Bohemian Rhapsody
Posted on November 13th, 2018

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge

Freddie Mercury ‘s  musical hit Bohemian Rhapsody carried a numerous metaphors and symbolism that transformed the band into a global phenomenon. Bohemian Rhapsody” song was written by Freddy Mercury which had no chorus but consisted of   six sections: introduction, ballad, guitar solo, opera, rock and outro. Bohemian Rhapsody could be considered as an enigmatic philosophical song that was not decoded completely. Up-to-date Bohemian Rhapsody remains a puzzle.  This song has fatalistic lyrics. Some argue that Bohemian Rhapsody echoes Mercury’s personal traumas reveling the complexity of his inner mind. This song represents a self-explanatory portion of Freddy. Perhaps Bohemian Rhapsody could be the musical version of Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger.

Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger involves a complex character named Meursault. For Camus, life has no rational meaning or order. As Albert Camus stated, the nakedness of man faced with the absurd was highlighted in his novel. Meursault’s philosophy of absurdism, atheism, determinism, nihilism, and stoicism are well marked in Bohemian Rhapsody. Bohemian Rhapsody divulges a life and attitude, which possess no rational order.

Bohemian Rhapsody begins with the powerful vocals of Freddy, which describes the clashes between his inner fantasies and realities. He was born in Zanzibar to an Indian Parsi Family and raised in England. He was exposed to three different cultures and in each culture; his biopersona (biological component of his personality) was suppressed creating a colossal guilt in him.  The society that he lived expected him to live an artificial life less then his expectations. Mercury felt trapped and found no escape.

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
Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me – to me

In the second part Freddy talks about a murder which could be treated as a metaphor. Metaphor and allegory were powerful literary and conceptual tools which often used by him to create melody, rhythm and philosophy. Like Meursault he reaches self-knowledge by committing a murder.

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, ooo,
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

In the third section, Freddy talks about his destitution and hidden death wish contrary to his insensible desire to live. In Bohemian Rhapsody Camus’s philosophy of the absurd is written in every line.

The imaginary character of Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger – Meursault was a social deviant. He was an absurd man. The struggle to find meaning where none exists is what Camus calls, the absurd.  The absurd man will not commit suicide and he wants to live, without renouncing any of his incongruous hopes. The doomed character recounts in Bohemian Rhapsody reminds a nihilistic man that was narrated in Camus’s novel The Stranger.

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, ooo –
I don’t want to die,
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all –

The Opera Section begins with a powerful  vocal presentation. Freddy Mercury uses the name of a fictional character – Scaramouch that was created by Rafael Sabatini.

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the Fandango
Thunderbolt and Lightning – very very frightening me-
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo, gallileo,
Gallileo Figaro – Magnifico –
I’m just a poor boy nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy froma poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come, easy go – will you let me go

In the subsequent part, the singer utters a name Bismillah which means the God. It is a poetic phrase translated as in the name of the God, most gracious and most compassionate.

Bismillah! No, – we will not let you go – let him go –
Bismillah! We will not let you go – Let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go – Let him go
Will not let you go – Let me go
Will not let you go – Let me go
No, no, no, no, no, no, no-
Mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go –
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.

The final part of the song is the rock section. In this branch Freddy’s emotional struggle and apathy is emphasized. However, he is ready to accept the consequences.

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 –
Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters, nothing really matters – to me

In Bohemian Rhapsody the meaninglessness of all endeavors are emphasized in the final line.  According to the theory of Absurdism that was introduced by the French Algerian philosopher Albert Camus there is a fundamental disharmony that arises out of the co-presence of man and the universe. Man has a desire for order, meaning, and purpose in life, but the universe is indifferent and meaningless; the Absurd arises out of this conflict. Meursault was always aware of the meaninglessness of all endeavors in his life so as the nihilistic man of the Bohemian Rhapsody.

One Response to “Bohemian Rhapsody”

  1. Hiranthe Says:

    I loved this song but did not realise that it has such a deep meaning.

    Thank you Dr. Ruwan for sharing it.

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