Brian May: biography
Not only Freddie Mercury made the group Queen iconic: the whole quartet’s contribution was significant. Rolling Stones named Brian May is one of the greatest guitarists ever. He is known as the songwriter who presented many legendary songs, such as “We Will Rock You”, “Scandal”, and “The Show Must Go On”.
Childhood and youth
Brian Harold May was born on July 19, 1947, in London. He became the only child in the family of the Scottish mother, Ruth Irving Fletcher, and the English father, Harold May.
The boy started playing the guitar at seven and met his first music friends at Hampton Grammar School. One of them, Tim Staffell, became a member of the group Smile later. The young men founded the group 1984 named after George Orwell’s famous anti-utopia.
The father supported his son’s fondness of music. When he realized that the family budget was too low for the dream guitar Fender Stratocaster, the man offered Brian to make the instrument with their own hands. They got an oak plank, motorcycle details, and buttons and created Red Special in 1965; it took the father and the son two years and £8.
Brian’s first guitar had 24 frets while classic models had 22. Besides, May used a sixpence coin instead of a pick; it made the unique sounding even more notable. In the early 1970s, when these coins were no longer issued, the British treasure house continued to emit several coins every year so that the musician could play his guitar. Brian May’s profile was pictured on the reverse side.
Before Queen’s popularity, music did not prevent Brian from studies. The young man was good at physics and mathematics and entered Imperial College London; he graduated cum laude in 1968. May was interested in astrophysics, wrote academic articles, and wanted to take a doctorate when Queen became tremendously famous. However, Brian managed to do that in 2007.
In 1968, the young man created the group Smile along with the vocalist and bassist Tim Staffell and the drummer Roger Taylor. The trio’s sounding was pretty good. The next year, Pink Floyd invited them to open their show; hundreds of people were present there.
It was not an easy task to promote the green project, and Staffell left it in 1970. May and Taylor told their roommate, Farrokh Bulsara, that their vocalist had quitted. They could hardly imagine they had just woken up an artistic volcano. Farrokh could sing and, moreover, knew how modern music should sound. The young man took the pseudonym “Freddie Mercury”, renamed Smile into Queen, and created the group’s logo. In 1971, the bassist John Deacon joined the musicians. This lineup existed for 21 years.
Queen has been the most notable thing in Brian’s life: he has devoted almost half a century to it. The group members have never been Freddie Mercury’s shadows. May created the remarkable hits “We Will Rock You”, “I Want It All”, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, “Who Wants to Live Forever”, “The Show Must Go On”, and others.
In 1985, the experienced artists decided it was silly to identify separate members as songwriters: everybody contributed something to all tracks. When the 1989 album The Miracle came out, one could see the composer and songwriter “Queen”. However, it was possible to guess who created some hits. For example, “Scandal” was likely to belong to May: he had issues with the British press. This theme is traced in the music video: the guitarist was playing a solo while pieces of tabloids were flying around him.
Brian did not limit himself with songwriting and playing the guitar: his voice turned out to be good. One could see his backup vocal in “Who Wants to Live Forever”, “Mother Love”, and “I Want It All”. Moreover, he sang solo in “Some Day One Day”, “She Makes Me”, “’39”, and “Good Company”.
In 1983, the musician began to work on his solo projects. He spent a couple of days in a recording studio with Eddie Van Halen, the founder of the hard-rock group Van Halen. They had no ready ideas and kept experimenting; the album Star Fleet Project appeared. May mentioned in his interviews:
“I could have put away these tapes in a bottom drawer and kept them as a private record of one of the best experiences of my life. But the few people I’ve played them for have urged me to “publish” ... I haven't messed one scrap with the tracking done on the day”.
In 1989, May contributed to Black Sabbath’s Headless Cross. He also collaborated with Steve Hackett, the former guitarist of Genesis; the album Feedback 86 was released in 2002.
Freddie Mercury was gone in November 1991. Brian threw himself into work to endure his grief. His wife, Anita Dobson, helped him finish the debuting solo album Back to the Light (1992); the international tour followed. Joe Elliott, the vocalist of Def Leppard, said:
“It was undoubtedly an enormous and terrible blow to lose someone he was so close to. Personally, I know it ripped the heart out of Brian, but having said that, he was in great spirits after the album was finished”.
The single “Too Much Love Will Kill You” preceded the album release. Sometimes, it is mistaken for the tribute to Freddie Me rcury – May performed this song in 1992, during a commemoration meeting. In fact, the track had been recorded several years before Mercury’s death; it was supposed to be included in The Miracle. One way or another, the song topped music charts in the Netherlands and Poland and took the second place in Belgium; it was also included in the top five in Great Britain and Norway.
At the end of 1992, The Brian May Band formed; it accompanied the artist in his international tours in 1993 and 1998.
In December 1992, May, Taylor, and Deacon gathered together to record Made in Heaven (1995), the final work in Queen’s discography. They used the demos that Freddie had created for the solo project and the unpublished materials from Innuendo (1991).
1998 brought May’s second studio album Another World. One could find popular guitarists’ tracks: Jimi Hendrix, Larry Williams, and Ian Hunter. The same year, the mini collection Red Special appeared; Buddy Holly’s song gained a new sounding. Furia (2000) is Brian’s most recent disc; it is famous for the soundtracks for the movie under the same title.
Further on, the artist collaborated with Lady Gaga, My Chemical Romance, and Adam Lambert. In 2009, May, Taylor, and Lambert performed at the finale of American Idol and gave another show two years later. Critics appreciated their work, and the former Queen members started considering a reunion.
In 2012, Queen and Adam Lambert gave several concerts in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and Great Britain. People loved them, and the musicians have been holding tours every year since then.
Brian May has three children. The son Jimmy was born in 1978; the daughters Louisa and Emily followed in 1981 and 1987. Their mother, Chrissie Mullen, was married to the musician in 1976-1988. Their divorce was one of the reasons for May’s severe depression. As the man confessed in interviews, the thoughts about unlucky personal life, his father’s death, and Freddie Mercury’s disease almost led him to suicide.
In 1986, when May was still married to Mullen, he met the actress Anita Dobson. This woman inspired the songwriter to create the hit “I Want It All”. The couple married on November 18, 2000. Today, they often go out together and look as young and loving as before.
In 2005, Brian received the Order of the British Empire “for services to the music industry and for charity work”.
The artist is an active protector of animals and nature. In May 2019, he took care of two orphaned fox cubs; one could see the video with them on the musician’s Instagram.
Brian is agnostic and vegetarian; he looks athletic and vigorous. Brian’s height is 6.14 feet (187 cm.), and his weight is 187.4 lbs. (85 kg.).
Following a 20-year break, Brian May presented the single “New Horizons” on January 1, 2019. He combined two passions, astronomy and music: the track was created for NASA in memory of the longest space travel of the New Horizons probe. Whether the single will be followed by a studio album is unknown.
In April, ABC channel presented the documentary The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story. It is the second largest project about Queen that has appeared recently. The Academy Award winner Bohemian Rhapsody proved to be a great hit: May and Taylor monitored its creation closely. Gwilym Lee personified Brian May in the movie.
Queen + Adam Lambert are going to a large tour in Japan in 2020. Only four shows have been scheduled by now, but their number will increase.
Brian May’s net worth is $210 million in 2019.
- 1983 – Star Fleet Project
- 1992 – Back to the Light
- 1994 – Resurrection
- 1994 – Live at the Brixton Academy
- 1998 – Another World
- 1998 – Red Special
- 2000 – Furia