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Bruce Gowers, director of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ video, dies at 82

The Scotsman worked with Michael Jackson, Prince and The Rolling Stones

By Joe Goggins

Bruce Gowers (Picture: YouTube)

Bruce Gowers, the revered music video director who helmed the clip for Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, has died at the age of 82.

In a statement on his Facebook page, his family announced that Gowers passed away after an acute respiratory infection, in Santa Monica, California. Born in West Kilbride, Scotland, he began his career at the BBC, working initially as a cable puller, a cameraman, and production manager and “[learning] the business from the ground up,” according to the statement.

In 1975, he directed ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a benchmark in the history of the music video; it has been viewed more than 1.5 billion times on YouTube, becoming only the second 20th century music video to pass the billion mark in 2019, after Guns N’ Roses‘ ‘November Rain’. It launched a career in the business that saw him work with everybody from The Rolling Stones (on ‘Hot Stuff’, ‘Hey Negrita’ and ‘Fool To Cry’) to Prince (‘Controversy’, ‘Sexuality’), Michael Jackson (‘Rock with You’, ‘She’s Out of My Life’) and Whitney Houston (‘Why Does It Hurt So Bad’). His final credit as music video director was on the star-studded clip for Peter Kay’s Comic Relief revival of Tony Christie’s ‘(Is This the Way to) Amarillo’ in 2005.

Gowers also worked extensively in television, winning an Emmy in 2009 for his work on American Idol. Also on his mantelpiece was a Grammy in the Best Music Video, Long Form category, for 1984’s Huey Lewis and the News: Heart of Rock and Roll and a Director’s Guild of America award for 2004’s Genius: A Night with Ray Charles. He is survived by his wife, two children and four grandchildren.

Queen drummer Roger Taylor said that the clip for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which was made for just £3500, was “the first video to be used as a really successful promotional tool”. Despite this, Gowers claimed to have been paid only $590 for his work on it, and did not see further remuneration. “The only thing that upsets me is that they have been using my video for 40 years, and they have never paid me a dime or said thank you,” he told the Daily Mail in 2018. A planned lawsuit for lost royalties apparently never came to pass.

He remained proud of the video, however. “It changed the way music was perceived; everyone was doing videos and bands were seeing their sales and chart positions rise if their videos were good.”