I've been giving it a lot of thought, and have to conclude that Queen is my all-time favorite band. I'm not even sure I can justify that, or explain what it is about Queen that makes me love them so much. Is it their effortless jumps from genre to genre, playing all kinds of music yet always sounding totally "Queen?" Is it their tongue-in-cheek attitude that keeps their art rock from being pretentious? Is it simply Freddie's charisma?
I don't know. What I do know is that Queen has been with me as an active part of my life longer than any band. My first love was the Beatles, and I still like them, but they seem to lack the oomph that Queen has. I was later seduced by louder, more aggressive, big-guitar rock, but for some reason (perhaps their penchant for occasional big-guitar rock) Queen never left my CD player for long. A big part of why I love them might be nostalgia; when I listen to Queen I have good memories of junior high and high school, when I discovered their greatest hits and back catalog, respectively. Unlike a lot of bands I liked as a boy, I actually still listen to Queen, and that ability to hold me, year after year, while producing no new material, is very special.
I've been burning a lot of CDs lately, working on my collection of all-time favorites. I find that in my old age, my collection mostly runs to jazz, classical and neo-Renaissance music such as Hesperion XX (or XI), film and game soundtracks, and other symphonic music. So when it comes to rock 'n' roll, I'm not surprised that what I choose to listen to these days are bands like Queen, Jethro Tull, and Electric Light Orchestra (I'm especially taken with Tull, who I really only started listening to in earnest a year or so ago). I still enjoy the punk boogie of the Blues Explosion, the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard swank of Enduro, or the shameless, white trash swagger of AC/DC. But ultimately, I think it's finally time to admit that when it comes down to it, I prefer my rock "artsy." And that's OK.
So here's to Queen, who have, in some weird way, helped me discover something about myself, even at age 38. Poor Freddie. I would give anything to have seen him perform. I hope that if and when I get to heaven, he is there.