Brian May life and biography

Brian May picture, image, poster

Brian May biography

Date of birth : 1947-07-19
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Hampton, London, England, UK
Nationality : British
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-10-07
Credited as : rock musician, QUEEN, guitarist

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Brian Harold May is an English musician and astrophysicist most widely known as the guitarist and a songwriter of the rock band Queen.

During his teenage years, he had, however, applied his practical talents to building ‘the Red Special’, a unique custom made guitar. One of the truly unique talents in music was quite literally building his music career. And so it almost seems an inevitable part of rock history that when Brian went to London’s Imperial College to study Physics in 1968 that he would form the band, ‘Smile’. This group included not only the drummer, Roger Taylor, but crucially, a bassist called Tim Staffell whose friend, Farrokh Bulsara, became a fan of the trio. And in 1970, Farokh Bulsara would suggest that the band change their name from ‘Smile’ to ‘Queen’ and, of course, Farokh Bulsara would later change his name to Freddie Mercury.

The band developed a unique, eclectic, metallic, operatic, sound and released too many albums to list but their breakthrough albums were ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ and ‘A Night at the Opera’. Their singles are also too ubiquitous to name-check here but some of the greats that May directly contributed to include 'Tie Your Mother Down', 'We Will Rock You', 'Who Wants to Live Forever', 'Hammer to Fall', 'Save Me', 'Fat Bottomed Girls' and 'I Want It All'.

And just as Queen were establishing themselves at the top of the charts, May crowned his success in 1974 by marrying Chrissie Mullen. The couple would go onto have three children.

By 1975, Queen was a world touring headline act. Their adeptness and experimentation in the studio was matched with a stadium, stomping, showmanship that saw its zenith in 1985. Queen on stage at Live Aid is a visual short-hand for all that was best about that world concert (diverse crowds brought together in shared anthems) and many consider it the definitive live rock performance.

Dead in between this decade of ascendency one amusing aside is the Brian May soundtrack composition, ‘Flash’, for the camp classic film, ‘Flash Gordon’. (Many wrongly assume the 1980s song is a Freddie written tune.)

But after the rise, comes the fall, and May believes that the Coronation Street inspired, but massively misunderstood 'I Want to Break Free' video in which band members dressed in drag, effectively ended their popularity in the more conservative America. It would be nearly twenty years before Queen returned to their rightful prominence in the U.S with the release of the film, ‘Wayne’s World’.

May’s marriage to Chrissie Mullen ended in 1988 and he went onto marry Anita Dobson (with whom he produced the single, “Anyone Can Fall in Love”.

When in 1991, Freddie Mercury died, May and the other members of Queen set up a charity to support AIDS relief, the Mercury Phoenix Trust (to date, it has channelled over eight million pounds to projects all over the world). This remarkable achievement is symptomatic of May, a man who has dealt with his grief by taking on an almost unsustainable work-load. He has since simultaneously pursued his musical and academic passions whilst continuing to support numerous concerns, both charitable and commercial.

In 2002, Ben Elton used the Queen catalogue to write a critically savaged but commercially successful futuristic story, ‘We Will Rock You’. (In an unexpected career move, the show was produced by ‘Raging Bull’ Robert DeNiro) But May’s defining moment that year was his Hendrix inspired arrangement and playing of ‘God Save the Queen’ live from the roof of Buckingham Palace to open up the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

In the following years he’s picked up a CBE in 2005, and then added ‘Dr’ to his name in 2007 when he completed his doctoral thesis.

Brian’s brief but creative collaboration with Paul Rodgers (he of ‘Free’, whose song ‘Alright Now’ was popularised to a new generation via a Wrigleys chewing gum advert) came to an end in 2009 but the possibility of a re-union has not been ruled out.

May has had a lifelong passion for stereoscopic, or 3D photographs (about which he has written a book) and he is now proud to be portrayed as a figure in the latest Lego Rock Band Game.

May studied physics and mathematics at Imperial College London, graduating with a BSc (Hons) degree and ARCS in physics with Upper Second-Class Honours. He then proceeded to study for a PhD degree, also at the Imperial College London departments of Physics and Mathematics, and was part way through this PhD programme, studying reflected light from interplanetary dust and the velocity of dust in the plane of the Solar System. When Queen became successful he abandoned his physics doctorate but did co-author two scientific research papers: MgI Emission in the Night-Sky Spectrum (1972) and An Investigation of the Motion of Zodiacal Dust Particles (Part I) (1973), which were based on his observations at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife. He is the co-author of Bang! – The Complete History of the Universe with Sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott, which was published in October 2006. In October 2007, more than 30 years after he started his research, he completed his PhD thesis in astrophysics, entitled A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, passed his viva voce, and performed the required corrections. He officially graduated at the postgraduate awards ceremony held in the Royal Albert Hall, on the afternoon of Wednesday 14 May 2008.

On 17 November 2007, May was appointed Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, taking over from Cherie Blair, and installed in 2008.

Asteroid 52665 Brianmay was named in his honour on 18 June 2008 on the suggestion of Sir Patrick Moore (probably influenced by the asteroid's provisional designation of 1998 BM30).

May appeared on the 700th episode of The Sky at Night hosted by Sir Patrick Moore, along with Dr. Chris Lintott, Jon Culshaw, Prof. Brian Cox and the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees who on leaving the panel told Brian May, who was joining it, "I don't know any scientist who looks as much as like Isaac Newton as you do". May replied that "that could be my after dinner comment, thank you very much".

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