In the never-ending passage of time, which carries on marking influential and momentous events, today is the 50th anniversary of the release of Queen’s debut self-titled album. Fifty years ago, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor were introduced to the world on vinyl, starting the recording career of what would grow to be one of the most legendary bands in music history. While Queen is a great, seminal album, it doesn’t contain many of the huge hits they would come to be known for. But it’s still worth celebrating the beginnings of such an important band, which is why we have this list of nine great books about Queen.
Queen was a larger-than-life musical act with an unbelievable stage presence and a frontman with a vocal range that blew other singers out of the water. The recent biopic Bohemian Rhapsody introduced a new generation to the band, which is great, but altered and condensed a lot of their story to fit it all into one film. These books are a chance for fans and newbies to learn about Queen as things actually happened. This list is a combination of stories about the band, deep dives into their music, excellent collections of photographs, and even some books for kids! And I’m not just the writer of this post — I’m also a big fan. I have a cat named Farrokh, named after Mercury, whose real name was Farrokh Bulsara. (We also call him Freddie Purrcury, and like his namesake, he has quite a vocal range.)
Note: The list of authors who have written well-known books about Queen is not very diverse at all. If you know of any great books about the band by authors of color, please let us know!
Queen All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track by Benoît Clerc
This is a serious deep dive into every Queen album and track imaginable. The band has some of the most imaginative and unusual lyrics for such monster hits. Read this if only to learn about Bohemian Rhapsody, that epic bestselling song of a poor boy (from a poor family) that climbed the charts a second time after its appearance in Wayne’s World.
Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones
Like many famous bands, the lead singer is often the most famous (or infamous) member of the group. Such was the case for the dazzling and charismatic Freddie Mercury. Told with the use of interviews with over 100 people who knew him, Jones paints a portrait of an incredibly talented man. It follows Mercury from his humble beginnings as Farrokh Bulsara and the bullying and teasing he endured as a child to his life as a rock legend.
Queen in 3-D: Bohemian Rhapsody Edition by Brian May
You may not know this, but not only is Queen guitarist Brian May a genius musician, he’s an astrophysicist. He’s actually Dr. May now. This book is a collection of over 300 3D photographs of the band over the decades — plus bonus images from the making of the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic, including of Adam Lambert, who performs with the band as its singer from time to time these days. And you can view them all with a special 3D viewer designed by May himself!
Queen: Album by Album by Martin Popoff
Popoff is one of the foremost music writers working today, with over 80 books on music and musicians under his belt, including works about Motörhead, Judas Priest, Rush, The Cure, and Black Sabbath. This is an up-close and detailed examination of Queen’s 15 studio albums, as told by experts and fans, along with rare images of the band onstage and off. It’s a must-have for Queen fans.
Queen: The Neal Preston Photographs by Neal Preston, et al.
This is a gorgeous coffee table book of photographs of the band. Preston was Queen’s tour photographer from the mid-1970s through their last tour with Freddie Mercury in 1986. His photos, many of which are seen here publicly for the first time, are accompanied by memories of each image captured from Preston, and includes an introduction from band members Brian May and Roger Taylor.
Somebody to Love: The Life, Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury by Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne
Mercury was a beloved, larger-than-life public figure, and his private life and tragic early death in 1991 at the age of 45 has made him a subject of fascination for millions over the last few decades. This is a recent in-depth examination of Mercury and his final years as told by many of the people closest to him.
Queen: A Rock and Roll Biography for Kids by Soledad Romero Mariño and Laura Castelló
It’s never too early to introduce your kids to Queen! This lively, illustrated picture biography will start readers young and old on Queen’s journey from their early lives to the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and world-famous musicians they became. (There are also great books about Metallica, Depeche Mode, and The Ramones in this series.)
Freddie Mercury by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Ruby Taylor
This is from the Little People, BIG DREAMS series, which examines the lives of the famous throughout history and how they became notable people. You can learn here about Mercury’s life, from a baby in Zanzibar to boarding school in India to his life in London, where his childhood dreams of being a singer became a reality.
Queen As It Began: The Authorised Biography by Jacky Smith and Jim Jenkins
And last, but not least, this is an authorised (or authorized, if you’re in the States) biography of the band. (Authorized usually means authors were given permission and/or cooperation and access from the subjects.) Recently revised due to the renewed interest in Queen after the biopic, this is a close examination of the band from its beginning as Smile to the end of its years with Freddie Mercury. Smith has considerable knowledge of the band, having run the Official International Queen Fan Club for over four decades now!
I’m also looking forward to the upcoming book Queen in the 1970s: Decades by James Griffiths. For more fun things to read about the famous and musical, check out 8 Outstanding Nonfiction Books About Music and 20 Must Read Books About Musicians.