The Prophet's Song
|"The Prophet's Song"|
|Song by Queen|
|from the album A Night at the Opera|
|Studio||Sarm East, London|
|A Night at the Opera track listing|
"The Prophet's Song" was composed by Brian May (working title "People of the Earth"). On the show In the Studio with Redbeard, which spotlighted A Night at the Opera, he explained that he wrote the song after a dream he had about a great flood while he was recovering from being ill while recording Sheer Heart Attack, and is the source of some of the lyrics. He spent several days putting it together, and it includes a vocal canon sung by Freddie Mercury. The vocal, and later instrumental canon was produced by early tape delay devices. It is a heavy and dark number with a strong progressive rock influence and challenging lead vocals. At over eight minutes in length, is also Queen's longest song with vocals, though the untitled instrumental track from Queen's last studio album, Made in Heaven, is about 14 minutes longer.
May plays a non-standard Queen instrument, a toy koto, during the introduction and closing "wind" sections of the song. Producer Roy Thomas Baker recalled in a documentary of the making of the song that the wind effect was created by recording the sound of an air-conditioning unit through a phaser.
As detailed by May in a documentary about the album, the speed-up effect that happens in the middle of the guitar solo was achieved by starting a reel-to-reel player with the tape on it, as the original tape player was stopped.
The lyric refers to the Book of Genesis, explicitly in examples such as "return like the white dove" (a reference to the story of Noah's Ark), and cryptically in examples such as a vision of a "moonlit stair" comparable to Jacob's Ladder.
AllMusic has called the song "mystical prog rock", citing it an epic as fascinating as "Bohemian Rhapsody" and one of Queen's finest studio achievements. Rolling Stone also praised it, naming it as the record's "best track", noting that "May's powerful guitar perfectly complements the rich, multitracked harmonies of lead singer Freddie Mercury."