Who Wants to Live Forever

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Single cover.

Who Wants to Live Forever is a power ballad by Queen first heard in the the 1986 film Highlander, and then released as track 6 on the album A Kind of Magic on 1986-06-03. The song was later released as a single, has a music video, and several alternate versions. The song was primarily composed by Brian May and was produced by the band and David Richards.

The lyrics and primary music were composed by Brian May. On the album version, May sings the opening verse and two other lines in the song, provides backup vocals, plays synth-organ in the opening, plays his red special electric guitar, and some orchestral arrangements. Freddie Mercury sings primary vocals and backing vocals. Roger Taylor programmed the drum machine and sings backup vocals. John Deacon play bass guitar. Michael Kamen, who provided the film's score, composed orchestration for the song and conducted the National Philharmonic Orchestra.

The song was written by May after he saw an early cut from the scene in the film where the song would be played. In the scene, a man who has reluctantly discovered he is immortal watches his wife grow old and frail and realizes that this same fate will happen to anyone else he ever loves.

Personal

I believe I first heard this song on the compilation album Classic Queen in the late 1990s. After learning about Queen's appearance in the soundtrack of the film Highlander, I got my parents to rent the film for me. After that, I was hooked both on the movie and the song, and I bought A Kind of Magic. I've loved the song ever since, and think it's one of Brian May's best works. When I'm in an emotional mood, the forlorn sound brings tears to my eyes.

I find the lyrics to be pretty simple, but they're delivered so amazingly by Freddie, and with the powerful music, the song is extremely effective at conveying emotion. Although the song is pretty depressing, it has a glimmer of joy by saying that the connection lovers feel last forever, even if their lives will not. The use of synth-organ is very helpful to the song. I like how Freddie and Brian swap vocals throughout the song, especially in the lines "But, touch my tears with your lips. Touch my world with your fingertips." which indicate two people (the lovers). Roger's use of drums is limited in the song, but what he does contribute really adds to the severity of the tune. Brian's guitar is especially amazing leading up to the final verse and then soars during the crescendo. The drawn out instrumental outro is really emotional.

Lyrics

There's no time for us.
There's no place for us.
What is this thing that builds our dreams,
yet slips away from us?

Who wants to live forever?
Who wants to live forever? Oh...

There's no chance for us.
It's all decided for us.
This world has only one sweet moment,
set aside for us.

Who wants to live forever?
Who wants to live forever? Ooooh...

Who dares to love forever?
Oh, oo-oh, when love must die?

But, touch my tears with your lips.
Touch my world with your fingertips.
And we can have forever,
And we can love forever.
Forever is our today.

Who wants to live forever?
Who wants to live forever?
Forever is our today.

Who waits forever anyway?

Versions

Several versions of the song have been recorded, but are all primarily based on the same studio session.

Released Version Notes
1986-03-07 Film version Early version with only Freddie's vocals. Never released on an album.
1986-06-03 Album version Track 6 on A Kind of Magic. Has Brian's vocals in a couple spots, includes a long instrumental outro.
1986-09-15 Single version Singles and EPs were released for about a dozen countries. Cuts out the outro. Most releases include Killer Queen, Forver, Don't Lose Your Head as B-sides.
1986-??-?? Video version Mostly the same as the single version, but with minor instrumental differences.
1991-10-28 Compilation version Closer to the album version, but not quite as long. First heard on the CD version of Greatest Hits II.
1998-??-?? Karaoke version Instrumental version of the video version. First released on Greatest Karaoke Hits.
2003-11-03 Surround version The video version, but with DTS 5.1 surround sound. First seen on Greatest Video Hits 2.

There are also a couple demo recordings that have surfaced which show the song taking shape. The song was also covered by Sarah Brightman, Breaking Benjamin, Dune, After Forever, and The Tenors. It has also been performed by Seal and Adam Lambert.

Media

Covers

Videos

Official video.
2011 remastered version.
Album version with Highlander footage.
Live at Wembley, 1986-07-11.
Live with Adam Lambert, 2016.

Links

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