Happy Birthday to John Richard Deacon – born August 19, 1951!
John Richard Deacon is an English retired musician, best known as the bass guitarist for the rock band Queen. He composed several singles for the group, including the top 10 hits “You’re My Best Friend”, “Another One Bites the Dust”, “Back Chat” and “I Want to Break Free”, and was involved in the band’s financial management.
Deacon grew up in Oadby, Leicestershire, playing bass in a local band, The Opposition, before moving to study electronics in Chelsea College, London. He joined Queen in 1971 on the strength of his musical and electronic skills, particularly the home-made Deacy Amp which guitarist Brian May used to create guitar orchestras throughout Queen’s career. From the third album, Sheer Heart Attack, onwards, he wrote at least one song per album, several of which became hits. As well as bass, Deacon played some guitar and keyboards on Queen’s studio work, but was the only member never to sing on their records.
Following frontman Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991, and the following year’s Tribute Concert, Deacon only performed a few times with the remaining members of Queen before retiring from the music industry in 1997 after recording “No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)”. He has not performed on any of the other projects that the other two surviving members, May and Roger Taylor, have put together.
John Richard Deacon was born in Leicester on 19 August 1951,to Arthur Henry and Lilian Molly Deacon. His younger sister, Julie, was born five years later. His father worked at the Norwich Union insurance company and in 1960 the family moved to the dormitory town of Oadby. Deacon was known to friends and his bandmates as ‘Deaks’ or ‘Deaky’ and attended Linden Junior School in Leicester, Gartree High School and Beauchamp Grammar School in Oadby. He became interested in electronics, reading magazines on the subject and building small devices, including the modification of a reel to reel tape deck to record music directly off the radio.He studied well and achieved 8 GCE O level and 3 A level passes, all at grade A. He also enjoyed soul music in particular.
Deacon joined his first band, The Opposition, in 1965 at the age of 14. The band played covers of chart hits; Deacon played rhythm guitar using an instrument he had bought with money borrowed from the group’s founder, Richard Young. He switched to bass the following year after the original bassist was fired for not improving his playing as much as the other members. As well as a dedicated musician, Deacon also was the band’s archivist, taking clippings from newspapers of even the advertisements featuring The Opposition. After being in the band for four years, not long after the group cut an acetate of three songs, Deacon played his final concert with the band (then called The Art) in August 1969. He left as he had been accepted to study at Chelsea College in London (now part of King’s College London), where he eventually obtained a 1st class honours degree in Electronics in 1971. Having become a fan of Deep Purple, he saw the group perform the Concerto for Group and Orchestra with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall that September.
Although he left his bass and amplifier at home in Oadby, after less than a year of studying in London, he decided he wanted to join a band. By 1970, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and Roger Taylor had already formed Queen; Deacon saw them in October that year but was not immediately impressed. Later in the year, he briefly formed a band called Deacon that made one live appearance at Chelsea College.
In early 1971, Deacon was introduced to Taylor and May by a friend at a disco who told him that they were in a band that had just lost its bassist. A couple of days later he auditioned in a lecture room at Imperial College London and became the last member of Queen to join. Since the band’s last bassist drew attention away from Mercury, Deacon was selected for his musical talent, his quiet demeanour and his electrical skills. A persistent legend claims Deacon was the seventh bassist auditioned,[but more recent sources show Queen’s bassists were, in order: Mike Grose, Barry Mitchell, Doug Bogie and Deacon. Deacon played his first show with Queen at the College of Estate Management in Kensington in June.
On Queen’s first album (1973) he was credited as “Deacon John”, in order to make him “sound more interesting”. He asked to be credited under his real name, which was done on all other albums from Queen II (1974) onwards.
Deacon’s first writing credit came on Queen’s third album, Sheer Heart Attack (1974). He wrote “Misfire”, a Caribbean-themed song where he played almost all guitar parts, and co-wrote “Stone Cold Crazy” with the rest of the band. He also played some guide guitar parts on the album as May was hospitalized due to hepatitis when recording started. His second song, “You’re My Best Friend” (1975) was featured on the group’s fourth album, A Night at the Opera, and went on to be an international hit (it was written for his wife-to-be Veronica). Subsequently, Deacon tended to write one or two songs for every Queen album, until The Miracle (1989) and Innuendo (1991), which credited the band as a whole. He wrote the hit “Another One Bites The Dust” (1980) as a dance song based on his early love of soul. The song saw radio play on black and white US stations. He began to collaborate more with Mercury during the 1980s, as they both wanted to change the band’s musical direction.