Brian May

Brian May
Brian May

May in 2011
Background information
Birth name Brian Harold May
Born 19 July 1947 (1947-07-19) (age 64)
Hampton, London, England, UK
Genres Rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter, producer, astrophysicist, author, contributor (The Sky at Night)
Instruments Guitar, vocals, piano
Years active 1965–present
Labels Hollywood, Parlophone
Associated acts Smile, Queen, Phenomena, G3, Queen + Paul Rodgers, Kerry Ellis, Lady Gaga
Notable instruments

Brian Harold May, CBE (born 19 July 1947) is an English musician and astrophysicist most widely known as the guitarist and a songwriter of the rock band Queen. As a guitarist he uses his home-built guitar, "Red Special", and has composed hits such as "Tie Your Mother Down", "We Will Rock You", and "Fat Bottomed Girls".

He was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 for "services to the music industry".[1] May earned a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College in 2007 and is currently the Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University.[2] May currently resides in Surrey.[3]

In 2005, a Planet Rock poll saw May voted the 7th greatest guitarist of all time.[4] He was ranked at #39 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".[5]


Early life

Brian May, the only child of Harold and Ruth May, was born in Hampton, London and attended Hampton Grammar School (now Hampton School).[6] During this time he formed his first band with vocalist and bassist Tim Staffell, named Nineteen Eighty-Four after George Orwell's novel of the same name.[7] He left Hampton Grammar School with ten GCE Ordinary Levels and three Advanced Levels in Physics, Mathematics and Applied Mathematics.[7] He studied Mathemathics and Physics in Imperial College, London, graduating with a second class upper degree.



Brian May formed the band Smile in 1968. The group included Tim Staffell as singer and bassist, and later, drummer Roger Taylor, who also went on to play for Queen. The band lasted for only two years from 1968 to 1970, as Staffell left in 1970, leaving the band with a catalogue of only nine songs. Smile would reunite for several songs on 22 December 1992. Taylor's band The Cross were headliners and he brought May and Staffell on to play "Earth" and "If I Were a Carpenter".[8] May also performed several other songs that night.


Queen in 1979.

In Queen's three-part vocal harmonies, May's was generally the lower-range backing vocal. On some of his songs he sings the lead vocal, most notably the first verse of "Who Wants to Live Forever", the bridge on "I Want It All" and "Flash's Theme", and full lead vocals on "Some Day One Day", "She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettoes)", "'39", "Good Company", "Long Away", "All Dead, All Dead", "Sleeping on the Sidewalk", "Leaving Home Ain't Easy" and "Sail Away Sweet Sister".

Throughout Queen's career May frequently wrote songs for the band and has composed many significant songs such as the worldwide hit "We Will Rock You", as well as "Tie Your Mother Down", "Who Wants to Live Forever", "Hammer to Fall", "Save Me", "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "I Want It All". Typically, either Freddie Mercury or May wrote the most songs on every Queen album.

After the famous Live Aid concert in summer 1985, Mercury rang his bandmates and proposed writing a song together. The result was "One Vision", which was basically May on music (the Magic Years documentary shows how he came up with the opening section and the basic guitar riff) and Roger Taylor on lyrics, with Freddie Mercury being more a producer and arranger than a proper co-writer, and John Deacon mostly absent.

For their 1989 release album, The Miracle, the band had decided that all of the tracks would be credited to the entire band, no matter who had been the main writer. Still, interviews and musical analyses tend to help identify the input of each member on each track.

May composed "I Want It All" for that album, as well as "Scandal" (based on his personal problems with the British press). For the rest of the album he did not contribute so much creatively, although he helped in building the basis of "Party" and "Was It All Worth It" (both being predominantly Mercury's pieces) and created the guitar riff of "Chinese Torture".

Queen's subsequent album was Innuendo, on which May's contributions increased, although more in arrangements than actual writing in most cases; for the title track he did some of the arrangement for the heavy solo, then he added vocal harmonies to "I'm Going Slightly Mad" and composed the solo of "These Are the Days of Our Lives", a song for which the four of them decided the keyboard parts together. He changed the tempo and key of Mercury's song "The Hitman" and took it under his wing, even singing guide vocal in the demo. May also co-wrote some of the guitar lines in "Bijou".

