The Show Must Go On (Queen song)
|"The Show Must Go On"|
|Single by Queen|
|from the album Innuendo|
|Released||14 October 1991
6 February 1992 (USA)
|Format||7", 12", Compact Disc|
|Genre||Hard rock, art rock|
Hollywood (North America)
|Producer(s)||Queen and David Richards|
|Queen singles chronology|
"The Show Must Go On" is a song by the British rock band Queen, featured as the twelfth and final track on their 1991 album Innuendo. It is credited to Queen, but written mainly by Brian May. The song chronicles the effort of Freddie Mercury continuing to perform despite approaching the end of his life; he was dying from complications due to HIV/AIDS, although his illness had not yet been made public in spite of ongoing media speculation claiming that he was seriously ill. Mercury was so ill when the band recorded the song in 1990, that May had concerns as to whether he was physically capable of singing it. Recalling Mercury's performance, May states; "I said, 'Fred, I don't know if this is going to be possible to sing.' And he went, 'I'll fucking do it, darling' — vodka down — and went in and killed it, completely lacerated that vocal."
It was released as a single in the United Kingdom on 14 October 1991 in promotion for the Greatest Hits II album, just six weeks before Mercury died. Following Mercury's death on 24 November 1991, the song re-entered the British charts and spent as many weeks in the top 75 (five) as it did upon its original release, initially reaching a peak of 16. A live version with Elton John on vocals appeared on Queen's Greatest Hits III album.
The song was first played live on 20 April 1992, during The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, performed by the three remaining members of Queen, with Elton John singing lead vocals and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi playing rhythm guitar. It has since been played live by Queen + Paul Rodgers with Rodgers citing one of the performances as the best of his career. Since its release, the song has appeared on television, film, and has been covered by a number of artists.
Songwriting and recording process
After listening to John Deacon and Roger Taylor playing the chord sequence that later on would be the basis for almost the entire song, Brian May sat down with Freddie Mercury and the two of them decided the theme of the song and wrote some lyrics. May wrote down the rest of the words as well as the melody, and added a bridge with a chord sequence inspired by Pachelbel's Canon.
Demo versions featured May singing, having to sing some parts in falsetto because they were too high. When Brian May presented the final demo to Mercury, he had doubts that Mercury would be physically capable of singing the song's highly demanding vocal line, due to the extent of his illness at the time. To May's surprise, when the time came to record the vocals, Mercury consumed a measure of vodka and said "I'll fucking do it, darling!" then proceeded to perform the vocal line.
For the record, May sang most of the backing vocals (including the very last line) and played Korg M1 synthesiser as well as guitar. Producer David Richards suggested the key-shift in the second verse.
|“||"'The Show Must Go On' came from Roger and John playing the sequence, and I started to put things down. At the beginning, it was just this chord sequence, but I had this strange feeling that it could be somehow important, and I got very impassioned and went and beavered away at it. I sat down with Freddie, and we decided what the theme should be and wrote the first verse. It's a long story, that song, but I always felt it would be important because we were dealing with things that were hard to talk about at the time, but in the world of music, you could do it."||”|
— Brian May – 1994
The lyrics are full of allusions, metaphors and other figures of speech, making it somewhat difficult to understand. Thinly disguised tragedy ahead is announced. In the end, the text refers to the determination, the furious desire to live ("I have to find the will to carry on with the show") in spite of vanishing strength ("inside my heart is breaking"). From the perspective of harmony, the song begins in B minor; then there is a modulation to C# Minor as if the song implied a hope (an increase of tone); but eventually it falls back to B minor.
Jim Hutton, Freddie's partner who was with him for the last 6 years until his death, mentions the lyric that refers to the use of make up during his last days:
|“||To me, the most autobiographical line was: 'My make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.' That was true. No matter how ill Freddie felt, he never grumbled to anyone or sought sympathy of any kind. It was his battle, no one else's, and he always wore a brave face against the ever-increasing odds against him.||”|
— Jim Hutton – 1994
Due to Mercury having contracted HIV/AIDS, his health started to rapidly deteriorate, as a result, no new footage of the lead singer was shot. The music video instead consisted of a montage of clips spanning Queen's music videos from 1981 to 1991 (but does not include the ones from before 1981) as a precursor to the imminent release of the band's Greatest Hits II album spanning that period. Footage from all promo videos from the 1980s are shown in the montage, apart from "Under Pressure" and "Hammer to Fall".
- During the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium, London in 1992, the surviving members of Queen along with Elton John and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath performed "The Show Must Go On". The concert was later released on DVD in 2002 for the 10th anniversary.
- At the Théâtre National de Chaillot, Paris in 1997, Queen performed the song with Elton John and the Béjart Ballet, which is available in Queen's Greatest Hits III. This was also Queen's last-ever event to include bassist John Deacon; he retired from music after this performance.
- The 2006 VH1 Rock Honors at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, featured Queen + Paul Rodgers performing "The Show Must Go On", along with "Under Pressure", "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions" as a live broadcast.
- At the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards, Queen closed the awards ceremony, with Adam Lambert on vocals, performing "The Show Must Go On", "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions".
Charts and certifications
- Freddie Mercury - lead vocals
- Brian May - electric guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, programming
- Roger Taylor - drums, backing vocals
- John Deacon - bass guitar
- Donald A. Guarisco. Queen – The Show Must Go On Allmusic. Retrieved 23 May 2011
- "100 greatest singers of all time — Freddie Mercury". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert: The Show Must Go On Retrieved 25 June 2011
- "The Show Must Go On". queenpedia.com. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
- The Show Must Go On Ultimate Queen. Retrieved 29 August 2011
- Queen Songs – The Show Must Go On Retrieved 3 September 2011
- Sherwin, Adam (30 May 2011). "Final Freddie Mercury performance discovered". London: The Independent. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
- "Freddie and Jim: A Love Story". mr-mercury.co.uk. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
- Queen Promo Videos – The Show Must Go On Ultimate Queen. Retrieved 3 September 2011
- 2006 VH1 Rock Honours Ultimate Queen. Retrieved 29 August 2011
- Katy and Adam Honour Queen MTV. Retrieved 7 October 2011
- Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
- Steffen Hung (30 July 2011). "Dutch charts portal". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Steffen Hung. "Les charts français". lescharts.com. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- musicline.de / PhonoNet GmbH. "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche". musicline.de. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Jaclyn Ward (1 October 1962). "The Irish Charts – All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- "Hit Parade Italia – Indice per Interprete: Q". Hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Steffen Hung. "New Zealand charts portal". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Steffen Hung. "Swedish Charts Portal". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Steffen Hung. "Die Offizielle Schweizer Hitparade und Music Community". swisscharts.com. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- "UK Singles & Albums Chart Archive". Official Charts.
- "AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- "French single certifications – Queen – The Show Must Go On" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- "Italian single certifications – Queen – The Show Must Go On" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 30 December 2014. Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter Queen in the field Filtra. Select 2014 in the field Anno. The certification will load automatically
- "American single certifications – Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 19 August 2012. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
- Official YouTube videos: Queen + Paul Rodgers, at Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (with Elton John and Tony Iommi)
- Lyrics at Queen official website