Queen At 50 Reviews – Bohemian Rhapsody Covers

Black jumper with an image of the band Queen in the centre. The 4 members of the band are shown as headshots, with Freddie in the front, Brian at the back, John on the left and Roger on the right, in the pose from their Bohemian Rhapsody video. But here they all have red and white Santa hats superimposed on their heads. The image of the band is surrounded by snowflakes, and it all sits between the words Snowhemian Rhapsody, printed in large white letters.

As discussed in depth in my previous post, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is an enduring classic that continues to increase in popularity 45 years on, as new generations of fans are introduced to it, most recently thanks to the movie of the same name and Queen’s tours with Adam Lambert. Freddie’s masterpiece, like his spirit and all of his music, will never die or be forgotten.

It is of no surprise, therefore, that it’s been covered in a myriad of styles by thousands of people, either tackling the full song or focusing on selected sections of it, despite the fact that it’s very brave of anyone to take on a song of such complexity that is so famous and well-loved.

In my previous reviews of Queen’s albums, I’ve always included cover versions as part of those posts. But such is the significance of Bo Rhap and the huge number of covers it’s had, coupled with the fact that it’s always nice to do some kind of special post at Christmas, that I’ve decided to give these interpretations of the track a space of their own.

Of course, it goes without saying that nobody can come close to Queen when reproducing any of their songs, especially this one. And there are plenty of covers out there that range from the decidedly average and uninspiring to the downright bizarre and awful. But there are also lots of beautifully arranged, excellently performed and cleverly interpreted versions too.

So in this post I wanted to share a long list of cover versions that I’ve found, divided into rough subsections to keep similar types together. I’ve compiled them into a big Youtube playlist as well (ending with a few minor covers of the album’s closing track, God Save The Queen).

Some are great in my view, some are not, and the rest are somewhere in between. But everyone’s opinions will differ. All I’ve tried to do is present a wide variety that I feel are of interest and worth exploring out of curiosity. It’s not every cover that exists by any means, but I feel it’s a very comprehensive and fair representation of what’s out there, listing most of the major versions and lots of hidden gems.

So buckle in for a long selection, and see which versions you like best!

Fan Compilations

Queen have a couple of videos on their channel where fans were able to perform parts of the song themselves:

  • Fan Homage Medley – In celebration of the movie in 2018, a group of fans were invited to get together and perform a medley of Queen’s greatest hits, starting with the biggest of them all, which came out pretty well.
  • You Are The Champions – Fans across the world submitted footage of themselves singing and playing the song, resulting in this very nicely edited compilation posted in 2019.

Parodies

It wasn’t just Wayne’s World that used the song for humorous purposes (as discussed in my album review post). It’s been adapted in many other comedic ways too.

The most famous such version is by The Muppets, who created a wonderful video for the song in November 2009, with around 70 characters singing along to Queen’s original backing track. The song was slightly shortened, with many of the lyrics changed for comic effect, and there were clever stylistic similarities to Queen’s original video as well. Then at the end we discover that it’s a video conference that Kermit The Frog regrets putting together. The video was produced in a day and rapidly went viral, getting over 7 million views in its first week alone (and it now has over 100 million!). The subsequent single release in December that year got to number 32 in the UK.

There’s also an attempt by Kermit to give a behind the scenes commentary, although chaos ensues as his friends try to get involved! And they’ve even performed the song live, accompanied by a choir, at the Hollywood Bowl & London’s O2 Arena.

Back in the 80s, meanwhile, there was a delightfully chaotic version released in 1987 by Bad News – a spoof heavy metal band formed as part of the Comic Strip series, featuring the late great Rik Mayall, along with Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer & Peter Richardson. It reached number 44 in the UK chart in September 1987, and was included on their self-titled debut album the following month. Of course, people who are unfamiliar with Bad News and the context of this version have, inevitably, reached the conclusion that it’s terrible. But that’s entirely the point, as those who know these comedians will tell you. So as a big fan of Rik & Ade in particular, I happen to find it funny, but I can see why others wouldn’t.

