Like many folks in New York City, I’m getting back to using the subway system with some degree of regularity. The latest wave of the pandemic is, fingers crossed, waning, and there’s a bit of joie de vivre in being out on the downtown streets again. As Petula Clark once exclaimed: the lights are brighter, there’s some music in the traffic of the city.
‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
There is no Queen without Freddie Mercury. On a fundamental level, we all agree that is true. But, if you want to be literal about it, there is Queen without Freddie Mercury. Thirty years after Freddie’s death, the show must go on, and so the band still exists. Adam Lambert now sings Freddie’s parts on tour, just as Paul Rodgers did before him. The Bohemian Rhapsody movie included some new vocal recordings – not by star Rami Malek, but by Canadian singer Marc Martel. And then of course there are the many singers who fronted Queen at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, broadcast to an audience of up to one billion people. (If you haven’t watched George Michael singing “Somebody to Love” or Annie Lennox joining David Bowie for “Under Pressure,” go do that now, then come back.)
Suffice to say, millions if not billions of people have heard Queen songs sung by singers other than Freddie Mercury. But none of those we just mentioned are covers, strictly speaking, since they feature most or all of the band’s three surviving members. Bassist John Deacon has since departed – and his joining Queen fifty years ago this month, solidifying the lineup, marks the anniversary we’re pegging this post to – but guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor have kept the Queen name alive. No doubt, when touring becomes a thing again, Queen will be back on the road once again.
The forty actual covers on our list do not feature any members of Queen. As such, they’re free to roam much further afield than Adam Lambert or George Michael, turning the band’s hits and the occasional deep cut into genres from polka to punk, a cappella to acoustic instrumental. Queen dabbled in so many different genres during their time – I mean, “Bohemian Rhapsody” alone! – I think they’d appreciate how malleable their songs can be. Even when they’re not the ones performing their songs, Queen will rock you.
Or, in one case, polka you.
The list begins on Page 2.
Younger generations may not be familiar with the Saw Doctors, but the Irish band has been active since 1986, recording eight studio albums and releasing multiple chart-topping singles in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Currently the band is getting ready for a nationwide US tour, letting stateside audiences hear them sing their recent cover of Petula Clark’s hit “Downtown.”