By Chuck Arnold Monica Rizzo Ivory Jeff Clinton Courtney Rubin
December 01, 2008 12:00 PM

New singer Paul Rodgers (center), formerly of Free and Bad Company, fronts the band’s first studio album in 13 years, The Cosmos Rocks.

HOW DID PAUL JOIN THE BAND? “I was playing with him at an awards show [in 2004], and suddenly it seemed like the most natural thing in the world,” says guitarist Brian May, 61. “This guy was a hero to us, certainly to Freddie.” Adds drummer Roger Taylor, 59: “He gives us that blues edge. He doesn’t try to be Freddie.” Indeed, Rodgers, 58, says, “I don’t think of myself, or anybody, replacing Freddie.”

WHY’D YOU DEDICATE THE ALBUM TO FREDDIE? “We still feel his spirit,” says May. “We think, ‘Now, what would Fred think about this?'” After Mercury’s 1991 death, Taylor says, “The first five years were the worst, but then life does go on. He wouldn’t have approved of us just sitting on our asses collecting royalty checks.” Rodgers seconds that: “It’s a show that needs to go on.”