RIP Freddie: 20 years this week. Queen covers to love/loathe.
Here we present a rundown of the best and worst attempts to recreate the powerful and magical vocals of one of the greatest rock front men of all time.
1. George Michael – Somebody To Love
This is the best effort at Freddie’s vocals that has been yet made. George hits it perfectly, (OK, so does Marc Martel but the whole official Queen tribute idea is shaky at best) with every note and every inflection sung with great love for the man himself. Watch out in particular for his clear thrill at the crowd doing the long vocal run bit from 3 mins onwards.
His range is impressive but the tone of his voice is like nails down a blackboard. Go listen to the original below, it’s heartbreakingly sad and brave, a man at the end of his life fighting every day.
3. Russell Watson & Shaun Ryder – Barcelona
Think we’re making this up? It’s as horrific as you would imagine. Even worse than the version Russell Watson did with Mel C. Press play with caution.
4. The Flaming Lips – Bohemian Rhapsody
OK, you might think you never want to hear this song again, but Flaming Lips can pull anything off, from redoing Dark Side of the Moon to a fantastic cover of Borderline. It’s lovely, done with great affection.
5. Robert Plant – Crazy Little Thing Called Love
The sound of a man having a good time, getting maximum rockabilly out of it. Great fun. The beginning, a verse of Led Zep’s Thank You (reportedly Freddie’s fave LZ song) is stunning too.
6. Toyah – Don’t Stop Me Now
Another dose of cold water on the Queen canon. Still, could be worse, we could have picked the McFly version…
7. Jason Mraz – Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy
You know what, this is actually rather good. Gets the jaunty music hall of the original down pretty well.
8. David Bowie & Gail Ann Dorsey – Under Pressure
After seeing a hopelessly over-sung version of this by Joss Stone, I remembered that the best one is half original, as it were. In 1995, Bowie went on tour for the first time in years (casual fans expecting hits were unhappy, Bowie geeks like me exploded in excitement at the rare song setlists) and his bassist, the wonderful Gail Ann Dorsey, did the Freddie parts with great skill. He would have been proud. Check out this Reality tour version from 2003…
9. Elaine Paige – Love Of My Life
We can forgive her anything for I Know Him So Well, but it is a little insipid. Still, no worse than all of the decisions than Brian and Roger have made in the last 15 years. We do not speak the name of Paul Rodgers.
10. Electric Six – Radio Ga Ga
Absolutely awful yet utterly awesome. Defies description, the video alone…