Belt Out a Queen Classic and the FreddieMeter Will Compare Your Singing Chops to Freddie Mercury’s

Freddie Mercury performs in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1978.
Freddie Mercury performs in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1978.

If you heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” before you knew about the legendary band behind it, you might’ve thought it was performed by a full-scale symphony orchestra and choir, with a little help from an electric guitarist or two.

While the instrumentals and back-up vocals undoubtedly make the song an operatic rock classic, it’s the unparalleled vocal talents of frontman Freddie Mercury that send chills through your whole body—and the same could be said about pretty much every other Queen song, too.

To celebrate the legacy of Mercury, who passed away from AIDS-related causes 28 years ago this past Sunday, November 24, YouTube and Google Research teamed up to develop the FreddieMeter, an interactive karaoke tool that compares your voice to his.

After choosing one of four song options, which include “Somebody to Love,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “We Are the Champions,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and enabling microphone access, an instrumental version of the song will begin to play. The AI-powered FreddieMeter will analyze your timbre, pitch, and melody as you sing along with the flashing words, and you’ll then be given a scorecard that compares your voice to Freddie’s.

Though we don’t have any statistics on what’s considered a respectable score, CNN reports that one of their editors (who chose to remain anonymous) finished what was surely an admirable attempt at “We Are the Champions” with 11 percent.

The FreddieMeter was created with The Mercury Phoenix Trust, an HIV/AIDS-fighting charity founded in Mercury’s memory by fellow band members Brian May and Roger Taylor, along with manager Jim Beach.

Looking for another way to commemorate Freddie Mercury? Press play on your favorite Queen album and read these 10 surprising facts about his life and career.

[h/t CNN]

12 Shiny Facts About Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

CBS
CBS

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, and by now you certainly know Rudolph as well. But Rudolph wasn't always the star of the show—he didn't even exist until 1939, while the rest of Santa's coursers have been around since Clement Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, which was written in 1823. Here are 12 other facts you might not know about the world's most famous reindeer.

1. Rudolph was created for Montgomery Ward.

In 1939, execs for the Montgomery Ward department store decided they needed a character for the freebie coloring books they were handing out to kids who visited Santa. That character ended up being Rudolph, who was an immediate hit with the kiddies. Montgomery Ward gave out 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet in the first year alone.

2. The writer who created Rudolph was grieving the loss of his wife.

Robert May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward’s mail order catalog division, was the employee tasked with writing a story and creating a marketable character for the coloring book. May started the process in early 1939, but that summer, his wife died from cancer, leaving him a widower with a 4-year-old daughter. Though his boss tried to reassign the project, May insisted on finishing it himself. “I needed Rudolph more than ever,” he later admitted. He completed the story in August. Though Montgomery Ward could have kept the copyright for themselves, they handed it over to a financially struggling May in 1947.

3. Rudolph could have been Rollo or Reginald instead.

Images of cookies and milk left for Santa and Rudolph
Rawpixel/iStock via Getty Images

Other names were considered before May settled on the name we know today. Rollo was rejected for sounding too sunny and happy; Reginald sounded too British. Romeo and Rodney were also in the running.

4. Robert May's original Rudolph story is a bit different than the song.

In the story May told in that original coloring book, Santa finds Rudolph while delivering presents to the reindeer village. In the story, Santa often had problems delivering gifts because no one remembered to leave lights on for him—and in Rudolph’s dark house, Santa “tripped on the rug, and fell flat on his back.” When he discovers Rudolph and his glowing nose, a light bulb of his own goes off, and he invites Rudolph to help him with the rest of his drop-offs. Dutiful Rudy leaves his parents a note, then helps save the day.

5. Rudolph almost used a different method to guide Santa's sleigh.

Instead of having a red, glowing nose that cut through the fog, May considered giving Rudolph large, headlight-like eyes that would light the way. After much consideration, he decided mean kids would be more likely to make fun of a red nose than huge eyes.

