Bohemian Rhapsody is a song composed by Freddy Mercury, and recorded by the rock band, Queen. It was released in 1975, and has stood the test of time, becoming one of the best selling singles of all time. More recently it has come back into the public’s attention through the new Suicide Squad trailer. So what exactly is the meaning behind the lyrics and its connection to this band of delinquents?
The word “Bohemian” can either refer to a native or inhabitant of Bohemia or “a person who has informal or unconventional social habits, especially an artist or writer.” The second meaning applies here, and has some bearing on the overall message of both the song and film.
This song is a very emotional tale, and tells the story of someone who usually just goes with the flow and has lived a simple life. However, he has done something terribly wrong and owns up to his crime. He faces jail time (or a death sentence). He struggles with the realities before him in an epic battle between good and evil in his mind, and ultimately accepts his fate and returns to his past way of thinking that he, must again, go with the way the wind blows.
The crime, the confession
The song begins with someone who is disillusioned, confused, and seemingly in shock. The subject also explains that he’s just a simple boy, and lived life modestly, and usually doesn’t care about life’s ups and downs. But, now he’s wondering why something so bad has happened to him.
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see. I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy, because I’m easy come, easy go, a little high, a little low. Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me.”
Then, comes the explanation for his feelings. A confession. Just pure truth.
Mama, just killed a man. Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead. Mama, life had just begun, but now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.
This can be connected to Deadshot’s dilemma, an assassin by trade but a family man at heart who will do anything to keep his daughter safe. Not sure if she’ll show up in the film but she plays a major role in his life in the DC Comic Universe.
The boy now explains that he has to go face the music for his crime. Probably a jail cell. Maybe the executioner.
Mama, ooo, didn’t mean to make you cry, if I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters. Too late, my time has come, sends shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time. Goodbye, everybody I’ve got to go, gotta leave you all behind and face the truth. Mama, ooo (anyway the wind blows). I don’t want to die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.
It’s not over till the fat lady sings
After a moving guitar solo, that further iterates the despair he is feeling, things get a bit crazy. Facing imminent death can do that to people. This section depicts the struggle between symbols of good and evil within his mind. The song proceeds with the operatic section.
First, he explains that he feels like a clown, just a fool before his “court” or his mental judgement. A Scaramouch is a clown-like character from classical Italian comedy, often depicted as a coward. I think we can all figure out who the clown is in this bunch.
I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango?
Ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light? Wait, wrong movie.
Then, he feels fear, and thinks on Gallileo Galilei – the famous scientist who played a major role in the scientific revolution during the Renaissance in the 1600s. Perhaps he thinks on him because Galileo was deemed a heretic and had to live under house arrest for the a good portion of his life. Wishful thinking?
Do we know any crazy doctors that had to be kept in confinement? Why yes, yes we do.
Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening me. Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo Figaro – magnifico. But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me. He’s just a poor boy from a poor family. Spare him his life from this monstrosity. Easy come easy go will you let me go?
Bismillah is Arabic for “In the name of God” or “In the name of Allah,” so in this section it would appear he is having an inner battle, portraying his persecutors and saviors at the same time.
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. Let him go. Bismillah! We will not let you go. Let him go. Bismillah! We will not let you go. Let me go. Will not let you go. Let me go (never). Never let you go. Let me go. Never let me go ooo. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go.
Then, this section indicates he is prepared for the worst, and assumes he will be facing the devil for his crime.
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me. For me. For me.
If there is any character dealing with an internal battle of good and evil, it’s the Enchantress. It is believed that the Enchantress is possessed by a separate evil entity controlling her powers and she goes to desperate measures to eliminate the demonic force within her.
After insanity, comes anger, then acceptance
Now, comes the anger. It would appear that the boy who normally doesn’t seem to care about anything and goes anywhere the wind blows has become angered, perhaps thinking of the emotions that inspired his crime?
So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye? So you think you can love me and leave me to die? Oh baby, can’t do this to me baby, Just gotta get out just gotta get right outta here.
But, after the anger, comes the passivity again, returning to his usual state of mind. Maybe it’s a way of not letting the pain become too much to bear.
Ooh yeah, ooh yeah. Nothing really matters, anyone can see. Nothing really matters. Nothing really matters to me. Anyway the wind blows
Each member of the crew carries a burden to bear and a deep darkness within them, but they’re not called the Suicide Squad for nothing. Whether by choice or by the orders of Amanda Waller, they all face certain death and none seem to care about what awaits them.
Mercury himself has refused to explain the composition of this song, other than saying it was about relationships. Could the entire song represent the highs and lows of loving someone and then losing that person? Maybe a jealous rage caused the fictional crime? Or perhaps, it was about Mercury’s own inner turmoil and confusion since it was written after he understood his own orientation in his life, ending his relationship with women.
Brian May, the guitarist for Queen, supports suggestions that the song contained veiled references to Mercury’s personal traumas. He recalls “Freddie was a very complex person: flippant and funny on the surface, but he concealed insecurities and problems in squaring up his life with his childhood. He never explained the lyrics, but I think he put a lot of himself into that song.” May, though, says the band had agreed that the core of the lyrics was a private issue for the composer.
The song ended up being a huge commercial success, despite it being an unconventional 5 minutes 55 seconds long. It has become one of the best selling singles of all time, all around the world. It is definitely one of the most memorable songs I’ll ever hear, and will surely add a new layer of meaning to this year’s blockbuster film about a misfit band of lost souls.
Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.
Lesson Objective: Students will analyze song lyrics in order to infer and interpret their meaning. They will also learn how to read and listen to song lyrics as another form of creative fiction.