Freddie Mercury passed away in November 1991. His band, Queen, seemed all but over. The remaining members of the band performed with George Michael at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, they patched up unfinished and discarded Queen tracks for the album Made in Heaven (1995), and they played The Show Must Go On with Elton John in Paris in 1997. At this point, bass player John Deacon retired. The spark that reignited Queen was when Brian May appeared with Paul Rodgers at a 2004 concert.
The concert was the 50th-anniversary Fender Stratocaster show in London, but who is Paul Rodgers? Rodgers is best known as the singer for Free (It’s Alright Now, 1970), Bad Company (Feel Like Makin’ Love, 1975) and The Firm (formed in 1984 with Jimmy Page). Anyway, May and Rodgers bonded, leading May to invite Rodgers to play with Queen at the band’s induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame. They then decided to tour Europe and play Nelson Mandela’s Aids-benefit 46664 concerts in 1985.
The video is from the concert by Queen and Paul Rodgers, as they were billed, at Hyde Park, London, on 15 July 2005. For Imagine, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and Paul Rodgers took turns singing the verses accompanied by May on a 12-string acoustic guitar, with Taylor on drums and the rest of the backing band kicking in around halfway through. It’s an effective arrangement of John Lennon’s idealistic song, made especially poignant when the large audience sings along.
Rob J Golde comments, “Brian and Roger are great singers in their own rights, but I love how Paul strolls out there and is like ‘okay, I’ll take it from here fellas'”. Nancy Blumberg writes: “Paul Rodgers is amazing, hasn’t missed a beat over the years. Queen of course will always be the best in my heart”. According to Wikipedia, the song was in response to the series of 4 al Qaeda-related bombings in London on 7 July 2005. It wasn’t, however, the first time that Queen played Imagine.
The above video footage was added to an audience bootleg recording of Queen at Wembley Arena paying tribute to John Lennon on 9 December 1980, the night after Lennon was murdered. The poster, 조우현, notes that Queen only heard about the loss of Lennon the next morning due to the 5-hour time difference. He adds that he made the video in 1981 as he wanted “to commemorate”.
Queen and Paul Rodgers was an inspired combination that laid the groundwork for Queen to continue after the death of Freddie Mercury, but it was never going to last. First, there is an obvious contrast between the singing styles of Freddie Mercury and Paul Rodgers. In an interview with Classic Rock in 2014, Brian May cut to the crux “I just think that Paul’s more blues and soul. One of our favourite singers, ever, but when it boils down to it, he wasn’t the perfect frontman for us.” Classic Rock comments: “Queen began touring with Adam Lambert – a singer with an outsized personality more in keeping with Mercury’s.”
Second, Rodgers had a career of his own. Even while he was playing with Queen he had a solo tour, participated in a number of side projects and Bad Company reunion shows, and released a live album. Rodgers announced he was ending the collaboration with Queen on 14 May 2009, but he didn’t rule out occasional collaborations. From 2010, Rodgers toured with Bad Company, played solo, and embarked on other collaborations. Of his time with Queen, he said: “It was a wild ride, I’ll tell you. And it came out of the blue. When Brian asked me if I wanted to do a couple of shows just for fun in Europe, I was pretty taken aback. … So, I did it. And it turned into four years, actually. We toured all over the place. We toured the world twice, and we finished off with a studio album of all-original material. So it was a wild and crazy ride, as they say. And we are still friends, and I love the guys.”