Brian May is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential, innovative, technically gifted and recognisable guitarists in the history of rock. He is also a prolific songwriter, responsible for writing or co-writing many international hits with Queen. He was educated at Hampton Grammar School in London. He then graduated with a degree in Maths and Physics from one of Britain's top universities, Imperial College London.
As a child, May built his own guitar with his father, partly out of an old fireplace. Unusually, the guitar was designed to feedback. He formed the band Smile while at university with drummer Roger Taylor. They were later joined by flamboyant singer and pianist Freddie Mercury, who renamed the band Queen. The addition of bass player John Deacon completed the line-up of a band which would go on to become one of the most successful in the history of popular music. May's guitar playing would become an integral part of Queen's sound.
May was influenced as a guitarist by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, who had dazzled audiences with their technical skills and volume, but he was also an admirer of the melodic skills of George Harrison of The Beatles and the original British rock and roll guitar hero, Hank B. Marvin of The Shadows.
What made May stand out as a guitarist was his combination of virtuoso technique but also melodic awareness. Unlike some virtuosos, who only play to showcase their ability, May always played to serve the songs. If a song only required minimal soloing, that's all he would do. His multi-tracking of guitar solos has also made him one of the most unique sounding guitarists in the world. Nowhere was this better exemplified than on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", the song which came to define the band more than any other and has become one of the most celebrated recordings in the history of rock music. May's solos are a big part of what gives the track its enduring appeal and emotional power.
May's legacy in music history is assured. He will be remembered along with the likes of George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page as one of the most important and influential guitarists to come out of England. His songs for Queen were often their harder rock tracks, such as "We Will Rock You", "Tie Your Mother Down" and "Hammer to Fall", but he also wrote emotional songs such as "Save Me" and the symphonic "Who Wants to Live Forever", which proved his versatility as a songwriter.