This version even has Brian May’s approval, as he was the producer for the album and played guitar on some of the tracks, and apparently even appeared on stage with them during a small show they did at London’s Marquee Club. There are also claims that John Deacon played bass and added backing vocals on the Bohemian Rhapsody cover, but there’s no clear evidence to support that.

But in any case, in the May 1989 issue of Sounds Mag, Brian explained: “I love heavy metal and I don’t look down on it at all. But we’re not a heavy metal group. I think you have to love something to play it. When I produced Bad News, I found that Ade Edmondson lives and breathes heavy rock music. And I love people that are so immersed in it that it’s serious. I love AC/DC – what they do, it’s very pure. But we’re not that way, so we can’t pretend we are. It’s good to be able to step back and see the funny side of it, because it kicks out some of the shit.”

The 2004 re-release of the Bad News album included an additional track entitled Take 1, where the ending goes wrong and they get into an argument, with some very strong language. That erroneous ending is used to conclude the 12″ version of the track, without the fighting that follows it. The Completely Bad News DVD also includes the music video as a bonus feature.

The band also attempted to do a mimed performance of the song before being interviewed on Terry Wogan’s chat show in 1987, and of course things don’t quite go to plan. And their double-disc live album F**k Off Bad News includes a performance of the song from the Hammersmith Odeon on 5 November 1986.

Much more recently, in 2020, comedian Dana Jay Bein wrote a Coronavirus version by changing most of the lyrics (except for already appropriate lines like “sends shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time”), and he went viral as a result. But as he was too sick to record the song at the tme, he challenged the internet to do it instead, and was promptly inundated with performances!

Some of the better examples of those who brought his lyrics to life include:

Other parodies include:

Adverts

  • Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino, Las Vegas – A silly but fun commercial set by the swimming pool.
  • Heineken – An entertaining advert that proves there’s no shame in belting out the song, even if you’re not very good at it.
  • John Lewis – An enjoyable production featuring lots of school children. There’s also a lovely interview with 9-year-old Joseph Sheppard, where he discusses his role in the advert and plays a bit of the tune on his electric guitar. And 8-year-old star Nandi Bushell has a vlog talking about her involvement, where she’s the drummer girl who emerges from the volcano, along with her audition video where she sings and plays the drums.
  • Mountain Dew – Has a fun reworking of the lyrics with some cool visuals.

Rock & Metal Bands

School & College Bands

  • Berklee College Of Music – A great performance by students in their Singers Showcase concert entitled A Night at the Opera – The Music of Queen.
  • EMMAT Music School – Ensamble Pre-Universitario – A live performance in 2014.
  • No Names Band – Not bad for a high school band. The guitarist deserves particular credit for nailing the tricky solos though.
  • Rooks Heath College – A fun and cleverly edited video made in 2011, involving many members of the school community, who play and sing every aspect of the track. They clearly had a lot of fun putting this together.
  • Wantirna College – The music staff from this Australian college put together this version during the 2020 Covid lockdown, with every person and instrument getting their moment in the limelight.

Country Bands

  • Hayseed Dixie – A fast bluegrass cover from their Killer Grass album. They’ve also performed it live in concert, where it’s impressive how speedy they get, and they extend the ending with part of another song

