Is "The Prophet's Song" by Queen my favorite song? It could be. Queen fans know it, but too often, it gets overshadowed on the "Night at the Opera" album by two great songs, "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "You're My Best Friend." It is the first album song I loved, having previously never heard it on the radio. It is the first song I learned the words to, and now, 35 years later, think it still owns the mantel.
At 8:22 long and Queen's longest song with lyrics, it makes radio play difficult. Textured, with rich biblical and apocalyptic imagery, it is pure art rock. Unlike their visceral stadium rock songs, "We Will Rock You" and "Another One Bites the Dust," "The Prophet's Song" tells a poetic tale involving a dream the singer has. It is a warning to listeners that a time will come that is cold and hateful, yet strangely redemptive while also punitive, as explained by an unnamed seer. It describes elements found in Noah's Flood in the "Book of Genesis" with Armageddon in the "Book of Revelation," but is not intended to parallel either, with gothic overtones.
"I dreamed I saw on a moonlit stair
Spreading his hands on the multitude there
A man who cried for a love gone stale
And ice cold hearts of charity bare.
I watch as fear took the old men's gaze
Hopes of the young in troubled graves
I see no day, I heard him say
So gray is the face of every mortal."
Tempo and instrument changes, mixed with diverse vocal arrangements show Queen's magnificence as a band. Like "Bohemian Rhapsody," no single listen is enough to understand it, and, even then, so much resolution is left unsaid. Despite not every metaphor being clear, it is satisfying. Though recorded and released in 1975, it is not a "70s rock song" by any standard. Like Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," or the Beatles' "Hey Jude," "The Prophet's Song" is iconic and among the best rock music has ever produced.
I fully recommend "The Prophet's Song" by Queen.