World’s most streamed 20th century song almost didn’t get produced

'Bohemian Rhapsody' promo poster from

Universal Music Group recently announced “Bohemian Rhapsody” has officially become “the world’s most-streamed song from the 20th Century, as well as the most-streamed Classic Rock song of all time.” Considering the song was recorded more than 40 years ago, that’s quite phenomenal. What’s even more phenomenal is the fact the song almost didn’t get produced. 

That aspect of “Rhapsody” progression got attention in the new biopic about Queen icon Freddie Mercury. In the trailers for the film, we witness record moguls chiding Mercury for the length of the song—6 minutes—and its potential for release as a single. There’s a dustup between the band and the record moguls. The band won.

Did that happen in real life, though?

By most accounts, it did. Website The Wrap did a fact check, reporting:

“However, EMI execs did indeed have trepidations about releasing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as a single. According to Lesley-Ann Jones’ biography Mercury, ‘EMI and the industry in general voiced misgivings. Radio stations wondered what the hell they were supposed to do with a six-minute single. Even bassist John Deacon expressed his fears, albeit in private, that to release ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ would prove the greatest error of judgment of Queen’s career.’”

Mercury’s legacy proved those execs wrong. Universal Music Group’s news release explains why the late Queen front man, if he was still alive, would be savoring his victory in persuading executives to release that long song:

“Today, the original song and official video for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ taken from Queen’s seminal 1975 album A Night At The Opera, surpassed 1.6 billion streams globally across all major streaming services.”

The Mercury biopic, by the same name as the song, has also defied critics. Theater pundits dissed the film, but audiences love it. I’ve spoken to several people who’ve seen it, and all claimed it is fantastic. Now we have the pleasure of seeing one of those critics eat his negative words, such as the pundit at UK publication The Guardian:

“Critics get it wrong again! Having given the Queen biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ a broadly unfavourable review last week, I’m braced for that accusation, now that the movie has been a huge hit. The film took an estimated $50m (£38m) in the US at the weekend and has already made more than $140m worldwide…”

Freddie, I think, would enjoy all this immensely.

(Kay B. Day/Dec. 18, 2018)

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