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Brian May


NA- Brian May - guitars  
1970- Queen - guitars, keyboards, piano, vocals  

Guest musician

1980 Quartz - guitars  
1988 Black Sabbath - guitars  
1993 Phenomena - guitars  
2000 Iommi - guitars  
2002 Foo Fighters - guitars  
2015 Motörhead - guitars  
2019 Five Finger Death Punch - guitars  

Personal information

Born on: 19.07.1947

Brian Harold May, CBE (born July 19, 1947, in Hampton) is an English musician and astrophysicist, most widely known as the lead guitarist and backing, sometimes lead, vocalist 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", "Who Wants to Live Forever", and "I Want It All". He was ranked as the 39th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. As of April 2008 he is the Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University.


May was born in Hampton, in Richmond, and attended Hampton Grammar School (now Hampton School). During this time he formed his first band with vocalist Tim Staffell named 1984 after George Orwell's novel. He graduated Hampton Grammar School with ten GCE Ordinary Levels and four Advanced Levels in Physics, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Additional Mathematics.

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, even to the point where he has prohibited smoking indoors at his more recent concerts.

He has stated in interviews that he suffered from depression in the late 1980s, even to the point of contemplating suicide, and that drug use would have worsened any problems he faced.

As a physicist

May studied physics at Imperial College London, graduating with a B.Sc. (Hons) degree and ARCS with Upper Second-Class Honours. He then proceeded to study for a Ph.D, also at the Imperial College London departments of Physics and Mathematics, and was part way through this Ph.D 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 May's observations at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife. He is the co-author of "Bang! - The Complete History of the Universe" with Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott, which was published in October, 2006. More than 30 years after he started his research, in October 2007 he completed his Ph.D. thesis, 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 May 14, 2008.

On November 17, 2007, Brian 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 June 18, 2008 on the suggestion of Patrick Moore (likely influenced by the asteroid's provisional designation of 1998 BM30).

Brian May has been referred to as a virtuoso guitarist. He has used a range of guitars, most often the "Red Special," which he designed with his father, Harold May, and built with wood from a 19th 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. "

In addition to using his home-made guitar he prefers to use coins (especially a sixpence), 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 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.

May was proud upon hearing that Cliff Richard had mentioned in an interview that he would have Brian May in his personal fantasy band. As well as recording with Hank Marvin, May also contributed to the 1996 album Twang!: A Tribute to Hank Marvin & the Shadows, playing FBI. The album featured many other renowned guitarists.

In Queen's three-part vocal harmonies, his 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, and also "Some Day One Day," "All Dead, All Dead," "Long Away," "Leaving Home Ain't Easy," "Good Company," "Sleeping on the Sidewalk" and "'39."

On October 22, 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 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 have recorded a new album with Paul Rodgers for release in 2008, along with a major tour.

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".

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.