Queen’s iconic 1975 track Bohemian Rhapsody has become the most-streamed song from the 20th century.
Boosted by the recently released biopic of the same name, the hit song from Queen’s A Night at the Opera album jumped ahead of Nirvana’s 1991 grunge classic Smells Like Teen Spirit — now in second place with more than 1.5 billion streams — and two Guns N’ Roses tracks, namely Sweet Child O’ Mine and November Rain, in third and fourth spots, respectively.
Responding to the news, Queen guitarist Brian May said: “So the river of rock music has metamorphosed into streams. Very happy that our music is still flowing to the max.”
When it was released 43 years ago, critical reaction to the gloriously grandiose song was decidedly mixed — hardly surprising considering that no one had ever heard anything quite like it. But Bohemian Rhapsody went to become a chart-topper around the world, establishing flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury — along with lead guitarist May, bass player John Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor — as a force to be reckoned with.
Speaking about the single in a 2005 interview celebrating the song’s 40th anniversary, May revealed how the track almost never hit the airwaves. Lasting almost six minutes, the track was double the length of what the influential radio shows of the day would usually play, and many stations said it was simply too long to broadcast.
“We were told it was going to be a hard sell,” May said. But the guitarist said things took a turn when a prominent radio DJ “took it upon himself to go out and play it to death. That made everybody else sit up. All the rest of the radio outlets thought: ‘Oh God, we’d better get on this quick or else we’ll be left behind.'”
The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004, and Mercury’s vocal performance was voted by Rolling Stone readers as the best in rock history.
“Bohemian Rhapsody is one the greatest songs by one of the greatest bands in history,” said Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group. “We are so proud to represent Queen and are thrilled to see the song still inspiring new fans around the world more than four decades after its release.”
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