This is a highly ambiguous song about relationships, trauma and embracing your true self.
The Mystery Remains
Freddie Mercury had a profound proclivity to invent bizarre lyrics that sometimes include genuine gibberish. This mixed with his tendency to get inventive with his phrases creates a soup of lyrical meaning that isn’t always easy to ladle out.
The band has never made a definitive statement on the song, and it is unclear whether they want to hide the meaning or if they don’t know themselves. Guitarist Brian May, however, did have this to say to American Songwriter: “What is Bohemian Rhapsody about? Well, I don’t think we’ll ever know, and if I knew I probably wouldn’t want to tell you anyway, because I certainly don’t tell people what my songs are about. I find that it destroys them in a way because the great thing about a great song is that you relate it to your own personal experiences in your own life. I think that Freddie was certainly battling with problems in his personal life, which he might have decided to put into the song himself. He was certainly looking at re-creating himself. But I don’t think at that point in time it was the best thing to do so he actually decided to do it later. I think it’s best to leave it with a question mark in the air.”
One interpretation is that the song was Freddie’s embrace of bisexuality. According to this read, when he sings about killing a man, he’s really talking about the murder of his old self and what society and his parents expected of him.
For quick translation reference, “Bismillah” means “in the name of Allah” in Arabic. So the full translated line in context is, “No, in the name of god, we will not let you go.” Freddie Mercury was raised in Zanzibar, where Islam is the majority religion, hence the reference to his heritage.
The most Freddie would reveal about this epic piece is that it’s “about relationships.”
The Lyrics’ First Appearance
“The Cowboy Song” was a piano tune Freddie used to play, and it contained fragments of the lyrics that would eventually be used for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” making it a highly evolutionary process. In “Freddie Mercury: A Life, in His Own Words,” the artist said, “It didn’t just come out of thin air. Certain songs require that sort of pompous flair. I had to work like crazy.”
Brian May believed the lyrics relate to the trauma that Mercury experienced in his life. He said in a Smooth Radio interview, “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.”
Drummer Roger Taylor gave his take to BBC in an interview for the documentary BBC Three: “fairly self-explanatory with just a bit of nonsense in the middle.”
The Other Title
In an alternate timeline, the song could have been called “Mongolian Rhapsody.” Whether or not this would have impacted the famous scene from “Wayne’s World” is unclear. This working title might not have been serious, but it was seen in an early draft.
In a documentary from 2002, May remembers the time that Freddie came up with the title “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “You never knew quite whether Freddie was joking or what. Some of his ideas turned out to be not serious, but that one stuck.”
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, little high, little low
Any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me
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
Mama, ooh, 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, ooh (any way the wind blows)
I don’t wanna die
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all
I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me
(Galileo) Galileo, (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo Figaro, magnifico
But I’m just a poor boy, 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?
No, we will not let you go (let him go)
We will not let you go (let him go)
We will not let you go (let me go)
Will not let you go (let me go)
Never, never, never, never let me go
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh, mamma mia, mamma mia
Mamma mia, let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me
So you think you can stone 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
Ooh, yeah, ooh, yeah
Nothing really matters, anyone can see
Nothing really matters
Nothing really matters to me
Songwriters: Freddie Mercury
Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics © Queen Music Ltd