Two songs that May had composed for his first solo album, "Headlong" and "I Can't Live With You", eventually ended up in the Queen project. His other composition was "The Show Must Go On", a group effort in which he was the coordinator and primary composer, but in which they all had input, Deacon and Taylor with the famous chord sequence.

In recent years, he has overseen the remastering of Queen albums and various DVD and greatest hits releases. In 2004, he announced that he and drummer Roger Taylor were going on tour for the first time in 18 years as "Queen", along with Free/Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers. Billed as "Queen + Paul Rodgers", the band has played throughout 2005 and 2006 in South Africa, Europe, Aruba, Japan, and North America and released a new album with Paul Rodgers in 2008, entitled The Cosmos Rocks. This album was supported by a major tour.

Solo work and The Brian May Band

May playing his Red Special

During 1983, several members of Queen explored side projects. On 21 and 22 April in Los Angeles, May recorded his first solo work, a mini-album entitled Star Fleet Project, on which he collaborated with Eddie Van Halen.[9]

He worked with his second wife Anita Dobson on her first album, in which she sang vocals to the EastEnders theme tune. In this form the tune became the song "Anyone Can Fall in Love".[10] May himself produced the song, which reached #4 in the UK Singles Chart in August 1986.

Following the death of Freddie Mercury in November 1991, May chose to deal with his grief by committing himself as fully as possible to work, first by finishing his solo album, Back to the Light, and then touring worldwide to promote it. He frequently remarked in press interviews that this was the only form of self-prescribed therapy he could think of.[11]

In late 1992, the Brian May Band was officially formed. An early version of the band was loosely formed for 19 October 1991, when May took part in the Guitar Legends guitar festival in Seville, Spain. The line-up for his performance was May (Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar), Cozy Powell (Drums & Percussion), Mike Moran (Keyboards), Rick Wakeman (Keyboards), Maggie Ryder (Backing vocals), Miriam Stockley (Backing vocals) and Chris Thompson (Backing vocals).

The original line-up was Brian May (Lead Vocals and Lead Guitar), Cozy Powell (Drums and Percussion), Mike Caswell (Guitar), Neil Murray (Bass), Maggie Ryder (Backing vocals), Miriam Stockley (Backing vocals) and Chris Thompson (Backing vocals). This version of the band lasted only during the South American support tour (supporting The B-52's and Joe Cocker) on only five dates. In Spain, a Catalan band called Sweet Sister supported the tour.

Afterwards, May made significant changes, feeling the group never quite gelled. Most significantly, May brought guitarist Jamie Moses on board to replace Mike Caswell. May considered Moses a perfect fit to the band. The other change made was in the backing vocal department. Ryder, Stockley and Thompson were replaced with Catherine Porter and Shelley Preston. On 23 February 1993, this new line-up of The Brian May Band began its world tour in the US, both supporting Guns N' Roses and headlining a few dates. The tour would take them through North America, Europe (support act: Valentine) and Japan.

After the tour ended on 18 December 1993, May returned to the studio with fellow surviving Queen band members Roger Taylor and John Deacon to work on tracks that became Made in Heaven, the final Queen studio album. The band took Mercury's solo album demos and last recordings, which he managed to perform in the studio after the album Innuendo was finished, and completed them with their additions both musically and vocally. Work on the album after Mercury's death originally began in 1992 by Deacon and May, but was left until a later date due to other commitments.

In 1995, May began working towards a new solo album of covers tentatively named Heroes, in addition to working on various film and television projects and other collaborations. May subsequently changed the approach of his second album from covers to focus on those collaborations and on new material. The songs recorded for that album, Another World, would feature mainly Spike Edney, Cozy Powell, Neil Murray and Jamie Moses, who had become his core support/collaborative team.

On 5 April 1998, Cozy Powell was killed in a car accident on the M4 motorway near Bristol, England. This caused a huge, unexpected disruption to the upcoming tour for The Brian May Band, with a new drummer being needed at short notice. Steve Ferrone was brought on to help May finish recording drums for the title track "Another World" and to join the band for the early stage promotional tour of five dates in Europe before the world tour.

