Queen’s Musical Legacy in Latin America

Lead Photo: Freddie Mercury in New Haven, CT at a WPLR Show. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.
Freddie Mercury in New Haven, CT at a WPLR Show. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.
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Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature the works of a ‘non-Latin’ artist via song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

In 1997, a few years after the death of Queen’s flamboyant front man, Freddie Mercury, the (then) big names of the international Latin American music scene got together to record a tribute album: Tributo a Queen: Los Grandes del Rock en Español. To be fair, they didn’t actually get together: the list of bands and artists was really, very random, so each one of them recorded their own private tribute separately. This list included names such as Soda Stereo, Aterciopelados, Illya Kuryaki, La Unión, El General, Fobia, and, of course, Angélica –you do remember Angélica, don’t you?

Some of these artists went on to talk about the influence of Queen in their own music, or the admiration they felt for this band, while others, like Molotov – who dared record a version of Queen’s classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which they titled “Rap, Soda y Bohemia”– admitted Queen was never one of their favorites, and that they had participated in this experiment just for fun. (Though they still feature their tribute track in their live performances.) While the album was most probably a strategy by Hollywood Records to get a share of the large –and growing– Latin American market, the truth is Queen has a large and steady Latino following. They toured the continent during the early 1980s, playing massive concerts in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Monterrey, and many other cities. And they’re still remembered.

As a matter of fact, Queen was so impressed by their success in Latin America, that they recorded a song with a little bit of Spanish in it, “Las Palabras de Amor.” Perhaps it wasn’t much, but it was something. Queen was one of those strange bands that combined commercial success with a strong, recognizable style, and true originality. Here’s a taste of that 1997 Tributo a Queen, by Soda Stereo. “Algún día.”