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I don't understand why I couldn't find any questions relating to this, but only questions asking about the meaning of the songs lyrics. I know what Bohemia is, I know what a Rhapsody is, but I don't understand what the meaning is.

  • 3
    A song title doesn't need to have a meaning. – PiedPiper Jun 4 at 13:12
  • 4
    @PiedPiper Sure, it doesn't need to have meaning, but it can be a fun and intriguing process to decode an artist's meaning or intention. – vincent Jun 4 at 16:35
  • @vincent Well then, might want to steer clear of the Cocteau Twins... gosh, never thought I'd say that sentence... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 5 at 17:36
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"Bohemian" in the title doesn't refer to the region in the Czech Republic, but rather to what is known as the the bohemian lifestyle.

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. It involves musical, artistic, literary, or spiritual pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. (Wikipedia)

A rhapsody is a free instrumental composition played in one extended movement, typically exuberant or full of pathos. So this fits the form of the song well. One of the best known examples is Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody" no.2 in C-sharp-minor (he wrote nineteen of them, but this is by far the most famous), and the band chose this title for a DVD released in 2012 containing some of their live performances in Eastern Europe.

The lyrics and the title are deliberatly obscure. Guitarist Brian May said in an interview:

What is Bohemian Rhapsody about? Well, I don’t think we’ll ever know. And if I knew I probably wouldn’t want to tell you anyway, because I certainly don’t tell people what my songs are about. I find that it destroys them in a way, because the great thing about a great song is that you relate it to your own personal experiences in your own life. I think that Freddie was certainly battling with problems in his personal life, which he might have decided to put [a lot of himself] into the song himself. He was certainly looking at re-creating himself. But I don’t think at that point in time it was the best thing to do so he actually decided to do it later. I think it’s best to leave it with a question mark in the air.”

Freddie Mercury also said:

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ didn’t just come out of thin air. I did a bit of research, although it was tongue-in-cheek and it was a mock opera. Why not?

I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them.

In her book "Queering the Popular Pitch" (Routledge, 2006) music scholar Sheila Whiteley suggests that:

the title draws strongly on contemporary rock ideology, the individualism of the bohemian artists' world, with rhapsody affirming the romantic ideals of art rock.

In her book "Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig" (University of California Press, 2005) author Judith Peraino says:

Mercury intended ... [this song] to be a 'mock opera', something outside the norm of rock songs, and it does follow a certain operatic logic: choruses of multi-tracked voices alternate with aria-like solos, the emotions are excessive, the plot confusing."

But now Freddie's dead so we're never going to really know for certain what he meant.

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    This use of "bohemian" is also the basis of the title of Puccini's opera La Boheme. – Barmar Jun 4 at 17:31
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    It may be worth mentioning that the bohemian lifestyle (popularized by Puccini's opera per Barmar's comment) comes from a romanticized view of the Romany people, who were (and are) often called Bohemians in French (for much the same reason that they're often called Gypsies ―that is Egyptians― in English: confusion about their true origin). So that is the connection to Czech Bohemia, a rather attenuated one. – Toby Bartels Jun 4 at 19:39
  • And for contemporary audiences, the rock musical Rent is loosely based on La Bohème. – jrw32982 supports Monica Jun 4 at 22:28
  • For an interesting contrast, check out this 1973 Peel Session. youtube.com/watch?v=Q-Iu_G4GHeY – Brian Drummond Jun 5 at 12:22
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    @jrw32982supportsMonica And to bring it back to the title word in question, one of the songs in Rent is La Vie Boheme, which translates to "the bohemian lifestyle". – Barmar Jun 5 at 13:36

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