The line-up was then May (lead vocals & lead guitar), Edney (keyboards), Murray (bass), Moses (guitar), Ferrone (drums & percussion), Susie Webb (backing vocals) and Zoe Nicholas (Bbacking vocals). Following the early promotional tour, Eric Singer replaced Steve Ferrone for the full 1998 world tour.

Later solo work

From his last solo release in 1998 May has been performing as a solo artist, as part of an ensemble, and infrequently as Queen with Roger Taylor. On 22 October 2000, Brian May made a guest appearance at the Motörhead 25th Anniversary show at Brixton Academy along with Eddie Clarke (former Motörhead guitarist) for the encore song "Overkill". In the Queen's birthday honours list of 2005, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire "for services to the music industry".[12] May is a friend of singer and musician Phil Collins and was a special guest at the Genesis reunion concert at Twickenham Stadium in 2007. On 17 November 2007, Brian May was appointed Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University,[13] taking over from Cherie Blair, and installed in 2008.[14] May worked extensively with stage actress and singer Kerry Ellis after he cast her in the musical We Will Rock You. He produced and arranged her debut studio album Anthems (2010), a follow-up to her extended play Wicked in Rock (2008), as well as appeared with Ellis at many public performances – playing guitar alongside her. He also contributed a guitar solo to Meat Loaf's Hang Cool, Teddy Bear album in exchange for the use of drummer John Miceli. Along with Elena Vidal, Brian May released a historical book in 2009 entitled A Village Lost and Found: Scenes in Our Village. The book is an annotated collection of stereoscopic photographs taken by the Victorian era photographer T. R. Williams and it is sold with a focussing stereoscope. May became an enthusiast of stereoscope photographs as a child, and first encountered the work of Williams during the late 1960s. In 2003 May announced a search in order to identify the actual location of the Scenes in Our Village images. In 2004 May reported that he had identified the location as the village of Hinton Waldrist in Oxfordshire.

In November 2009, May appeared on the popular reality TV show The X Factor with band mate Roger Taylor as Queen mentoring the contestants, then later performing "Bohemian Rhapsody". In April 2010, May founded the "Save Me" 2010 project to work against any proposed repeal of the British fox-hunting ban, and also to promote animal rights in Britain.[15] In February 2011 it was announced that May would tour with Kerry Ellis, playing 12 dates across the UK in May 2011. On 18 April 2011 Lady Gaga confirmed that May would play guitar on her track "You and I" from her latest album Born This Way, released on 23 May 2011.[16] On 26 August, May performed "We Will Rock You" and "Welcome To The Black Parade" with American rock band My Chemical Romance at the Reading Festival.[17] On 28 August, May performed "You and I" live with Lady Gaga at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards at the Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles.[18]

Queen + Paul Rodgers

At the end of 2004, May and Taylor announced that they would reunite and return to touring in 2005, with Paul Rodgers (founder and former lead singer of Free and Bad Company). Brian May's website also stated that Rodgers would be "featured with" Queen as Queen + Paul Rodgers, not replacing the late Freddie Mercury. The retired John Deacon would not be participating.[19]

Between 2005 and 2006 Queen and Paul Rodgers embarked on a world tour, the first leg being Europe and the second, Japan and the US in 2006.[20] On 25 May 2006, Queen received the inaugural VH1 Rock Honors at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, and May and Taylor were joined on stage with the Foo Fighters to perform a selection of Queen songs.[20][21] On 15 August 2006, May confirmed through his website and fan club that Queen + Paul Rodgers would begin producing their first studio album beginning in October, to be recorded at a "secret location".[22] The album, titled The Cosmos Rocks, was released in Europe on 12 September 2008 and in the United States on 28 October 2008. Following the album the band again embarked on a tour through Europe and parts of the US, opening on Kharkov's freedom square in front of 350,000 Ukrainian fans.[23] The show in Ukraine was later released on DVD.[23]

Queen and Paul Rodgers officially split up on 12 May 2009. Rodgers does not rule out the possibility of working together again.[24][25]


Brian May in 1975

Brian May began composing in 1968/1969, and through the years he has collaborated with other songwriters, including Frank Musker, with whom he wrote "Too Much Love Will Kill You", and with Elizabeth Lamers, whose music won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically & Lyrically in 1996.[26] A meticulous arranger, he focuses on multi-part harmonies, often more contrapuntal than parallel — a relative rarity for rock guitar. Examples are found in Queen's albums A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, where he arranged a jazz band for guitar mini-orchestra ("Good Company"), a vocal canon ("The Prophet's Song") and guitar and vocal counterpoints ("Teo Torriatte").

