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12 July 2019, 16:53 | Updated: 18 September 2023, 11:26
We explain how the bassoon solo at the beginning of Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ sounds just like the chorus from Queen’s huge 1977 hit.
Someone on the Internet reckons the chorus of Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’ sounds the same as the bassoon solo at the start of The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. We first saw the theory in a Facebook post and, we must say, it has legs.
The post reads: “My friend was humming ‘We are the Champions’ and her daughter said, ‘Why are you humming the bassoon solo from The Rite of Spring’. I bow to her.”
Right. Hum the melody of the chorus in Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’.
“We are the champions my frie-ends”.
Now, if you know it, hum the melody of the bassoon solo in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
Hmmmm, hm hm hmm hmm, hm hmm hm hmm.
Or watch them both below, one right after the other. We don’t even mind which order you watch them in.
Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring Bassoon solo by Gustavo Nunez
Queen - We Are The Champions (Official Video)
They sound pretty similar, right? Listen to them both again and we dare you to tell us they don’t.
Okay, here’s why.
The bassoon solo from the beginning of The Rite of Spring starts on a concert C (one octave above middle C) and the main tune goes down one tone in pitch to B, then back up to C before moving to a B, G (two tones lower), E (two tones lower), B again, suspending on A, and finally landing on that first C again.
And the ‘We are the Champions’ chorus?
It doesn’t start on the same pitch (F in the original Queen recording). But the melodic pattern of the chorus of Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’ is remarkably similar to that of Stravinsky’s Rite opening.
The chorus is F–, E, F, E, C–, A, D–, A. So, like the Rite, the melody starts with a long note, goes down one tone (to E) and back up to the starting note (F), then it goes down to E again, and then down to C (two tones lower), then A (two tones lower), up to a D and back to A.
So, to summarise, they are pretty similar. The key to the similarity is in that long first note, and second-note-returning-to-first-note pattern at the start of both passages. And then it’s that two-tone descending pattern that happens twice in both excerpts that cements the similarity.
So, there we have it: why, factually, ‘We are the Champions’ sounds just like the bassoon solo in The Rite of Spring (and, yes, the world will never be the same. Not for us).
Thank you, Internet.