6. People in Finland know Rudolph as Petteri Punakuono.

Petteri is Rudy's Finnish counterpart. The Finnish legend of Santa Claus (a.k.a. Joulupukki) doesn't name his reindeer the same way we do—Dasher, Dancer, Donner, and so on—so the beginning of the song doesn't start out the same way. Instead of running through the laundry list of reindeer, the Finnish version translates to something like, "You remember Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and the Grey Wolf, but this reindeer is often forgotten."

7. Rudolph has a son named Robbie.

At least he does according to the BBC. They developed three cartoons based on Rudolph's offspring, but the name of Robbie's famous dad is never actually mentioned. The plot line tells us that the villain of the series, Blitzen, can't stand to hear Rudolph's name. In reality, it's because the BBC couldn't get permission to use it (or didn't want to pay to use it).

If you haven't seen the British version but still remember Robbie, that's because Fox Family ran the show for a few years in the early 2000s with redubbed voices, including Ben Stiller as Robbie, Hugh Grant as Blitzen, Britney Spears as Donner, and Brad Garrett as Prancer.

8. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the song, was recorded a decade after the character was invented.

It was May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, who wrote the lyrics for the famous song; Gene Autry recorded it. Autry nearly passed on the tune, but his wife urged him to give it a shot. Since Autry recorded it, the tune has sold more than 150 million copies.

9. Songwriter Johnny Marks specialized in Christmas songs.

We have him to thank for Rudolph, obviously, but also "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Silver and Gold," and "A Holly Jolly Christmas" (in addition to a bunch of lesser-known Christmas songs). The irony? Marks was Jewish.

10. Rankin/Bass wasn't the first production company to feature Rudolph onscreen.

Though the 1964 Rankin/Bass stop-motion TV special is the longest-running holiday special ever, it wasn't the first to bring Rudolph to the screen. That honor goes to Fleischer Studios, which copyrighted a cartoon in 1948 as more advertising for Montgomery Ward.

11. The puppets featured in the Rankin/Bass TV special were lost, then rediscovered in 2006.

When they resurfaced, they did so on Antiques Roadshow in 2006. Well, not all of them—just Santa and Rudolph. A woman who worked for Rankin/Bass had stored them in her attic since at least the 1970s. Prior to that, she let her kids play with them. Rudolph lost his red nose, and let’s not even talk about how Santa lost his eyebrows. The puppets were fully restored after their trip to Antiques Roadshow and have since been displayed at the Center for Puppetry Arts.

12. The "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" song is still copyrighted.

Along with "Jingle Bells," "Deck the Halls," and "Silent Night," “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is a Christmas staple. Unlike those other three songs, however, “Rudolph” is still copyrighted and his image is trademarked. The makers of Rudolph’s Reserve ale found this out the hard way in 2003. They later changed the name to “Rude Elf’s Reserve.”

10 Fab Facts About George Harrison

Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

You probably know George Harrison as a Beatle, the lead guitarist of the most famous band in the world. We’re guessing that there’s a lot you don’t know about the youngest of The Fab Four, who was born on February 25, 1943.

1. George Harrison was only 27 when The Beatles broke up.


Fox Photos/Getty Images

George Harrison turned 27 on February 25, 1970, less than two months before Paul McCartney told the world he had no future plans to work with the Beatles. It had been 12 years since Harrison had joined John Lennon’s band, The Quarrymen—shortly after McCartney, his Liverpool schoolmate—in 1958.

2. Harrison invented the megastar rock benefit concert.

Before Harrison organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, there were performances for charity, of course. But when his friend, the great Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, told him about the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, victims of both war and a devastating cyclone who now faced starvation, Harrison felt compelled to devote himself to the cause. He recruited stars like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Badfinger, and Leon Russell, and together they played two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden on August 1, 1971. Harrison then arranged for the release of a concert album and film. The ventures had raised more than $12 million by 1985, and profits from sales of the movie and soundtrack continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.

