Watch Marc Martel, Who Supplied Vocals for the Award-Winning Queen Film, Sing Just Like Freddie Mercury: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are The Champions” & More

Under­stand­ably, giv­en a moviego­ing pub­lic seem­ing­ly starved for real­i­ty, all of the biggest win­ners at this year’s Acad­e­my Awards were based on true events. And near­ly all of them have gen­er­at­ed huge con­tro­ver­sies for the lib­er­ties they took with those true sto­ries. While some of the crit­i­cism can sound cen­so­ri­ous, none of it is about cen­sor­ship, but about the larg­er social ques­tion of how much truth we should sac­ri­fice for the sake of com­merce and enter­tain­ment, two human endeav­ors with which edu­ca­tion can­not com­pete.

One of those big Oscar con­tenders, the Fred­die Mer­cury biopic Bohemi­an Rhap­sody, strays from the facts in ways some have even deemed “harm­ful.” But in one respect, at least—and per­haps the most impor­tant giv­en its subject—it is faith­ful.

The film gets the music right, in part by sync­ing best actor-win­ner Rami Malek’s onstage per­for­mances as Mer­cury with Mercury’s actu­al voice, and some­times with the voice of Marc Mar­tel, “a vocal dop­pel­gänger for the Queen front­man,” as Gavin Edwards writes at The New York Times, with a “promi­nent but invis­i­ble role in Bohemi­an Rhap­sody.”

Audi­ences will not know when it’s Mer­cury or Mar­tel, though the singer has received “fleet­ing ‘addi­tion­al vocals’ billing” in the film. A nondis­clo­sure agree­ment keeps Mar­tel from telling—and he did­n’t know until the film pre­miered which scenes would fea­ture his voice. But the fact that audi­ences will like­ly nev­er tell the dif­fer­ence is remark­able. Even Queen drum­mer Roger Tay­lor told Mar­tel, “When I lis­ten to you sing it’s like Fred­die walked into the room.” This was the moment, the singer says, when he embraced the like­ness, which he hadn’t thought very much of in the past. “It’s dif­fer­ent from what I envi­sioned doing as a young musi­cian.”

Martel’s oth­er gig was as the lead singer of a Chris­t­ian rock band called Down­here (he says noth­ing about how his par­tic­u­lar sect views Mer­cury’s sex­u­al­i­ty). He began per­form­ing Queen cov­ers dur­ing a hia­tus and has since appeared on Amer­i­can Idol, released an album of Queen cov­ers, and is now tour­ing in a trib­ute show, “The Ulti­mate Queen Cel­e­bra­tion.” Mar­tel is not a Mer­cury clone, nor has he ever attempt­ed to be. He can “item­ize the sub­tle dif­fer­ences” between his voice and Freddie’s, Edwards writes:

I’m not British, so I don’t usu­al­ly sing with an accent. I don’t have extra teeth like he did, so my Ss come out nor­mal­ly — his were very pierc­ing. But even if I don’t try to sing like Fred­die Mer­cury, peo­ple still hear him in my voice, no mat­ter what I do. I have this weird unique thing where I can sound like him, so why wouldn’t I?

It has become a high­ly mar­ketable skill that’s “pay­ing the bills right now,” as his man­ag­er put it, though Mar­tel is eager to get back to his own song­writ­ing. But even if he wasn’t cel­e­brat­ed at the Oscars, he’s proud of his con­tri­bu­tion to the film, and to the lives of Queen fans. “It brings peo­ple so much joy and nos­tal­gia,” Mar­tel says, “and fre­quent­ly I see peo­ple tear­ing up in the front row.” Whether or not you are a fan of Bohemi­an Rhap­sody, the movie, you’ll be bowled over by the uncan­ny fideli­ty of Martel’s Mer­cury ren­di­tions (his fea­tures even resem­ble Mer­cury’s when he starts singing). Here, see Mar­tel sing “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody,” at the top, “We Are the Cham­pi­ons,” fur­ther up, and, above, a stun­ning ren­di­tion of “Love of My Life.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Mak­ing of “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody”: Take a Deep Dive Into the Icon­ic Song with Queen’s 2002 Mini Doc­u­men­tary

What Made Fred­die Mer­cury the Great­est Vocal­ist in Rock His­to­ry? The Secrets Revealed in a Short Video Essay

Hear Fred­die Mercury’s Vocals Soar in the Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track for “Some­body to Love”

Hear Fred­die Mer­cury & Queen’s Iso­lat­ed Vocals on Their Endur­ing Clas­sic Song, “We Are The Cham­pi­ons”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (6)
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  • Cathy Ann Stacey says:

    I am so impressed with Marc Mar­tels vocals that I had to send this mes­sage. Absolute­ly top notch, real­ly so spe­cial. I thank you for the priv­i­lege of being able to lis­ten to your tal­ent!

  • Beatrice R. says:

    I tru­ly wish they made Marc Mar­tel per­form at the Oscars instead of Adam Lam­bert. No offense to Adam who is also very tal­ent­ed, but Marc would have brought the house down with his own ren­di­tions of the leg­end Fred­die Mer­cury’s songs. I had goose bumps lis­ten­ing to all 3 songs with him play­ing the key­boards while singing. What amaz­ing amaz­ing per­for­mances!!!

  • vkpretz says:

    FANTASTIC!!! WOW!!!!

  • Maria G. says:

    Stun­ning, spine-tin­gling voice. I am over­whelmed by his per­for­mances. Hope to see him live some day.

  • Divia says:

    He only sang .1% of the vocals as con­firmed by the sound guys.–1203131746/ Not sure why his fans keep lying about it.

  • Tampa Guy says:

    @Divia, remem­ber what else they ALSO said to help Rami Malek get the Oscar, that HIS (Rami’s) voice was mixed in too. It was­n’t. His “move­ment coach” and one of the top sound engi­neers both lat­er con­firmed Rami only sang into a dead micro­phone, so the audi­ence would see his neck mus­cles mov­ing as he sang. Mar­c’s voice is in most of the songs, as 30+ year old ana­log mag­net­ic tape mas­ters would NOT be of high enough qual­i­ty to be used with Dol­by Atmos Sound. Look up “vocal lay­er­ing.” Also see this image.

    Note the line LV-STEM LVAID_01, which is damn near­ly IDENTICAL to Fred­die’s vocal track just above it (DRY FREDDIE_01). That’s Mar­c’s voice, mixed into the Live Aid per­for­mance.

    ‘Nuff said.

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