by the new wave sound that was dominant at the time. Unlike some other artists who entered the '80s with long careers behind them and who tried (often with embarrassing results) to assimilate to the modern sound, Queen pulls it off beautifully. With a video that pays tribute to the film Metropolis, "Radio Ga Ga" received heavy airplay on MTV and hit the US Top 20. [And yeah... we have this track to thank for the stage name of a particularly successful current pop diva.]
"Play The Game" - The Game, 1980
"The Game" would end up being Queen's biggest-selling US album on the strength of its dual number one singles "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "Another One Bites the Dust". "Play the Game" didn't reach that level of success, but its combination of piano, hard-rock guitar, theatrical structure and layered vocals make it an essential track from the dawn of the '80s.
These five tracks, of course, represent just a handful of the amazing work Freddie did with Queen after their '70s heyday. Each of their albums are worth discovering -- some are better than others, but all offer high points. It's a good day to go back through and listen to some of these great albums, and to dive into their '70s classics as well.
Happy Birthday to the one and only Freddie Mercury, wherever you may be. We still miss you.