Behind the Band Name: Queen

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The world knows Queen for their dynamism and ability to embrace heavy metal, glam rock, and camp theatrics. This made the group one of the most successful bands in history, hands down. Today, Queen remains an influence on musicians and has inspired everyone from Nirvana and the Killers to solo acts like Adele and Psy—that’s right, the Gangnam Style guy.   

From flamboyant Freddie Mercury’s four-octave vocal range to meek John Deacon’s attentive songwriting and musical skill, Queen hardly bites the dust but rather champions fans across generations. But, how did this long-lasting and influential band gain its name? Why is it simple yet so complex? Let’s take a look. 

Who Came Up With the Name Queen

Whether or not you are a fan of Queen, everyone is aware of Mercury’s alluring personality and stage presence. Mercury’s grandiose appearance translated to him choosing the band name “Queen.” Though the other members were unsure of its name, Mercury insisted on the larger-than-life title.

Mercury noted in an interview that he chose the name because “[i]t’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid. It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.” 

The multifaceted name reflects Mercury himself as it was to be provocative and pompous while also providing speculation, much like his androgynous style and sexuality. All in all, the name is grand, large, and complicated like Mercury’s inner self, musical skill, and appearance. 

The Band’s Crest

Not only did Mercury come up with the name, but he also designed the band’s logo—the “Queen crest.”

Mercury looked at the zodiac signs for inspiration. To reflect the four band members, he placed two lions for Deacon and Taylor, who are Leos, a crab for May’s Cancer birthday, and two fairies since Mercury himself is a Virgo. The zodiac symbols surround a Q that is emblazoned with a phoenix.

The crest mirrors the multifaceted meaning of the band’s name as it resembles the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. 

Pre-Queen

Based in London, Queen originally began as the band named Smile. It was formed by band members guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor along with their lead singer and bassist Tim Staffell. The group gained moderate success as they signed to Mercury Records in 1969 while Staffell was attending Ealing Art College. There, he introduced the band to his friend Freddie Bulsara who became an ardent fan. 

Staffell left the band in 1970 for a new group, and Freddie Bulsara, who was in the process of changing his last name to Mercury, stepped in and encouraged the group to experiment with flashier stage and recording techniques. 

Queen’s Success

Queen was one of the world’s best-selling music artists for over four decades. The ’70s brought them international success with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The song stayed number one on the UK charts for nine weeks in a row while also making the music video platform popular. 

Songs like “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” and “Another One Bites the Dust” hurtled the band into becoming one of the largest stadium rock bands in the world. In 1985, Queen performed at Live Aid in Wembley Stadium. Their performance went down in history as one of the best concerts in rock ‘n’ roll history. 

Mercury’s Death

In 1991, Freddie Mercury died of bronchopneumonia as a complication of AIDS. Since his death, Queen has been inducted into numerous halls of fame, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. John Deacon retired in 1997 having been greatly affected by Mercury’s death. May and Taylor began touring as Queen, inviting talents like Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert on lead vocals, and are currently on their Rhapsody Tour.

(Photo by Linda D. Robbins/Getty Images)

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