“Somebody to Love” is a song by the British rock band Queen, written by the lead singer/pianist Freddie Mercury. It debuted on the band’s 1976 album A Day at the Races and was also featured on their compilation album Greatest Hits.
The song offers listeners something similar to that of Queen’s earlier hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” with its complex harmonies and guitar solos; however, instead of mimicking an English choir, the band turned to a gospel choir. It reached #2 in the UK and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. This song made it clear to fans that “Queen could swing as hard as it could rock, by channeling the spirit of gospel music.”
Written by Mercury at the piano, “Somebody to Love” is a soul-searching piece that questions God’s role in a life without love. Through voice layering techniques, Queen was able to create the soulful sound of a 100-voice choir, with that of only three voices: Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor. John Deacon did not sing backing vocals on the recorded album. Mercury’s fascination and admiration for Aretha Franklin was a major influence for the creation of this song.
Queen played “Somebody to Love” live from 1977–85, and a live performance of the song is recorded on the album Queen Rock Montreal. In addition to these live performances, there were collaboration tributes to “Somebody to Love” after Mercury’s death in 1991. The song was played live on 20 April 1992, during The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, with George Michael on lead vocals.
Since its release in 1976, the song has appeared in a number of television shows, such as American Idol, The X Factor, and Glee, as well as movies, including Happy Feet and Ella Enchanted. Additionally, it has been covered by many artists.
Like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the major hit from Queen’s previous album A Night at the Opera (1975), “Somebody to Love” has a complex melody and deep layering of vocal tracks, this time based on a gospel choir arrangement. It was the first single from A Day at the Races, on which Mercury, May and Taylor multitracked their voices to create the impression of a 100-voice gospel choir. The lyrics, especially combined with the gospel influence, create a song about faith, desperation, and soul-searching; the singer questions both the lack of love experienced in his life and the role and existence of God. This is reinforced by the frequent use of word painting. Staying true to Queen’s guitar-driven style, it was also filled with intricate harmonies and a notable guitar solo by May, and it went to #2 in the UK Singles Chart and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. The song is in the key of A♭ major. The song possesses a great variety of notes, ranging from F2 in the harmonies on the line “Can anybody find me?”, and G#2 to a C5 in full voice up to an A♭5 in falsetto in the lead vocals, all sung by Mercury. The band has spoken of sections of the song which were recorded but never made it onto the final mix of the song, some of which have been leaked online.
“Somebody To Love” is Aretha Franklin-influenced. Freddie’s very much into that. We tried to keep the track in a loose, gospel-type feel. I think it’s the loosest track we’ve ever done.— Roger Taylor
A promotional video was made combining a staged recording session at Sarm East Studios (where the A Day at the Races album was recorded) and film footage of the band’s record-breaking performance at Hyde Park that September. Peter Hince, the head of Queen’s road crew, recalled to Mojo magazine: “Aesthetically, you had to have all four around the microphone, but John (Deacon) didn’t sing on the records. By his own admission, he didn’t have the voice. He did sing on-stage but the crew always knew to keep the fader very low.” The song was included on their first Greatest Hits, released in 1981.
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