“Who Wants to Live Forever” by Queen
Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever” has a unique, even science-fiction backdrop. It was written for and inspired by a movie called Highlander (1986).
Fans of this franchise know that that storyline is based on a group of immortals who cannot die unless their head is severed. Moreover they don’t age. Well the hero of the films is one of these immortals, whereas his wife is not.
So one of the subplots is that she grows old, eventually dying, while he remains young and pristine throughout. And that is the premise upon which the lyrics of “Who Wants to Live Forever” are based.
But of course in the name of giving it mass appeal, the musical geniuses behind Queen didn’t drop a song with direct Highlander references. Rather, it’s more like the emotion the hero felt while watching his wife slowly pass is what’s at front and center.
Or as the vocalist puts it, going through such an experience, i.e. losing the woman he loves, makes the prospect of ‘living forever’ less appealing. Or viewed more constructively, since time available to the two of them is indeed finite, then they best make the most of it while it is actually available.
That seems to be the thesis sentiment that the singer is relaying to the addressee, his sweetheart, that they must capitalize on their love in the here and now, while the time is ripe.
Or stretching the lyrics a bit, time is not something to be taken for granted, and the singer doesn’t know tomorrow. So while he has this moment with his sweetheart, he tends to make the most of it not in a sexual kind of way but just appreciating her presence, as well as the love they share, to the utmost.
So Queen succeeded in putting forth the type of epic-sentimental love song one would desire for a major-motion picture with a romantic undertone, the type that speaks to a romance that never dies.
Though in this case the sentiment is flipped a bit, i.e. the singer realizing that living a long life would not be as edifying without his significant other.
This track features support from the UK’s National Philharmonic Orchestra, which was conducted by the late Michael Kamen (1948-2003) on the track.
The National Philharmonic also made an appearance on one of the official music videos to “Who Wants to Live Forever”.
That particular clip had David Mallet as its director. Then there’s another official video featuring footage from Highlander. And yet another can be found on the Queen Greatest Video Hits II compilation DVD that came out in 2003.
Release Date of “Who Wants to Live Forever”
This track is from “A Kind of Magic”, Queen’s 1986 album which served as the de facto soundtrack to the first Highlander movie.
That is to say that six out of the original nine tracks from this project appeared on the film, albeit with variations.
For instance, in the movie Freddie Mercury (1946-1991) sings “Who Wants to Live Forever” as the sole lead vocalist. But the album version rather features both he and Brian May taking on that role.
Concerning he movie’s impact on the album, the title of the project itself is a line taken from the flick. And concerning “Who Wants to Live Forever”, Brain May, the sole writer of the song, penned it upon inspiration from a love scene in Highlander.
Notable Covers of “Who Wants to Live Forever”
After the Queen frontman’s passing in 1991, at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert that was held the following year featured Seal, backed by the Queen instrumentalists (Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor), covering this song.
And another cover is available via Adam Lambert, which the vocalist described as being “a really special moment”, on the album Live Around the World (2020), a collaborative effort between he and Queen.
Other Notable Versions
In 1996, another notable cover was released by Dune (an electronic music group from Germany).
In Germany alone, this cover sold over half a million copies. It went on to peak at number 2 in Dune’s home country of Germany. It was also a top 10 hit in three other European countries, including Austria and Hungary.
The song went on to become one of the group’s most successful singles.
In 1997, a British singer named Sarah Brightman also released a powerful cover of this Queen classic. Her cover was equally a success. It managed to enter the official UK charts and reach a peak position of 45.
Appearance on “It’s a Sin”
This classic also made a notable appearance on the 2021 British TV series “It’s a Sin“. It was was prominently played during the end of the third episode of the series.
Who wrote “Who Wants to Live Forever”?
Queen’s Brian May is credited as the primary and only writer of this classic. However, the song was produced by the entirety of Queen. The band worked alongside English music producer David Richards to produce the song.