Music-streaming services have found somebody to love from the 20th century.
Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the most-streamed song from the pre-streaming era and the most-streamed classic rock song of all time, according to Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group.
Released in 1975, the song made for an unlikely smash hit. At six minutes long, it is twice as long as a typical pop song and shifts musical gears repeatedly, from sensitive ballad to operatic drama to hard-rock anthem.
Now it has found a new audience on streaming services thanks to the success of the Freddie Mercury biopic of the same name, which opened in November.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” a single from the British rock band’s seminal album “A Night at the Opera,” has been streamed more than 1.6 billion times globally on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and other streaming services, according to Universal, the world’s biggest music company.
In taking the top spot, the song pulled ahead of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Guns N’ Roses’s “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and its “November Rain, as well as A-ha’s “Take on Me.”
Rock as a genre has been losing popularity in the age of streaming and last year was dethroned by R&B/hip-hop as the biggest music genre in the U.S.
Weekly streams of Queen’s catalog music more than tripled in the U.S. from the week the movie soundtrack was released in October to over 100 million a week after the movie came out, according to Nielsen Music data. The movie’s soundtrack peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart for the week ending Nov. 15, with “Bohemian Rhapsody” the No. 5 best-selling song during the period.
“So the river of rock music has metamorphosed into streams,” said Queen guitarist Brian May. “Very happy that our music is still flowing to the max.”
The movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” became the highest-grossing music biopic in history five weeks after its release. Through last weekend, the movie has grossed more than $596.1 million at the global box office, according to Twentieth Century Fox, which released it. (Fox’s parent, 21st Century Fox Inc., shares common ownership with Wall Street Journal parent News Corp.) The soundtrack, full of original recordings by the band, was released by Walt Disney Co.’s Hollywood Records and Universal’s Virgin EMI.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” the song, landed at No. 1 for nine consecutive weeks in the U.K. in 1975 and was Queen’s first Top 10 hit in the U.S. The accompanying video is widely regarded as the first music video, after which it became regular practice for record companies to produce such videos to promote singles.
The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.
Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com
Appeared in the December 11, 2018, print edition as ‘‘bohemian rhapsody’ smashes records.’