May explored a wide variety of styles in guitar, including sweep picking ("Was It All Worth It", "Chinese Torture"), tremolo ("Brighton Rock", "Stone Cold Crazy", "Death on Two Legs", "Sweet Lady", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Get Down Make Love", "Dragon Attack"), tapping ("Bijou", "It's Late", "Resurrection", "Cyborg", "Rain Must Fall", "Business", "China Belle", "I Was Born To Love You"), slide guitar ("Drowse", "Tie Your Mother Down"), Hendrix sounding licks ("Liar", "Brighton Rock"), tape-delay ("Brighton Rock", "White Man") and melodic sequences ("Bohemian Rhapsody", "Killer Queen", "These Are the Days of Our Lives"). Some of his solos and orchestral parts were composed by Freddie Mercury, who then asked May to bring them to life ("Bicycle Race", "Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon", "Killer Queen", "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy"). May also performed notable acoustic works, including the acoustic guitar live version of "Love of My Life" from 1975's A Night at the Opera, the finger-picked solo of "White Queen" and the skiffle-influenced "'39".

In January 2007, the readers of Guitar World voted May's guitar solos "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Brighton Rock" into the top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of all time ("Bohemian Rhapsody" was voted #20 and "Brighton Rock" was voted #41).

Aided by the uniqueness of his guitar — the Red Special — May was often able to create strange and unusual sound effects. For example, he was able to imitate an orchestra in the song "Procession"; in "Get Down, Make Love" he was able to create sound effects with his guitar that were so unusual that many[who?] thought a synthesiser was being used; in "Good Company" he used his guitar to mimic a trombone, a piccolo and several other instruments for the song's Dixieland jazz band feel. Queen used a "No synthesizers were used on this album" sleeve note on their early albums to make this clear to the listeners.

Other instruments

The first instrument Brian May learned to play was the banjolele, which he then played on Queen's song "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" (live and in the studio). For "Good Company", he used a regular baritone ukelele which he had bought in Hawaii on a holiday. Occasionally, May would also record on other string instruments such as harp (one chord per take, then copied and pasted by the engineer to make it sound like a continuous performance) and bass (on some demos and many songs in his solo career, and the Queen + Paul Rodgers album).

As a child, he was also trained on classical piano. Although Freddie Mercury was the band's main pianist, Brian would occasionally step in (such as on Save Me. From 1979 onwards, he also played synthesisers, organ ("Wedding March") and programmed drum-machines for both Queen and outside projects (such as producing other artists and his own solo records).

May is also an accomplished singer.[27] From Queen's Queen II to The Game, May contributed lead vocals to at least one song per album.

May co-composed a mini-opera with Lee Holdridge, Il Colosso, for Steve Barron's 1996 film, The Adventures of Pinocchio. May performed the opera with Jerry Hadley, Sissel Kyrkjebo, and Just William. On-screen, it was performed entirely by puppets.


May tapping.

"He's a class act from head to toe, and it shows in his playing. I can listen to any player and pantomime their sound, but I can't do Brian May. He's just walking on higher ground."

Brian May has been referred to as a virtuoso guitarist by many publications and musicians.[29][30][31][32][33] Former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar stated, "I thought Queen were really innovative and made some great sounding records.. I like the rockin' stuff. I think Brian May has one of the great guitar tones on the planet, and I really, really love his guitar work."[33] May has used a range of guitars, most often the "Red Special", which he designed when he was only 16 years old.[34] It was built with wood from an 18th century fireplace. His comments on this instrument, from Queen In Their Own Words (ed. Mick St. Michael, Omnibus Press, 1992, p. 62) are:

I like a big neck – thick, flat and wide. I lacquered the fingerboard with Rustin's Plastic Coating. The tremolo is interesting in that the arm's made from an old bicycle saddle bag carrier, the knob at the end's off a knitting needle and the springs are valve springs from an old motorbike.
—Brian May

In addition to using his home-made guitar he prefers to use coins (especially a sixpence from the farewell proof set of 1970), instead of a more traditional plastic plectrum, on the basis that their rigidity gives him more control in playing. He is known to carry coins in his pockets specifically for this purpose.

