Queen in Iran

Rock band Queen, fronted by gay icon Freddie Mercury, has become the first rock act to receive an official seal of approval in Iran.

Western music is strictly censored in the Islamic republic, where homosexuality is considered a crime.

But an album of Queen’s greatest hits was released in Iran on Monday.

Mercury, who died in 1991, was proud of his Iranian ancestry, and illegal bootleg albums and singles made Queen one of the most popular bands in Iran.

Lyrics explained

The album contains hits such as Bohemian Rhapsody, The Miracle and I Want to Break Free, but reportedly omits a number of Queen’s love songs.

The cassette, costing less than $1 (55 pence), comes complete with translated lyrics and an explanatory leaflet.

It tells Queen fans that Bohemian Rhapsody is about a young man who has accidentally killed someone and, like Faust, sold his soul to the devil.

On the night before his execution he calls God in Arabic, “Bismillah”, and so regains his soul from Satan.

Freddie Mercury

Queen’s Freddie Mercury had Iranian ancestors

Akbar Safari, a salesman at a Tehran book and record store, said the album was already selling very well.

“It is the first rock album to hit the market legally and people are surprised and pleased to see it has the lyrics, not just the music,” he said.

Other western acts to have had albums of selected songs released on the official Iranian market include Elton John, Julio Iglesias and The Gypsy Kings.

Books containing original and translated lyrics by many western singers have also been published in Iran, in response to the demands of a nation where 70% of the population is aged under 30.

The books contain lyrics by artists such as Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion and controversial rapper Eminem. 


Why Iran’s Impact on Rock and Roll is Criminally Overlooked

Speaking of eyes and looking up to the sky, no account of Iranian episodes in rock and roll history would be complete without mention of the larger-than-life Freddie Mercury. Before he was ‘Freddie’, the rock god was Farrokh Bulsara, a goofy-looking Parsi (Persian Zoroastrian) boy in Tanzania. Freddie and his family, like all other Parsis (the term literally means ‘Persian’), were adherents of Zoroastrianism, the ancient monotheistic Iranian faith, whose ancestors had migrated to India from Iran in successive waves, beginning in the eighth century. “I’ll always walk around like a Persian popinjay,” he once remarked in an interview, “and no one’s gonna stop me, honey!” More recently, in a BBC documentary about Zoroastrianism and the Iranian New Year, Freddie’s sister Kashmira mentioned how proud the singer had been of his Iranian ancestry and how his ancient Iranian faith had inspired him throughout his short, yet brilliant life.


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