It's a Hard Life

"It's a Hard Life" is a song by the British rock band Queen, written by lead singer Freddie Mercury. It was featured on their 1984 album The Works, and it was the third single from that album. It reached number 6 in the UK Singles Chart and was their third consecutive Top 10 single from the album. It also reached number 2 in Ireland and number 20 in the Netherlands. It also came 19th on a poll, The Nation's Favourite Queen Song broadcast on ITV on 11 November 2014.

"It's a Hard Life"
It's a Hard Life (Queen album - cover art).jpg
Single by Queen
from the album The Works
B-side"Is This the World We Created...?"
Released16 July 1984
FormatVinyl record (7", 12")
RecordedJanuary 1984
Length4:08 (Album version)
5:05 (12" extended version)
LabelEMI, Capitol
Songwriter(s)Freddie Mercury
Producer(s)Queen and Reinhold Mack
Queen singles chronology
"I Want to Break Free"
"It's a Hard Life"
"Hammer to Fall"
Music video
"It's a Hard Life" on YouTube


The opening lyric and melody of "It's a Hard Life" is based on the line "Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore infranto!" (Laugh, clown, at your broken love!) from "Vesti la giubba", an aria from Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci. The same melody is also quoted in the soundtrack of the movie A Night at the Opera after which Queen had named their 1975 album.

Musically, the song recreates the feel of "Play the Game" in order to update the story, utilising Mercury's piano playing and the band's characteristic technique of layered harmonies. It is recorded very much with the ethos of earlier Queen albums in that it features 'no synthesizers'. By that time the band had been using synths on record since 1980's The Game and the gesture of returning to the traditional Queen sound was comforting to some fans.

Music videoEdit

Tim Pope's video which accompanies the song has been created in an operatic "style," with the band and extras appearing in period "operatic-style" costume. The video also featured an unusual "skull and bones"-themed guitar that cost more than £1,000,[1] played by May, which can also be seen on the single's cover, and also relied heavily on the use of alchemical and pagan symbols and symbolism.

The band found the costumes hot and uncomfortable, and the "eyes" on Mercury's outfit were ridiculed by the others, saying he looked "like a giant prawn".[1] Both Brian May and Roger Taylor groaned out loud when shown this video during their commentary for the Greatest Video Hits 2 collection. Taylor said it was "the most stupid music video ever made." May pointed out more positively that the video was an ironic take, as it portrayed Mercury as a wealthy man singing about how hard life and love are, and at that point Mercury in real life possessed great wealth but was still searching for love. When reflecting on the video in 2011 during an interview for the documentary Queen: Days Of Our Lives, Taylor admitted that he had previously admired director Tim Pope but felt "he was taking the mickey out of us."

One of the extras in the clip is Austrian actress, Barbara Valentin.


Live recordingsEdit

The song was only played on The Works Tour.

On 17 Nov 2010, Tom Chaplin of Keane performed "It's a Hard Life" live with Brian May and Roger Taylor at The Prince's Trust Gala.[2]

Chart positionsEdit

Chart (1984) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[3] 6
Australia (Kent Music Report)[4] 65
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[5] 20
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[6] 4
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[7] 31
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[8] 30
Ireland (IRMA)[9] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[10] 72
West Germany (Official German Charts)[11] 26


  1. ^ a b Queen, Box of Flix, 1991, Picture Music International, liner notes p. 7
  2. ^ "Queen News". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  4. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  5. ^ " – Queen – It's A Hard Life" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  6. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Queen" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  7. ^ " – Queen – It's A Hard Life" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  8. ^ " – Queen – It's A Hard Life". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  9. ^ Irish charts search Archived 12 October 2011 at WebCite. Accessed on 23 July 2013. In the box under Search by Song Title, type in It's a Hard Life. Then click search. Accessed on 23 July 2013.
  10. ^ "Queen Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  11. ^ " – Queen – It's A Hard Life". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 30 April 2020.

External linksEdit