The proceeds from the new version of Queen's 1977 hit will go towards the World Health Organization

By Joelle Goldstein
May 01, 2020 02:55 PM
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Queen and Adam Lambert are showing their support for frontline workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The iconic band, comprised of guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, released a new version of their 1977 hit, "We Are the Champions" with Lambert on Thursday in support of health care workers around the nation.

Proceeds from the song will be donated to the World Health Organization, and an accompanying video was also released, highlighting all the heroes who are risking their lives every day in the fight against COVID-19.

"Queen’s music is super iconic — it's anthemic, it always includes the audience, it’s a participation-based song — and we knew that people needed a bit of light and love and some encouragement in these scary and uncertain times," Lambert, 38, tells PEOPLE. "We figured it would be a really beautiful thing to do this."

From left: Brian May, Adam Lambert and Roger Taylor
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Added Taylor in a statement: “As a father with a daughter in the front line, I am ultra-aware of the vital work they are doing daily to save us and our society.  Their bravery and sacrifice must not be prejudiced by anything less than a one hundred percent effort by our governments to protect them. They are precious to us all and they are truly our champions.”

While most Queen fans know the inspirational tune — initially sung by late frontman Freddie Mercury — by heart, they may be surprised to find that the trio changed things up a bit for the new release.

Instead of singing "We are the champions" in the second verse, Lambert, May, and Taylor decided to make it "You are the champions" in reference to the frontline workers.

"The ‘we’ isn’t us, the band. It's we all, it's everybody, it's all of us as humanity," Lambert explains. "Flipping it on the second chorus to ‘you’ was interesting because we’ve never done that before... we felt like, this time, it needed to be something unique."

"We needed to make it extra-focused to really dedicate it to these people," he continues. "It just felt like the right thing to do."

According to Lambert, the idea initially came about after May, 72, and Taylor, 70, performed an instrumental version of "We Are the Champions" on their Instagram. Later, he was asked to add in his vocals with the lyric change, shown in a separate video on April 20.

"The ball started rolling probably more out of sheer boredom than anything else," jokes Lambert. "It was this organic thing that kinda just happened. After we finished it, we all started talking and realized in changing the lyric to ‘you,' we wanted to dedicate it specifically to the frontline workers."

When it came to song choice, Lambert — who has collaborated with Queen as their lead vocalist since 2011 — says no other Queen song would've been more fitting.

"When you really listen to the lyrics of it, it talks about being in crisis or in a conflict of some sort, and rising up and not letting it slow you down, and remaining victorious and full of hope," he explains. "All the lyrics of this song are very apropos to the collective emotions that are running around. It’s our way of helping inspire people and keep people’s chin up."

He also noted that the tune was perfect because it typically serves as their closing number and "wonderful ending note" on tour.

"I tried to bring that energy into the performance [to say] this is something to take home with you, this is something to be at home with," he explains. "This is something that hopefully stays in your head and allows you, as the audience, to hum when you're feeling down and needing a little support and encouragement, particularly [for] the frontline workers."

"The people that are out there doing this — the nurses, the doctors, the volunteers — they're putting themselves in harm’s way... [and] doing it because they feel like it's their duty and that’s where their heart is," he adds. "That should be greatly commended."

Adam Lambert and Brian May
| Credit: Rhiannon Hopley/Pacific Coast News

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The new version of the song marks the first time that Queen has ever re-recorded a song without Mercury, who died from complications of AIDS in 1991.

It also was the first time that May, Taylor, and Lambert had recorded one of Queens' song remotely — a process that the singer says was unlike anything he's ever experienced.

"Brian and Roger and I are used to playing on stage in front of thousands of people, so do this remotely, it was definitely unique," Lambert shares. "I was excited to be apart of something different with the guys... We've always resisted putting out any new covers of their existing songs together because it just didn’t feel appropriate."

"I always said if we have a reason, that feels like the right reason, or if it’s the right timing, we’ll do it. And I think this is the right one," he continues. "It’s such an honor."