Ever wondered what rock icons are made of? Here we explore Queen’s extraordinary musical journey, as well as Mercury’s charismatic artistry. Unravel how their influences defied rock music boundaries, as they became one of the greatest bands of all time.
Queen was a band with a broad sound palette. In their early days, their style had a lot to do with hard rock and proto-heavy metal, which set the basics for their full potential. Later on, the group led by Freddie Mercury incorporated elements from many music genres, like pop, jazz, progressive rock, and even disco.
When you think about music icons, the name of Freddie Mercury surely comes to mind. As Queen became one of the biggest bands to ever set foot on a stage, they inspired not only for many rock and pop artists to come, but also for what a rock band could ever achieve.
What artists influenced Queen?
Among Queen’s musical influences, we find artists such as Sparks, Yes, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Liza Minnelli, Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, and Chic, among several others.
Liza Minnelli was one of Freddie Mercury’s favorite artists. The singer and actress served as inspiration, especially for her role in the musical Cabaret (1966). Mercury based his stage presence on her, shaping his character as a performer and his way of singing songs. Since Minnelli’s early albums in the mid-’60s, her expressive and theatrically characterized voice left a mark on Freddie Mercury’s style.
An iconic gospel singer who molded Queen’s frontman was Aretha Franklin. Freddie Mercury admired her natural tone and vocalization, noting that she seemed to sing effortlessly. For example, the gospel style of Queen’s classic song “Somebody To Love” is inspired by Franklin.
John Lennon & The Beatles
One of the key influences for Queen during the early ’70s was the classic Liverpool quartet. Freddie Mercury particularly admired the entire body of work of John Lennon. According to the Queen leader, “John Lennon was an absolute genius“, and after Lennon’s death, Mercury dedicated the song “Life is Real” to him.
On his side, Brian May considers the classic Beatles song “Ticket to Ride” one of the greatest riffs in history. According to Queen’s guitar player, The Beatles’ discography was like a bible for Queen.
When the Mael brothers created their own project, Sparks, they cleverly blended art with a complex musical style. Due to the combination of glam with progressive rock, the Maels outfit became a significant precedent for Queen. This reference goes beyond the classic Sparks album “Kimono My House” (1974), which includes the well-known track “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us.” Even in other LPs by the band, such as “A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing” from 1973 or “Propaganda” from 1974, their characteristic sound emerged and paved the way for Queen to achieve worldwide success shortly afterward.
One of the guitarists admired by Brian May is Jimmy Page, whom he describes as a “genius of invention”. A highly regarded classic rock band, Led Zeppelin was another fundamental band in shaping heavy metal, with a solid and impactful rhythmic base accompanied by fierce and virtuoso guitars. May remembers listening to songs like “Communication Breakdown,” which inspired him to start in music.
It is impossible not to mention David Boiwie among the most prominent influences on Freddie Mercury. From Bowie’s theatricality with “Space Oddity” in 1969, to his collaborative song with Queen, “Under Pressure” in 1981, Bowie was a prominent inspiration for Queen when it came to working on their pop sensibility.
To delve further into the White Duke, in another post, we review the history and characters of David Bowie.
The similarity between the classic Chic song “Good Times” and John Deacon’s bassline for “Another One Bites the Dust” deserves another notable mention here. Beyond that, the funk and disco music style of Nile Rodgers’ band influenced the pop and light side of Queen, especially from the early ’80s. Chic’s album “Risqué” (1979) served Freddie Mercury’s band by incorporating both dance musical styles and new piano ballads.
Some music critics of the time described Queen as a combination of Led Zeppelin with Yes. Their virtuosity in instrumentation and songwriting made the latter genre references, as they became one of the fundamental bands in the so-called progressive rock. It’s worth mentioning Yes’s 1971 album “Fragile” as a preceding reference, as they set the course for Queen’s more ambitious compositions, such as those elaborated on their albums “A Night at the Opera” (1975, containing “Bohemian Rhapsody”) or “Innuendo” (1990). Also, let’s not that bassist Chris Squire was a favorite of John Deacon.
Other artists who influenced Queen are The Kinks, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Elvis Presley, and Joni Mitchell.
What artists were influenced by Queen and Freddie Mercury?
Now let’s dive into Queen’s legacy and how Freddie Mercury inspired many other bands, such as Guns N’ Roses, Foo Fighters, Muse, Lacuna Coil, Dream Theater, Metallica, The Killers, Lady Gaga, Adele, and My Chemical Romance.
The band led by Dave Grohl became one of the main references of arena rock in the 2000s. Those stadium-filling songs that actually showcase how Foo Fighters were influenced by Queen: powerful, epic, and grandiose pop choruses. It’s also worth noting that Foo Fighters’ drummer, Taylor Hawkins, was a big fan of Freddie Mercury’s band and used to sing their covers live. We have already included Queen in the Foo Fighters influence chart. According to Dave Grohl, Queen’s 1985 performance at Wembley should be taught in schools.
Guns n’ Roses
Where did Axl Rose get the inspiration for a song as great as “November Rain”? Well, of course, from Queen. The orchestral rock influences that Guns N’ Roses drew on mainly came from Elton John and also Freddie Mercury’s band. By drawing inspiration from these artists, the band was able to incorporate the piano as one of the main protagonists of their epic ballads. Axl Rose is particularly fond of the band’s second album, “Queen II” (1974).
Muse is a band with a notable influence from Queen in terms of vocal arrangements. We can notice this in tracks like “United States of Eurasia” or “Survival,” which have a melodic chorus and grandiose orchestral progressions. Led by Matthew Bellamy, Muse has evolved from alternative rock to symphonic, progressive rock, and pop, partly based on Queen’s legacy.
Apart from mentioning Metallica’s cover version of Queen’s classic, “Stone Cold Crazy,” we can say that the flagship band of thrash metal had a significant influence on them. Both Metallica guitarists, Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield, are outspoken fans of Queen. Hetfield explained that Brian May was a huge inspiration for Metallica, especially in terms of guitar style.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ music has always had a dramatic display, not only for their explosive performances but also for the style of their lead singer, Karen O. As she explained, one of her main role models has been Freddie Mercury, something not surprising considering her striking stage presence. Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ indie rock effectively blends two musical variations that Queen also used: rock music and dance music.
My Chemical Romance
For MyChem’s singer Gerard Way, Queen has been one of his biggest influences. Perhaps one of the most obvious references to Mercury’s band in My Chemical Romance’s catalog is the track “Welcome to the Black Parade”. With punk and emo style, My Chemical Romance has developed a sound with sparks of epic and grandiosity throughout their discography. If there’s anything that sets this band apart from other pop-punk bands around 2000, it’s their instrumentation, pretentious vocalizations, and guitar solos, which are reminiscent of Queen.
If there’s a band that’s musically pretentious, it’s Dream Theater. Their approach to progressive and symphonic rock is only achievable with extensive musical training from all their members. “Their main strength was their diversity,” says drummer Mike Portnoy about Queen. Dream Theater has covered several Queen songs on multiple occasions, in addition to referencing them in many of their own songs, such as “Goodnight Kiss” and “Octavarium.”
The Italian goth metal icons, Lacuna Coil, have refined their sound over the years. The death growls of singer Andrea Ferro gave way to the more melodic and clean vocal style, a feature always brought to the group by singer Cristina Scabbia. Precisely, her opera singing style is inspired in none other than Freddie Mercury, of whom Scabbia is a huge fan.
Other artists influenced by Queen include The Killers, Judas Priest, Adele, and Katy Perry.