Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the greatest rock songs ever written and its lyrics are often cited as one of music history’s most cryptic compositions. But what’s the story behind the words?
Let’s begin exploring the origins of this iconic song by looking at its title. The term “Bohemian” comes from a group of people who lived in central Europe in the 19th century and rebelled against social norms and conventions of their time—essentially, they were an artistic free-spirit collective that championed creativity.
The second part of the title, “Rhapsody,” is also derived from 19th-century music theory. It refers to a piece composed of several contrasting movements with no set structure: a journey through different musical styles, sounds, and emotions told in an abstract way.
It’s clear to see why Freddie Mercury chose these particular words: they represent his ironic approach to creating art, blurring boundaries between classical and progressive styles, and taking us on an unconventional musical journey through the 70s rock era.
Lyrical Inspirations for Bohemian Rhapsody
The six-minute-long masterpiece of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was an instant classic upon its release in 1975. Its intricate, operatic structure and captivating lyrics made it one of the most popular rock songs of all time. With over 6 million copies sold today, it has also become Queen’s most successful single to date.
What inspired the words and music of this epic song? According to Freddie Mercury, the lyrics were inspired by numerous sources—from a 19th century poem to personal tragedy. He stated that the song was about “relationships with [his] ladies” and that some of the lines were based on actual conversations he had with women he had been involved with.
He also took inspiration from literature, citing Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Kraken”; its opening line “Beneath the stormy or rolling sea” echoed in his own line “I see a little silhouette-o of a man”. Other authors like Lewis Carroll and William Blake are also credited as inspirations, who both appear in some way lyrically or musically throughout the song.
The uniqueness of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is undeniable—a combination of different elements that created something iconic and timeless. It’s no wonder that this song has become one of the biggest hits ever recorded!
Analyzing Bohemian Rhapsody’s Divided Structure
Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is made up of 6 distinct sections, each of which comes together to create a meaningful story.
The first section of the song is an opera-like introduction. It features a narrator introducing us to the story of a “young man” who has “killed someone”. We don’t get a lot of information, other than his confession and wish for absolution from his mother.
Ballad about Regret
The second section brings us into a more traditional rock-ballad as the narrator searches for redemption for his crime. He sings about being scared and trying to avoid detection, as he longs for acceptance of his mistake and forgiveness from God.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Bridge
This leads into an upbeat, rock ‘n’ roll bridge that expresses defiance in the face of the consequences of his crime. The narrator refuses to accept that there are no consequences for his wrongdoings, claiming that he will stand up against any force that tries to take him down.
In the chorus, Freddie Mercury takes center stage with a full choral refrain as he rallies against all those who are trying to bring him down and ultimately symbolically rises above them. His words convey determination and strength in the face of adversity as he tries to reclaim control over his life.
Following this is a powerful guitar solo that allows us to experience the struggle of our protagonist first-hand. It conveys both despair and hope – Despair at the situation he finds himself in and hope that maybe things will eventually change if he perseveres through
The Complex Harmonies and Vocal Layering of Bohemian Rhapsody
The complex harmonies and vocal layering of the song Bohemian Rhapsody are almost beyond comprehension. Freddie Mercury wrote this operatic masterpiece, and it is made up of several musical movements. The song starts off with a ballad-like intro and then moves into a rock section before going into an opera-style middle portion and closing with a hard-rocking finale.
What makes the harmonies of Bohemian Rhapsody so unique?
Freddie Mercury was not only a talented songwriter, but also an incredible vocalist. He recorded all the lead, harmony, and backing vocals himself using multi-track recording technology – something that was relatively new at the time. This technology allowed him to layer multiple vocal parts on top of each other to create a truly unique sound.
The harmony of Bohemian Rhapsody is made up of several distinct musical movements that were blended together to form one cohesive piece. The song combines elements from rock, pop, and classical music in a way that had never been done before – making it one of the most musically complex songs ever written!
Iconic Choral Part
One of the most iconic parts of Bohemian Rhapsody is its choral part. This magnificent part is built up from multiple layers of vocals that build to an amazing crescendo. It’s this part that makes the song so memorable to audiences all over the world!
The Meaning behind Bohemian Rhapsody’s Lyrics
Most people have no idea what Bohemian Rhapsody is about—but it’s one of the most iconic songs of all time. So what do the lyrics really mean?
Before getting into the lyrics, it’s important to note that Queen frontman Freddie Mercury wrote the song in 1975, and he was known for his lyrical artistry and his love of classical music, so Bohemian Rhapsody was a unique mix of musical styles.
The Lyrics Themselves
The lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody explore a range of topics, from religious doubts to hedonistic pleasures. The first verse describes a young man murdering someone and worrying about being caught—it’s unclear if this is real or a dream sequence. The chorus talks about the power of the mind: “Nothing really matters / Anyone can see.” This line has been interpreted as both an expression of Mercury’s nihilism, as well as a reminder to just keep living life in spite of the chaos around you. The song also contains references to Galileo, Scaramouche, and Beelzebub—alluding to subjects like religion and history.
The song comes full circle in its final verse with its famous lines: “I see a little silhouetto / Of a man / Scaramouch,” which serves as both an homage to classic art (Scaramouche was an Italian commedia dell’arte character) and one last reference to Mercury’s own mortality (“man” being a stand-in for himself).
While the true meaning behind Bohemian Rhapsody is open to interpretation, it continues to fascinate listeners who recognize its refined artistry and timelessness.
Legacy of Bohemian Rhapsody in Pop Culture
You’ve likely heard the song plenty of times before and seen it referenced in pop culture, with phrases like “Nothing really matters” being used as memes and references. But what you don’t know is the true legacy of Bohemian Rhapsody.
In Pop Culture
Pretty much everyone knows it, but not everyone knows who wrote it. Despite its status as one of the most iconic songs of all time, countless films, shows, and ads have featured the song without giving credit to Freddie Mercury and Queen. It’s been used in films like Wayne’s World, School of Rock, and Guardians of the Galaxy, in shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons, as well as in commercials for everything from KFC to Pepsi Max.
Impact on Music Industry
The impact of this song has gone deeper than just pop culture references—it’s changed the way people think about music production and composition. Bohemian Rhapsody popularized operatic rock and contemporary progressive rock by combining two disparate genres—operatic vocals with rock instruments—into something bigger than before. Not only that, but it was also one of the first non-classical songs to feature a six-minute long track that wasn’t your typical ballad or rally cry for change or protest song. This revolutionary track opened up a new world for composers and producers alike to explore different sounds and experiment with lengthier tracks.