May's early heroes were Cliff Richard and The Shadows, who he says were "the most metallic thing(s) out at the time." Many years later he gained his opportunity to play on separate occasions with both Cliff Richard and Shadows lead guitarist Hank Marvin. He has collaborated with Cliff Richard on a re-recording of the Cliff Richard and The Shadows (then known as The Drifters) 1958 hit "Move It" on the Cliff Richard duets album Two's Company which was released on 6 November 2006. On Queen For An Hour 1989 Interview on BBC Radio 1 May listed Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton as his guitar heroes. In a 1991 interview for Guitar World magazine, May referred to The Who as "my inspiration", and on seeing Led Zeppelin stated, "We used to look at those guys and think, "That's the way it should be done."[35]

During the time in which Brian May and his father were building the Red Special, May also produced plans to build a second guitar. However, so successful was the Red Special, that May simply had no need to build another guitar. These plans were eventually given to guitar luthier Andrew Guyton in around 2004/05, some slight modifications were made and the guitar was built. It was named "The Spade", as the shape of the body resembled the form shown on playing cards. However the guitar also came to be known as "The Guitar That Time Forgot". As yet, this guitar has not been used in any recordings and remains in May's possession.


Brian May performing with the Greg Fryer Red Special replica in Warsaw, Poland, 1998.

Most of May's electric guitar work live and in the studio was done on the Red Special, which he built with his father during his teenage years.[36][37][38] From 1975 onwards, he has also had some replicas made, some of which were also used for live and recording purposes, others were mainly spares. The most famous replicas were made by John Birch (in 1975—May actually smashed it during a concert in the States in 1982), Greco BM90 (featured in the promo video of "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy" in 1977), Guild (back-up from 1984 to 1993) and Fryers (1997–1998, used both live and in the studio). On stage, Brian used to carry at least one back-up guitar (in case he broke a string) and occasionally would use others for certain songs or parts. Currently, May has his own company which makes guitars whose design is modelled after the original Red Special guitar.

  • July 1973 – May 1974: Fender Stratocaster Pre-CBS
  • October 1974 – May 1975: Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, and the Stratocaster from the previous tour.
  • November 1975 – May 1976: Same two guitars as before, plus a natural finish John Birch replica of the Red Special.
  • September 1976: Same three as before, plus a Martin D-18 acoustic for "'39".
  • January 1977 – August 1979: Just the Birch replica plus an Ovation Pacemaker 12-string acoustic on some numbers ("'39", "Love of My Life", "Dreamer's Ball").
  • November 1979 – June 1982: Birch replica (back-up), Fender Telecaster ("Crazy Little Thing Called Love" 2nd verse, middle-eight and solo), Ovation (acoustic numbers).
  • July – November 1982: Added a Gibson Flying V as second back-up. On 9 August 1982 Brian smashed the Birch guitar, so the Flying V became the only spare.
  • August to October 1984: The Flying V became a second back-up again as his main spare was the Guild replica. He also used Roger Taylor's Gibson Chet-Atkins Classical Electric.
  • July 1985 – August 1986: Gibson Flying V no longer used. The rest remained the same.

Some of the non-RS electric guitars he used in the studio included:

  • Burns Double Six on "Long Away" (1976) and "Under Pressure" (1981).
  • Fender Broadcaster on "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (1979). It was used for the video (but not the recordings) of "Back Chat" (1982).
  • Gibson Firebird on "Hammer to Fall" and "Tear It Up" (album versions only, not on stage).
  • Ibanez JS on "Nothing But Blue" (1991).
  • Parker Fly on "Mother Love" (1993–1995).

For acoustic, he favoured Ovation, Martin, Tōkai Hummingbird, Godin and Guild. On a couple of videos he also used some different electric guitars: a Stratocaster copy on "Play the Game" (1980) and a Washburn RR2V on "Princes of the Universe" (1986).