Jazz Bands

Other Bands

  • Glee Cast – This was performed in the final episode of the first season, Journey to Regionals. Sung by Jonathan Groff, accompanied by dancers and backing singers, and interspersed with clips of the character Quinn giving birth, I understand this was a rare occasion of a song being used on the show in its entirety, rather than being trimmed to fit it in. A studio recording of their version was included on the show’s second soundtrack EP, named after the episode in question. And you can also go behind the scenes to find out all about the song’s inclusion in the show.
  • Lake Street Dive“Happy HallowQueen!!!! Here’s our version of BOOhemian Rhapsody!” goes the description of their special video for Halloween in 2015, featuring the leading lady wearing a Freddie moustache, cat noises in place of the guitar solo, a trumpet intro to the hard rock section, and a homage to the four faces in Queen’s original video. They also performed it live at the Three Rivers Arts Festiva in Pittsburgh on 12 June 2016.
  • Pato Fu – This weird interpretation involving puppets and toy instruments appeared on the Brazilian band’s live album Música de Brinquedo Ao Vivo.
  • RoadTrip – A fun music video posted by the boyband in 2018. They also posted a behind the scenes video about how they took on the challenge, and have performed it live in front of screaming fans.
  • Virtual Music & Sergi Pérez Berk – A laid back version from their album A Chill Out Tribute To Queen.
  • Westlife – A shortened version, skipping the second ballad verse and the operatic section, from the final show of their Farewell Tour, live at Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland on 23 June 2012.
  • 4th Impact – This Filipino girl group came 5th in The X Factor in the UK, and appeared in other international talent competitions. Their video pays homage to Queen’s original video during the introduction and operatic sections, and they shared some behind-the-scenes footage on Twitter.

Duets

  • Iván Petrac & German Tripel – On piano and vocals respectively.
  • Kaiak – A lovely relaxed arrangement with multitracked vocals, acoustic guitar and piano.
  • Montserrat Caballé & Bruce Dickinson – For this track on her album Friends For Life, the opera star was joined by the lead singer of Iron Maiden. Monserrat produced the Barcelona album with Freddie Mercury of course, so it’s wonderful to hear her covering this. And I think Freddie would love it, it’s very powerful and nicely arranged.
  • ortoPilot – These guys posted their version of the song, using just guitars and vocals, as the penultimate advent video on their Youtube channel on Christmas Eve 2010.

Solo Male Singers

Solo Female Singers

  • Avonlea – A nice rendition of the intro and ballad sections at the piano.
  • Brigitte Wickens – A nice cover of the ballad section at the piano.
  • Connie Talbot – This stripped back piano arrangement has already racked up nearly 20 million views in just 2 years. Connie originally came to fame when she was the runner-up of the first series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2007, and has sold a considerable number of records since.
  • Cosette – A very powerful performance, backed by the 60-strong Cinematic Pop Choir and the London Symphony Orchestra.

TV Talent Show Singers

Got Talent Franchise

  • America’s Got Talent:
    • Cristina Ramos – The opera singer’s audition for the 2019 Champions series, having previously won Spain’s Got Talent.
    • Prince Poppycock – A very camp performance during the Season 5 Semi-Final in 2016, covering the operatic section onwards. He came 4th in the season.
  • Georgia’s Got Talent:
    • Cappella – A very impressive kids choir, who performed the entire song for their audition in 2018.

Idol Franchise

The Voice

The Voice Kids

The X Factor

  • UK:
    • Jennifer Yusef – Auditioning for the Band series in 2019.
    • Saara Aalto & Adam Lambert – From the Series 13 Final in 2016, where Saara was completely outshone by guest star Adam of course. She was the runner-up in the end.
    • Stevie Ritchie – On Week 5 of the live shows in 2014.
  • USA:
    • Jeff Gutt – In Week 4 in 2013. He was the runner-up of the series.
  • Indonesia:
    • Desy Natalia – From the Top 3 in 2015, from which she was eliminated.

