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Music / Brian May

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Brian May rockin' that Red Special!
Too much love will kill you, if you can't make up your mind.
Torn between the lover and the love you leave behind.
You're headed for disaster, 'cos you never read the signs.
Too much love will kill you - every time.
— "Too Much Love Will Kill You"

Dr. Sir Brian Harold May, CBE (born 19 July 1947) is a British musician, best known as the lead guitarist of Queen and, after Freddie Mercury, the most famous member of the band. It should also be noted that May wrote many of Queen's most popular songs, including "We Will Rock You", "Tie Your Mother Down", "Fat Bottomed Girls", "Who Wants to Live Forever", "The Show Must Go On" (credited to the whole band, but written mainly by May), "Hammer to Fall", "I Want It All", "Flash", "Now I'm Here", "Brighton Rock", "The Prophet's Song", "Las Palabras de Amor", "No-One but You" and "Save Me".

Often overshadowed by Mercury's charismatic presence and the fact that he didn't sing much himself, May's talent as a guitarist got more attention when he went solo. He is well renowned for his virtuoso guitar work and Rolling Stone recognizes him as the twenty-sixth greatest guitarist of all time on their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Sammy Hagar (Van Halen), Steve Vai and Frank Zappa, among others, have praised his excellence.

He is also well-known for being a very Nice Guy, friendly and good to work with, and is also a well-known and compassionate animal welfare activist, besides being an astrophysicist (as alluded to above, he has a PhD in astrophysics), which all undoubtedly makes him a very Cool Old Guy. An asteroid is named after him, and he took part in research activities for NASA's New Horizons probe to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

Gwilym Lee portrayed him in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.

Not to be confused with the Australian film composer of the same name.

On December 30, 2022, it was announced that he would receive a knighthood for his contributions to music and charity, which was formally bestowed by King Charles III on March 14, 2023.

Studio and Live Discography:

  • 1983 - Star Fleet Project note 
  • 1992 - Back to the Light
  • 1993 - Resurrection
  • 1994 - Live at the Brixton Academy
  • 1998 - Another World
  • 1998 - Red Special
  • 2000 - Furia
  • 2013 - Acoustic by Candlelight: Live on the Born Free Tour note 

Brian May's work provides examples of:

  • Grief Song: While it was written years before Mercury died, completing and performing "Too Much Love Will Kill You" on his first solo album Back to the Light was part of Brian's mourning after Mercury's death.
  • I Am the Band: His first band after Queen was called "The Brian May Band".
  • Intercourse with You: "Let Your Heart Rule Your Head" is perhaps Brian's only song to contain outright come-ons.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Brian wrote the soundtrack to a French movie called Furia. It sounds like he was chained to a copy of John Williams' Star Wars soundtrack. He also did one song for the soundtrack for Rise of the Robots. It (and even the rest of the non-May soundtrack) was far more epic than the game was. Then there's Flash Gordon.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: The song "Anyone Can Fall in Love", sung by May's second wife Anita Dobson, was originally the theme song to the British soap Eastenders.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: He's worked with a lot of magnificent singers (including some of his bandmates, of course) and composed and produced a number of them, but he's also a very accomplished vocalist himself. There are many songs (in Queen and his solo career) where he multi-tracked himself and did lead vocals, backing vocals, high parts, falsetto parts and low parts all by himself: "Good Company", "Sleeping on the Sidewalk", "Leaving Home Ain't Easy", "Love Token", "Resurrection" (three octaves, no effects), "Too Much Love Will Kill You" (his solo version of it), "Driven by You" (he sang the intro through harmonizer), "The Business", "China Belle", "Cyborg", "Wilderness"... and on many of those he played all instruments except bass and drums.
  • Solo Side Project: Star Fleet Project, a 1981 collaboration with among others, Eddie Van Halen. He also contributed to Steve Hackett (Genesis)'s album "Feedback 86".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: He sings lead vocals on Queen's "Some Day One Day", "She Makes Me", "'39", "Good Company", "Long Away", "All Dead, All Dead", "Sleeping on the Sidewalk", "Leaving Home Ain't Easy" and "Sail Away Sweet Sister". He also provided the last verse for "Mother Love" when Freddie Mercury was unable to complete the song.