Freddie Mercury left a lasting impact on the state of popular music, long after his death in 1991.
The legacy he imparted onto a wide array of artists, across genres and decades, is a testament to the Queen frontman’s everlasting musicality, his inimitable swagger and stage presence, and the one-of-a-kind touch he put onto every song and every performance.
These artists — through their music, their style, and their charisma — have carried Mercury’s torch onward. Here are 10 modern artists who have been inspired by Mercury.
The mega-voiced American Idol alum has cemented his place as the eminent heir to Freddie Mercury’s legacy for much of his career, boldly doing a rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” for his Idol audition and performing with Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor on the show’s finale. Lambert’s performance was so impressive that May and Taylor invited him on tour across Europe in 2012, and he’s toured with the band consistently since then.
From her name — a play on the Queen hit “Radio Ga Ga” — to her larger-than-life stage persona, Lady Gaga has spent much of her career continuing the legacy of bombast that Queen and Mercury built their name on. Mother Monster even collaborated with May (who had electric-guitar duties) on the Born This Way single “You & I,” which just so happens to sample “We Will Rock You.”
The British wonder has drawn several comparisons to the Queen legend himself — his voice even approaches Mercury’s nearly four-octave range. He’s also made countless references to Freddie, shouting out the frontman on his breakthrough single “Grace Kelly” and, more recently, on his 2015 track “Last Party.” He tells Billboard that the latter track was inspired by a notorious story of a raucous party Mercury reportedly threw after he found out that he was HIV-positive.
Wiz Khalifa might be one of the more unexpected beneficiaries of Freddie Mercury’s legacy, but between his own experimental sense of style and assured personality, it makes sense why the rapper is so in awe of Mercury. “Freddie Mercury Was Amazing,” he tweeted back in 2012. Khalifa has passed on the Queen fandom to his son, as well. His and Amber Rose’s son, Bash, adorably performed a Queen song at a school talent show earlier this year.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The fearless Yeah Yeah Yeahs leader Karen O earned a reputation for channeling raw, rock ’n’ roll energy in her live performances — something that seems to have, at least in part, been inspired by the Queen frontman. “I’ve always thought he was just so tough and such an amazing entertainer, really a contradiction in many ways as well,” she said in a 2009 interview.
The Panic! at the Disco frontman’s theatrical stage persona follows in the footsteps of Mercury. In one interview, he plainly stated that he wants to be Freddie Mercury. “I wish I was Freddie Mercury, straight up,” he told the now-defunct Interview magazine in 2015. Onstage, Urie has covered “Bohemian Rhapsody” for years — including a well-received rendition at the American Music Awards earlier this year — and contributed a studio version for the Suicide Squad soundtrack.
Brittany Howard, the velvety-throated leader and guitarist of the blues-rock band, cites Mercury as an early inspiration for her own vocals. “When I was growing up, I thought [his] melodies were cool,” she said in a 2015 interview with Premier Guitar.
The Foo Fighters frontman, much like his former Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain, admired Freddie Mercury’s onstage energy. He once told the Washington Post that his cure for last-minute stage jitters was looking at two photos: one of him shaking President Obama’s hand and one of Freddie Mercury in the middle of a performance.
The South Korean star professed his love of Freddie Mercury right as the uber-viral “Gangnam Style” began earning him international attention. “My lifetime role model and hero is Freddie Mercury,” he told The New York Times in 2012, citing his songwriting and showmanship as touchstones for his own career.
Through the course of her career, Katy Perry has made it clear just how vital Freddie Mercury’s existence was — going so far as to cover “Don’t Stop Me Now” during her early tours. “I have a shrine of him,” she told Fuse in a 2008 interview. “He is my utmost idea of rock star greatness. He was just so flamboyant and had a larger-than-life personality.”