Queen’s “Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…)” Lyrics Meaning
“Death on Two Legs” utilizes brutal lyrics to describe a person who has offended the writer in several ways. Apparently, the subject of this song is a person who doesn’t abide by the law and also breaches contracts.
Freddie Mercury’s mention of this person taking all his money proves that the subject is a former band manager who may have exploited the group. In the chorus, the narrator describes this person as heartless, crooked and bent on squeezing every ounce of joy and money out of him. He further questions if this person is not prompted by his conscience.
In the second verse, the singer continues to viciously attack this person’s business dealings, stating that he has nothing good to offer and is only concerned about exploiting talents. In the second chorus, he tells him to make himself null and void, implying that he has been fired, then concludes the song by admitting that he feels good about firing this manager.
This is without a shred of doubt a diss song against someone who was once close to the members of Queen but ended up mistreating them. It is believed that in this song, Queen is talking to their former manager in the person of Norman Sheffield. They present him, via the utilization of some choice metaphors, as someone who is basically a parasite.
Queen vs. Norman Sheffield
Norman Sheffield was the music executive that helped put Queen on the map, being their first manager. From his perspective, he went all-out in order to help them build a following. Indeed back in those days just the name of the band alone was enough to cause many members of the public to shun them.
However, from Queen’s perspective such was not the case. Rather what they saw was a management who was living lavishly while simultaneously shortchanging them out of compensation. So at the end of the day, they had a hostile falling out with Sheffield. And shortly thereafter they dropped “Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…)” (1975).
As a result of the track, Sheffield went on to sue Queen and their label for defamation, with the parties settling out of court. Said settlement was verification that the song was indeed about him. And its wording proved to be so harsh that Freddie Mercury actually felt some remorse after penning it.
“Death on Two Legs” Facts
Writing: Freddie Mercury
Production: The members of Queen alongside Roy Thomas Baker
Album: Queen’s 1975 iconic album titled “A Night at the Opera”
Release: November of 1975
Despite being one of the popular tracks from “A Night at the Opera”, “Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…)” wasn’t released as a single.
Only two songs were officially released as singles in support of this Grammy Hall of Fame inducted album. And these singles are: