Tuesday, November 14, 2023

What do the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody mean?

 
"I was green with envy when I heard ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. It was a piece of sheer originality that took rock and pop away from the normal path.”

Bj√∂rn Ulvaeus of ABBA 

One of my favourite songs is "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.  The song was released on October 31, 1975 as the lead single on Queen's fourth album, A Night at the Opera.  Written by lead singer Freddie Mercury, it is almost six minutes long. Elton John was reported to have said that the song was too long and too weird.   

Freddie Mercury began writing "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 1968, when he was a student at Ealing Art College in London, England.  The song was not originally titled "Bohemian Rhapsody."  In May of 2023, a collection of Mercury's personal belongings were being prepared for an auction at Sotheby's.  A copy of his handwritten lyrics revealed that he had intended to call it "Mongolian Rhapsody."  According to The New York Times, he crossed out the first word and changed it to "Bohemian,"  

I never really understood the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody until I read the following.  It was posted by Brice Forest, a member of the band Balearic Burger.  I would like to share it with the readers of Number 16.

- Joanne

 

Why is the song called 'Bohemian Rhapsody'?
Why does it last exactly 5 minutes and 55 seconds?
What is this song really about?
Why did the Queen movie premiere on October 31?
The movie premiered on October 31 because the single was first heard on October 31, 1975. It's titled that way because a 'Rhapsody' is a free-form musical piece composed of different parts and themes that seem unrelated to each other.
The word 'rhapsody' comes from Greek and means 'assembled parts of a song.'
The word 'bohemian' refers to a region in the Czech Republic called Bohemia, where Faust, the protagonist of Goethe's work of the same name, was born. In Goethe's work, Faust was an elderly and intelligent man who knew everything except the mystery of life. Unable to comprehend it, he decides to poison himself.
At that moment, church bells ring, and he goes outside. When he returns to his room, he finds a dog that transforms into a kind of man. It's the devil, Mephistopheles. He promises Faust a full life without misery in exchange for his soul. Faust agrees, rejuvenates, and becomes arrogant. He meets Gretchen and has a child. His wife and child die. Faust travels through time and space and feels powerful. When he becomes old again, he feels miserable once more. Since he didn't break the pact with the devil, angels contend for his soul.
This work is essential to understanding 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'
The song is about Freddie Mercury himself. Being a rhapsody, it has 7 different parts:
1st and 2nd acts - A Capella
3rd act - Ballad
4th act - Guitar solo
5th act - Opera
6th act - Rock
7th act - 'Coda' or final act
The song talks about a poor boy questioning if this life is real or if his distorted imagination is living another reality. He says that even if he stops living, the wind will keep blowing without his existence. So, he makes a deal with the devil and sells his soul.
Upon making this decision, he rushes to tell his mother and says...
"Mama, I just killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead. Threw my life away. If I'm not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters..."
The man he kills is himself, Freddie Mercury.
If he doesn't fulfill the pact with the devil, he will die immediately.
He says goodbye to his loved ones, and his mother breaks into tears, tears and desperate crying that comes from Brian May's guitar notes. Freddie, terrified, cries out, "Mama, I don't want to die," and the operatic part begins. Freddie finds himself in an astral plane where he sees himself: "I see a little silhouetto of a man"... "Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?"
Scaramouche is an "escaramuza," a skirmish between armies with horseback riders (4 horsemen of the Apocalypse of evil fighting against the forces of good for Freddie's soul), and he continues, saying, "Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me."
This phrase appears in the Bible, specifically in Job 37 when it says, "the thunder and lightning frighten me: my heart pounds in my chest." Seeing his son so scared by the decision he has made, Freddie's mother begs to save him from the pact with Mephistopheles. "He's just a poor boy..." "Spare him his life from this monstrosity." "Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?" Her pleas are heard, and angels descend to battle the forces of evil. "Bismillah" (an Arabic word meaning "In the name of God") is the first word in the holy book of Muslims, the Quran. So, God Himself appears and shouts, "We will not let you go."
In the face of such a confrontation between good and evil, Freddie fears for his mother's life and says, "Mama mia, mama mia, let me go." They shout again from the sky that they won't abandon him, and Freddie cries, "No, no, no, no, no," and says, "Beelzebub (the Lord of Darkness) has a devil put aside for me." Freddie pays homage here to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach when he sings... "Figaro, Magnifico," referring to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," considered the greatest opera of all time, and to Bach's "Magnificat."
The operatic part ends, and the rockier part bursts in. The devil, angry and betrayed by Freddie not keeping the pact, says, "So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye? So you think you can love me and leave me to die?"
It's chilling how the Lord of Evil feels powerless against a human being, against repentance and love.
Having lost the battle, the devil departs, and we reach the final act or 'coda' where Freddie is free, and that feeling comforts him. The gong that closes the song sounds. The gong is an instrument used in China and East Asian cultures to heal people under the influence of evil spirits.
It lasts for 5:55 minutes. Freddie liked astrology, and in numerology, 555 is associated with death, not physical but spiritual, the end of something where angels will safeguard you. 555 is related to God and the divine, an ending that will lead to a new beginning.
And the song plays on Halloween eve for the first time. A holiday called 'Samhain' by the Celts to celebrate the transition and opening to the other world.
The Celts believed that the world of the living and the dead were closely connected, and on the Day of the Dead, both worlds would unite, allowing spirits to cross over.
Nothing in 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is coincidental.
Everything is carefully crafted and has a meaning that goes beyond being just a song.
It has been voted worldwide as the greatest song of all time.


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