Why Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ / ‘We Are the Champions’ Endures

Bohemian Rhapsody” may be Queen‘s most noteworthy single, but “We Will Rock You” / “We Are the Champions” is their most ubiquitous.

The single featuring both songs from News of the World album reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 after its release on Oct. 7, 1977. “We Will Rock You” / “We Are the Champions” also hit No. 2 on the U.K. charts on the way to four-times platinum sales.

They were songs with a mission, inspired by a May 1977 concert at Bingley Hall in Stafford, England, where fans serenaded the band with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the 1945 Rogers and Hammerstein stage musical Carousel. In response, guitarist Brian May told Metro, Queen wanted to write something of its own “to get the crowds waving and singing. It’s very unifying and positive.”

Along the way, the boom-boom-clap of “We Will Rock You” to the roof-raising choruses of “We Are the Champions” – almost always performed together by Queen in any of its permutations – have become true anthems for the masses, music that can’t help but raise your spirits. (In the case of “We Will Rock You,” it may cause a little wear and tear on the soles of your shoes, too.)

A team of researchers at the University of London’s Goldsmiths College determined in 2011 that “We Are the Champions” is the catchiest song ever written. If you’ve been at a sporting event where you don’t think you’ve heard either tune, that just means you fell asleep at some point.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” will continue to be extolled for its creative derring-do, but “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” are songs of the people. They’ve transcended the usual pop music trappings, becoming part of popular culture at large. Here’s a baker’s dozen of our favorite examples:

Henry Rollins (1987)

Among the first solo projects released by Henry Rollins after Black Flag split was “I Have Come to Kill You,” a parody that takes the proverbial piss out of “We Will Rock You” that he released under the name “Henrietta Collins and the Wife Beating Child Haters.”

‘Cheers’ (1990)

An episode titled “Severe Crane Damage” began with Norm (George Wentz) tapping out the “We Will Rock You” rhythm, which gradually picked up steam with other bar patrons, then those from the restaurant upstairs. Woody Harrelson‘s Woody Boyd began singing the chorus before the show cut to its theme song.

Clifton High School (1992)

New York’s Z100 put “We Are the Champions” back into the regular rotation after Clifton’s Class of 1992 was denied permission to sing it during the New Jersey school’s graduation ceremony. The principal at the time reportedly did not want an association with Freddie Mercury, who had died the year before from AIDS.

FIFA World Cup (1994)

Of the many sports uses of these two songs, the selection of “We Are the Champions” as the official theme song for the 1994 FIFA World Cup of soccer (or, everywhere else, football) was particularly near and dear to the hearts of Queen members.

‘The Simpsons’ (1999, 2006)

Fox’s long-running hit animated series included “We Will Rock” in not one but two episodes, 1999’s “Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” and 2006’s “Please Homer, Don’t Hammer ‘Em.”

‘Friends’ (1998)

During “The One Where Ross Moves In,” Ross (David Schwimmer) sings “we will, we will … call you back,” in cadence, as a new phone answering-machine message.

‘South Park’ (2008)

Besides making wicked fun of the High School Musical series, South Park‘s “Elementary School Musical” episode dropped a few seconds of “We Will Rock You” into a basketball game sequence.

‘WWE Raw’ (2012)

The Rock (Duane Johnson) pumped up the crowd before a 2012 bout with Jon Cena on WWE Raw by singing an altered version of “We Will Rock You” with pejorative references to his opponent.

Summer Olympic Games (2012)

The closing ceremony of 2012’s Summer Olympic Games featured a Queen segment that began with a call-and-response moment from Mercury during a 1986 concert at Wembley Stadium, followed by a long guitar solo from May that led into “We Will Rock You” sung by Jessie J.

‘Big Bang Theory’ (2015)

The “Bachelor Party Corrosion” episode included a scene in which four of the characters haplessly tried to figure out how to change a tire. Raj (Kunal Nayyar), Howard (Simon Helberg) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) change the chorus to “we will, we will, percussive shock you,” while Sheldon (Jim Parsons) broke into part of the first verse in falsetto.

Queen + Adam Lambert (2020)

Queen and long-time collaborator Adam Lambert updated “We Are the Champions” early in the pandemic, dedicating the song to frontline workers. The idea was born during a virtual jam on Instagram when Lambert changed the lyric from “we” to “you.” Proceeds from the single raised money for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

GMC Sierra Denali (2022)

An ad for GMC’s Sierra Denali pickup truck features riders doing the boom-boom-clap to illustrate the vehicle’s semi-autonomous driving system. It sounds cool but kids, don’t try this in your car.

Queen Elizabeth II (2022)

Queen Elizabeth II is seen chatting over tea with Paddington Bear in a short video filmed as part of her Platinum Jubilee. At the end of their encounter, a royal drum corps begins performing “We Will Rock You” outside Buckingham Palace and she joins in, tapping out the rhythm to “We Will Rock You” with a spoon on her teacup – regally, of course. Queen + Adam Lambert then began the Queen’s jubilee party with the song, though they followed it with “Don’t Stop Me Now” before playing “We Are the Champions.”

Rejected Original Titles of 30 Classic Albums

Titles are more than just words on the album covers. They’re reflections of the music and themes inside – and sometimes they make all the difference in the world.

You Think You Know Queen?

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