In 1984 Guild released the first official Red Special replica for mass production, and made some prototypes specifically for May. However the solid body construction (the original RS has hollow cavities in the body) and the pick-ups (DiMarzio) that were not an exact replica of the Burns TriSonic did not make May happy, so the production stopped after just 300 guitars. In 1993 Guild made a second replica of the RS, made in just 1000 copies, of which May has some and used as a backup. At the moment, he uses the two guitars made by Greg Fryer—the luthier who restored the Old Lady in 1998—as backup. They are almost identical to the original, except for the Fryer logo on the headstock (May's original one has a sixpence).

In the studio, May used Yamaha DX7 synths for the opening sequence of "One Vision" and the backgrounds of "Who Wants to Live Forever" (also on stage), "Scandal" and "The Show Must Go On". He mostly used Freddie Mercury's 1972 Steinway piano and reportedly now owns the instrument in question.

May was keen on using some toys as instruments as well. He used a Yamaha plastic piano in "Teo Torriatte", a "genuine George Formby Ukulele-Banjo" in "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" and in "Good Company", and a toy mini koto in "The Prophet's Song".

May has used Vox AC30 amplifiers almost exclusively since a meeting with his long time hero Rory Gallagher at a gig in London during the late '60s/early '70s.[39] His choice is the model AC30TBX, the top-boost version with Blue Alnico speakers, and he runs the amp at full volume on the Normal channel. He also customises his amps by removing the circuitry for the Brilliant and Vib-trem channels (leaving only the circuitry for the Normal), and this alters the tone slightly, with a gain addition of 6–7 dB.[citation needed] He always used a treble booster built by John Deacon which, along with the AC30, went a long way in helping to create many of his signature guitar tones. He used the Dallas Rangemaster for the first Queen albums, up to A Day at the Races. Effects guru Pete Cornish built for him the TB-83 (32 dB of gain) that was used for all the remaining Queen albums. He switched in 2000 to the Fryer's booster, which actually gives less boost than the TB-83.

Live, he uses banks of Vox AC30 amplifiers keeping some amps with only guitar and others with all effects such as delay, flanger and chorus. He has a rack of 14 AC30s, which are grouped as Normal, Chorus, Delay 1, Delay 2. On his pedal board, May has a custom switch unit made by Cornish and subsequently modified by Fryer that allows him to choose which amps are active. He uses a BOSS pedal from the '70s, the Chorus Ensemble CE-1, which can be heard in In The Lap of The Gods (Live at Wembley '86) or Hammer to Fall (slow version played live with P. Rodgers). Next in the chain, he uses a Foxx Foot Phaser (We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions, Keep Yourself Alive, etc.), and two delay machines to play his trademark solo in Brighton Rock.

May's lead vocals in Queen

  • "Keep Yourself Alive" – Vocal bridge with Taylor, rest sung by Mercury (1973)
  • "Some Day, One Day" (1974)
  • "She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettoes)" (1974)
  • "'39" (1975)
  • "Good Company" (1975)
  • "Long Away" (1976)
  • "All Dead, All Dead" (1977)
  • "Sleeping on the Sidewalk" (1977)
  • "Fat Bottomed Girls" – Chorus lead vocals (1978)
  • "Leaving Home Ain't Easy" (1978)
  • "Sail Away Sweet Sister" – Mercury sings the bridge (1980)
  • "Flash" – with Freddie Mercury (1980)
  • "Put Out the Fire" - lead on falsetto lines.
  • "Las Palabras de Amor" – Lead harmony vocals on chorus (1982)
  • "I Go Crazy" – Lead Bridge Vocals (1984)
  • "Who Wants to Live Forever" – First verse, harmony and other lines throughout (1986)
  • "I Want It All" – with Mercury (1989)
  • "Lost Opportunity" (1991)
  • "Mother Love" – Lead vocals on final verse (1995)
  • "Let Me Live" – Lead vocals on third verse (1995)
  • "No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)" – with Taylor (1997)

Personal life

From 1974 to 1988, May was married to Chrissie Mullen, who is the mother of his three children: Jimmy, who was born on 15 June 1978; Louisa, who was born on 22 May 1981 and Emily Ruth, who was born on 17 February 1987. Chrissie and Brian separated in 1988. Their separation and eventual divorce was highly publicised by British tabloid newspapers following reports that he had an affair with Eastenders actress Anita Dobson, whom he met in 1986, and who gained fame in the 1980s as Angie Watts. After many years together they married on December 18, 2000.