Other Shows

  • Battle Of The Choirs (Australia):
  • Last Choir Standing (BBC, UK):
  • Rock Star: INXS (CBS, America):
    • Suzie McNeil – In the 2016 CBS series, from which you can see another performance here. She came 12th overall, and has performed the song in some of her concerts since then.
  • We Want More (The Netherlands):

Accompanied Vocal & Operatic Groups

A Cappella

Choirs & Choruses

Flash Mobs

  • Centro Commerciale Borgo – A nice rendition at a shopping centre in Bologna, Italy.
  • Helsbelsify – A surprise by the bridal party for the guests at a wedding.
  • Hints Zoltán – The vocals aren’t the best in this shopping centre rendition, but there’s still a good atmosphere and the crowd clearly loved it.
  • The Queen Symphony – An orchestral performance at the Seedamm Mall, Switzerland on 7 February 2015. Takes a few minutes to get going while everyone gets into position, so you can skip forward to about the 3-minute mark if you wish, but it’s good fun when they get into it.
  • Shopping Vitória – Delighting the crowds at a shopping centre in 2018.
  • SWR1 – Another shopping centre performance.

Concert Crowds

Despite all of the above, and aside from Queen themselves of course, nothing can really beat the joyous sound of thousands of people singing in unison, demonstrating beyond any possible doubt just how widely loved and deeply ingrained this song really is.

Classical Orchestras

Other Orchestras

Brass Bands

Saxophone Players

  • Daniele Vitale – A nice version on his Youtube channel.
  • Flat Sax Quartet – On the streets of Palma de Mallorca on 9 October 2016.
  • Graziatto ft. Shalom – A fun sax and piano duet.
  • JK Sax – An enjoyable solo performance from his Youtube channel.
  • Josh Plotner – An impressive arrangement played entirely by Josh on a variety of woodwind instruments, including saxophones, flutes, clarinets recorders, an oboe and an English horn.

Strings – Groups & Duets

Strings – Solo Players

Guitars – Groups

Guitars – Solo Players

  • Alip Ba Ta – A lovely fingerstyle version that has over 8 million views on his channel.
  • Andy Timmons – A very pleasant cover on an Ibanez prototype ATZ-100 signature guitar, beginning with a short section of You Take My Breath Away.
  • Andy Wahlberg – A good rendition on a Holloway harp guitar.
  • Ben Pila – Nicely played on an acoustic Fructuoso Zalapa ‘Humphrey’ guitar.
  • Carlos Bonell – Backed by the powerful Lara Symphony Orchestra on his Guitar Rhapsodies album.
  • Carlos Piegari – A nice classical guitar arrangement on his channel.
  • Coppolabass – Playing bass guitar along with the original multitrack, having muted John Deacon’s original layer. It gives a nice insight into a part of the track that is so easily overlooked.
  • Daryl Kellie – A lovely acoustic guitar version on his channel.
  • Edgar Cruz – From his album Classical Demands. He also performed it live in his home of Oklahoma at the University’s Jazz Lab & Centenary United Methodist Church. Many guitar players, including others on this list, have used his arrangement when performing the song.
  • Enunc8r – His lovely performance of Edgar Cruz’s arrangement has over 2 million views.
  • Eric Calderone (ERock) – Now you can headbang to the whole song, not just that one section near the end, with this heavy metal rendition.

Guitars – Child Performers

Organ Recitals

  • Adrian Marple – In St Mary’s Church, Bury St Edmunds in December 2016.
  • Alexey Rom – Playing a 100-year-old fairground organ.
  • Bert van den Brink – On a church organ in Amsterdam on 1 June 2013.
  • Josh Stafford – Playing his impressive arrangement on the world’s largest pipe organ (the Midmer-Losh pipe organ with its 33,112 pipes).
  • Lew Williams – A fast but very accomplished performance on a large theatre pipe organ in America.
  • Rob Scallon – Using a laptop to control the pipe organ at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. See the full video for how it was done.
  • Robert Staples – Played on his Hauptwerk Virtual Pipe Organ.
  • Timur Khaliullin – In Belgorod State Philharmonic Organ Hall, Russia.
  • Tyler Breneman – In Presser Hall, Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas.

Piano Players

  • Alexander Lioubimenko – A nice arrangement he posted in 2017.
  • Anderson & Roe – A clever and interesting reimagining from this duo, with an impressive music video to match.

