A literary analysis of “Life is Real” (Song for Lennon) by Queen
By Jessica Fondo
Queen’s “Life is Real” is a glimpse into the grief songwriter and Queen lead vocalist Freddie Mercury feels after death of former Beatles member John Lennon. Even more so, it is a love song for reliefs he finds from reality.
Guilt stains on my pillow
Blood on my terraces
Torsos in my closet
Shadows from my past
The loss of Lennon torments Mercury. “Life is Real,” alternatively titled “Song for Lennon” is one of the few songs that Mercury wrote the lyrics for before the music. It was released in 1982, two years after Lennon’s sudden assassination. Ghosts haunt him: mundanities have turned morbid in the wake of a great musician’s death.
Life is real, life is real
Life is real, so real
“Real,” as Mercury uses it, is a pejorative, derogatory term. Life is grief. Reality is aching and sorrowful, but he finds reprieve in the unreal.
Sleeping is my leisure
Waking up in a minefield
Dream in just a pleasure dome
Love is a roulette wheel
He serenades the comforts of sleep, where dreams liberate him from the unpredictable woes of the world. Love, he sings, is a game of chance that can grant him pain or pleasure, a relief from the real world or a reminder.
Success is my breathing space
Mercury begins the next verse finding another respite from the harshness of life, his own musical success. He finds solace knowing he created something good for himself.
Loneliness is my hiding place
In his emotions, Mercury can’t ignore the realities surrounding him. Solitude is his sanctuary, free from the compounding heartache of others mourning Lennon.
Music will be my mistress
Loving like a whore
Lennon is a genius
Living in every pore
Music grants Mercury passionate yet passing pleasure. It is short-term pain relief, but Lennon’s legacy lives on through his fans, all grieving alongside him.
Life is cruel, life is a bitch
Life is full of suffering, Mercury sings as he copes with his sadness. What is real to him, and so many others, is unbearable, but there is relief in the unreal. In fantasy, in make-believe, in daydreaming, in playing pretend and in imagination, there is relief. In creation, there is comfort.
Life is real, so real
Life is real, life is real, yeah
Life is real