He has stated in interviews that he suffered from severe depression in the late 1980s and early 1990s, even to the point of contemplating suicide,[40] for reasons having to do with his troubled first marriage, his perceived failure as a husband and a father, his father Harold's death, and Freddie Mercury's illness and eventual death.[41]

May's father Harold worked as a draughtsman at the Ministry of Aviation and had been a long-time cigarette-smoker. As a result, May dislikes smoking,[42] even to the point where he has prohibited smoking indoors at his more recent concerts.[43]

According to The Sunday Times Rich List he is worth £85 million as of 2011.[44]


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)[45] and An Investigation of the Motion of Zodiacal Dust Particles (Part I) (1973),[46] 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.[47] In October 2007, more than 30 years after he started his research, he completed his PhD thesis in astrophysics,[48] entitled A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud,[49] passed his viva voce, and performed the required corrections.[50][51][52][53] 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,[13] taking over from Cherie Blair, and installed in 2008.[14]

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).[34][54]

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".


Brian May has formed a group to promote animal welfare. Though a Conservative Party voter most of his life,[55] he has stated that their policy on fox hunting and the culling of badgers turned him off voting for them. His group, Save Me (named after the song that he wrote), is a campaign group for the protection of all animals against unnecessary, cruel and degrading treatment; with a particular emphasis on preventing hunting of foxes and the culling of badgers.[56]

The group's primary concern is to ensure that the Hunting Act 2004 and other laws protecting animals are kept in place.[15]

In a September 2010 interview with Stephen Sackur for the BBC’s HARDtalk program, May said that he would rather be remembered for his animal rights work than for his music or science.[57]


May has had a lifelong interest in collecting Victorian stereophotography. In 2009, with co-author Elena Vidal, he published his second book, A Village Lost and Found, on the work of English stereophotography innovator TR Williams.[58]



Studio albums

Year Title UK[59] US[59]
1983 Star Fleet Project 35[59] 125
1992 Back to the Light 6 159
1998 Another World 23
2000 Furia (Original Soundtrack)

Live albums

Year Title UK[59] US
1993 Live at the Brixton Academy 20



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  4. ^ "BBC News: Planet Rock Radio poll". 10 July 2005. Retrieved 28 January 2008. 
  5. ^ 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time: Brian May Rolling Stone. Retrieved 1 June 2011
  6. ^ Hodkinson, Mark (1995). Queen: The Early Years. Omnibus Press. p. 40. ISBN 9781844490127. 
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  9. ^ Brian May – Star Fleet Project (1983) Rock Album Reviews. Retrieved 27 August 2011
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  38. ^ Songwriters Hall of Fame - Brian May Biography Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 19, 2011
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  43. ^ "QUEEN WANTS MOSCOW SPORTS COMPLEX TO BECOME NON-SMOKING AREA". Queen News June 2008 (REGNUM News Agency). 19 June 2008. Retrieved 27 July 2008. 
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  46. ^ T. R. Hicks, B. H. May, N. K. Reay (1975). "An investigation of the motion of zodiacal dust particles-1. Radial velocity measurements on Fraunhofer line profiles". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 166: 439–448. Bibcode 1974MNRAS.166..439H. 
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  48. ^ Never Mind The Buzzcocks. No. 10, series 21. 25 minutes in.
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  53. ^ "Queen star celebrates doctorate". BBC News. 23 August 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2007. 
  54. ^ NASA. "JPL Small-Body Database Browser". Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
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  56. ^ May, Brian (12 July 2010). "Kill the cull, not the badgers". The Guardian (London). 
  57. ^ HARDtalk "YouTube clip of May's interview", ‘’BBC’’, 22 September 2010.
  58. ^ Kennedy, Randy (25 July 2010). "A Village Preserved, Green and All: Brian May’s Photographic Recovery". The New York Times. 
  59. ^ a b c d QueenOnline Message Board :: View topic – Queen / Solos UK & US (Y MORE) Chart History

External links

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Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University
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