Child Pianists

  • Alexander Penkov – It takes a lot of guts to sing and play the piano in front of everyone at your school, even more so if it’s this song you’re attempting. So kudos to this kid, who tackles the shortened Live Aid version of the track.
  • Avett Maness – An impressive performance by this blind 6-year-old, which went vital and led to a guest appearance on American Idol 2019.

Percussionists

Other Instrumentals

Foreign Language Versions

Remixes

  • PiotreQ – Queen vs New Kids On The Block – This mashup album contains 2 tracks combining Bohemian Rhapsody with the track Tonight by New Kids On The Block – Bohemian Dancer Tonight (‘Live Aid’ Mash-up) and Bohemian Rhapsody Tonight (‘Ballad’ Mash-up). Neither are available on Youtube, but both combine the lyrics from the New Kids song with piano riffs from Queen – the key difference being that the ‘Live Aid’ version is faster with a catchy beat behind it, and features Freddie doing some call-and-response with the crowd, whereas the ‘Ballad’ version is slower and simpler as the name implies.
  • Raven Maize – Real Life – This samples the lines “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” from Queen’s track, and part of the Simple Minds track Theme For Great Cities. You can also hear the Original 12″ Mix & Fatboy Slim Remix.
  • Sibling Jointz Remix – Even though I’m not a big fan of this personally, there’s no denying the skill that has gone into the re-arrangement of the vocals and the striking and profound visuals accompanying it. Just be warned that the video is rather bizarre, ranging from elegant, beautiful and scenic imagery, to news footage of major disasters, and all manner of weird and random things in between, so it’s not for the faint hearted!

Dancers

  • Anubiste – After the Best Man was filmed lip-syncing to the song in his underwear during the stag do, other members of the wedding party decided to film their own versions as well, and cut them all together to create a surprise video, which was shown on the big day. So here you get to see the bride’s reaction as well as the amusing video itself.
  • Brian Esperon – A beautifully choreographed peformance to the Panic! At The Disco version.
  • Charlene’s School Of Dance – A group from Orlando, Florida, competing for a People’s Choice Award in the 2017 Industry Dance Awards.
  • Dance Fusion – A live performance by this jazz dance group.
  • Dani Harmer & Vincent Simone – From the BBC Strictly Come Dancing final in 2012.
  • English National Ballet – Posted by Queen on their official channel, plus a video interviewing the people involved.

Animations

Other Interpretations

  • HMS Campbelltown – A fun lip-dubbed video by the officers and staff of the Royal Navy vessel, made during their spare time while on patrol in the Indian Ocean.

Conclusion

“You can do anything with my work, but never make me boring.”

You’ll see some variation of that Freddie Mercury quote in the comments of most Queen-related videos these days, including many of those listed above, thanks to the release of the Never Boring box set that made people aware of it. It’s a lazy copycat attempt to get some likes really, and it does get boring to see it over and over again. However, it is fair to say that the artists above have achieved Freddie’s wish, and I’m sure he’s looking down with delight that his music is still inspiring people so much.

It really is incredible how many different approaches have been taken to the song by people all over the world, and it’s amazing how well they work in many cases. It just goes to show the quality of Freddie’s composition that it can be adapted so widely. This is one of many Queen songs that will persist forever, and they deserve to live on for generations to come. These covers ensure that.

Check out my Covers playlist for all the versions I’ve mentioned above, and I’ll continue adding to it as and when I discover more. Feel free to let me know if there’s anything I should consider adding as well, to this or any of my Queen playlists.

So thank you for reading, I hope you found this epic post enjoyable and interesting. I’ll be continuing with my Queen album reviews next year, so look out for those. And thank you to Freddie and the rest of Queen for their incredible legacy, that we will all continue to enjoy and pay tribute to for a long time to com

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger & Youtuber with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

4 thoughts on “Queen At 50 Reviews – Bohemian Rhapsody Covers”

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