3. He wrote "Crackerbox Palace" about his quirky mansion.

Harrison nicknamed his 120-room Friar Park mansion “Crackerbox Palace” after a friend’s description of Lord Buckley’s tiny Los Angeles home. The 66-acre property, about 37 miles west of London, was first owned by Sir Frank Crisp, a lawyer who lived there from 1889 to 1919. Harrison bought the estate in 1970—and quickly penned “The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp,” which appeared on his first solo album, All Things Must Pass, also in 1970.

Friar Park was a strange place, with gnomes, grottos, a miniature Matterhorn, and lavish gardens, which Harrison loved to tend. According to the Victoria County History website, the house itself “is an architectural fantasy in red brick, stone, and terracotta, mixing English, French and Flemish motifs in lavish, undisciplined profusion.”

4. He loved hanging out with Bob Dylan and The Band.

All four Beatles were Dylan fans, and first met him in 1964. But Harrison felt a special bond with him, and spent weeks at Dylan’s Woodstock, New York home in the fall of 1968. The Band was there, too, and Harrison loved the collaborative atmosphere. During this time Dylan and Harrison co-wrote “I’d Have You Anytime,” which appeared on 1970's All Things Must Pass. The two would become bandmates in the Traveling Wilburys, and maintained a close, lifelong friendship.

5. The "Quiet Beatle" wasn't so quiet.

"He never shut up," friend and fellow Traveling Wilbury Tom Petty once said of Harrison. "He was the best hang you could imagine."

6. When he lost his virginity, the other Beatles cheered.

The Beatles at the EMI studios in Abbey Road, as they prepare for 'Our World', a world-wide live television show broadcasting to 24 countries with a potential audience of 400 million.
BIPs/Getty Images

During the band’s early years, they had extended runs as a house band in Hamburg, Germany, and were paid so poorly (and had to be on stage for so many hours) that they shared a small room in the club’s basement. Hence the witnesses to George’s deflowering, at age 17. "We were in bunkbeds," Harrison recalled. "They couldn't really see anything because I was under the covers, but after I'd finished they all applauded and cheered. At least they kept quiet whilst I was doing it."

7. Without him, there may not have been a Monty Python's Life of Brian.

EMI Films, Life of Brian’s original backer, withdrew funding for the Monty Python comedy classic just before filming began, scared that the religious subject matter would be too controversial. Harrison, a big fan and friend of the Pythons, set up his own production company—Handmade Films—to fund the project. Why? "Because I liked the script and I wanted to see the movie,” he explained. Harrison not only saw the film, he appeared in it, as Mr. Papadopolous, "owner of the Mount.” Monty Python’s Life of Brian, released in 1979, was a huge hit in both the UK and U.S., and was ranked as the 10th best comedy film of all time in 2010 by The Guardian.

8. He was the first ex-Beatle to simultaneously top both the singles and album charts.

Harrison began recording the songs that would comprise All Things Must Pass at Abbey Road on May 26, 1970, just weeks after the Beatles broke up. The triple album was released in late November, along with “My Sweet Lord,” the first single from the album. Both the record and the single spent weeks at the top of the Billboard and Melody Maker charts in early 1971, while receiving rave reviews.

9. The first song he wrote was inspired by a desire to tell people to get lost.

Harrison wrote “Don’t Bother Me,” his first first solo composition, while sick in bed at the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth, England, in the summer of 1963. It “was an exercise to see if I could write a song,” Harrison said. “I don't think it's a particularly good song ... It mightn't even be a song at all, but at least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing, and then maybe eventually I would write something good." “Don’t Bother Me” appeared on With The Beatles, their second studio album.

10. He was the first Beatle to visit, and play, in America.

In the fall of 1963, Harrison traveled to Benton, Illinois to visit his sister, Louise, and her husband, George Caldwell. During his 18-day stay, Harrison also became the first Beatle to play in the U.S.—appearing on stage with The Four Vests at the VFW Hall in Eldorado. He played the second set with the band, taking over lead guitar and singing "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Your Cheatin' Heart."

This article originally ran in 2017.

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