It was Freddie Mercury himself who sang that the show must go on. Sure enough, on 23 December 1995, fully four years after his death, Queen were scoring yet another new top ten hit in the UK with his composition ‘A Winter’s Tale.’
The track was lifted from the Made In Heaven album that had been released a few weeks earlier, and become an immediate No. 1. ‘Made In Heaven’ was written in Freddie’s final months, after the completion of the sessions for Innuendo, the final Queen studio album of his lifetime. The song was not to be confused with another of the same title which had reached No. 2 in the UK charts for singer-actor David Essex back in 1982.
Gratifyingly for Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, the single and album release left no doubt in their minds about the affection in which they, and Mercury, were held by the British public. It entered the chart at No. 6, as Michael Jackson‘s ‘Earth Song’ continued at No. 1. That may have been the song’s only week in the top ten, but it gave Queen a running total of 23 singles top tenners, to which they’ve since added another two so far.
‘Heaven’ also became a modest hit in other European countries, reaching the top 30 in Austria, Holland and Queen’s beloved Switzerland, where they had recorded so often and where Freddie composed the song, looking out across Lake Geneva from his hospital bed.
“Freddie wrote the song in Montreux, in a little house on the lake that we called The Duck House,” May told Mojo. “The extraordinary thing is he’s talking about life and its beauty at a time when he knows he hasn’t got very long to go, yet there’s no wallowing in emotion, it’s just absolutely purely observed.
“So that’s the way I wanted my solo to be. It was one of those things where I could hear it in my head, long before I actually got to play it. And when I recorded it, at my home studio, in my head I was there with Freddie in Montreux in those moments, even though this was happening long after he was gone.”
‘A Winter’s Tale’ is on Made In Heaven, which can be bought here.
Follow the official Queen Best Of playlist.