John Richard Deacon is an English retired musician, best known for being the bassist for the rock band Queen. He composed several songs for the group, including Top 10 hits "You're My Best Friend", "Another One Bites the Dust", and "I Want to Break Free"; co-wrote "Under Pressure", "Friends Will Be Friends" and "One Vision"; and he was involved in the band's financial management.
Deacon grew up in Oadby, Leicestershire, playing bass in a local band, The Opposition, before moving to study electronics at Chelsea College, London. He joined Queen in 1971 on the strength of his musical and electronic skills, particularly the home-made Deacy Amp which guitarist Brian May used to create guitar orchestras throughout Queen's career. From the third album, Sheer Heart Attack, onwards, he wrote at least one song per album, several of which became hits. As well as bass, Deacon played some guitar, keyboards and piano on Queen's studio work.
After the death of lead singer Freddie Mercury in 1991 and the following year's Tribute Concert, Deacon performed only sporadically with the remaining members of Queen before retiring from the
industry in 1997 after recording "No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)". He has not performed on any of the other projects that the two remaining members, Brian May and Roger Taylor, have put together.
John Richard Deacon was born on 19 August 1951 at St Francis Private Hospital, London Road, Leicester to Arthur Henry and Lilian Molly Deacon (née Perkins). His father worked at the Norwich Union insurance company and in 1960 the family moved to the dormitory town of Oadby. Deacon was known to friends and his bandmates as 'Deacs' or 'Deacy' and attended Linden Junior School in Leicester, Gartree High School.
Deacon took an interest in electronics at an early age, reading magazines on the subject and building small devices, including the modification of a reel-to-reel tape deck to record music directly from the radio. He studied well at Beauchamp Grammar School in Oadby, and achieved 8 GCE O level and 3 A level passes, all at grade A. He particularly enjoyed soul music.
In 1965, at the age of fourteen, Deacon formed a school band, the Opposition. The band would go through many line-up and name changes, with Deacon eventually leaving the band altogether in 1969 to pursue studies in electronics at Chelsea College in London.
Deacon joined his first band, The Opposition, in 1965 at the age of 14. The band played covers of chart hits; Deacon played rhythm guitar using an instrument he had bought with money borrowed from the group's founder, Richard Young. He switched to bass the following year after the original bassist was fired for not improving his playing as much as the other members. As well as a dedicated musician, Deacon also was the band's archivist, taking clippings from newspapers of even the advertisements featuring The Opposition. After being in the band for four years, not long after the group cut an acetate of three songs, Deacon played his final concert with the band (then called The Art) in August 1969. He left as he had been accepted to study at Chelsea College in London (now part of King's College London), where he obtained a First Class Honours degree in Electronics in 1971. Having become a fan of Deep Purple, he saw the group perform the Concerto for Group and Orchestra with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall that September.
Although he left his bass and amplifier at home in Oadby, after less than a year of studying in London, Deacon decided he wanted to join a band. In 1970, Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor had formed Queen; Deacon saw them in October that year but was not immediately impressed. Later in the year, he briefly formed a band called Deacon that made one live appearance at Chelsea College.
In early 1971, Deacon was introduced to Taylor and May by a friend at a disco who told him that they were in a band that had just lost its bassist. A couple of days later he auditioned in a lecture room at Imperial College London and became the last member of Queen to join. Deacon was the youngest member of the band. Deacon was selected for his musical talent, his quiet demeanour and his electrical skills. A persistent legend claims Deacon was the seventh bassist auditioned, but more recent sources show Queen's bassists were, in order: Mike Grose, Barry Mitchell, Doug Bogie and Deacon. Deacon played his first show with Queen at the College of Estate Management in Kensington in June.
On Queen's first album (1973) he was credited as "Deacon John", to make him "sound more interesting". He asked to be credited under his real name, which was done on all albums from Queen II (1974) onwards.
Deacon's first writing credit came on Queen's third album, Sheer Heart Attack (1974). He wrote "Misfire", a Caribbean-themed song on which he played almost all guitar parts, and co-wrote "Stone Cold Crazy" with the rest of the band. He also played some guide guitar parts on the album, for May was hospitalised with hepatitis when recording started. His second song – written for his wife-to-be Veronica – "You're My Best Friend" was featured on the group's fourth album, A Night at the Opera (1975), and went on to be an international hit. Subsequently, Deacon tended to write one or two songs for every Queen album, until The Miracle (1989) and Innuendo (1991), which credited the band as a whole.
He wrote the hit "Another One Bites The Dust" (1980) as a dance song based on his early love of soul. The song saw radio play on both black and white US music stations, quickly becoming one of the band's bestselling singles. Deacon would collaborate with Mercury throughout the early 1980s, helping push the band's musical direction towards a lighter disco sound.
Deacon's collaboration with Mercury would culminate with the release of the band's 1982 album Hot Space. He played rhythm guitar on the opening "Staying Power" because of his soul and Motown-influenced style, and insisted on playing guitar on his own composition "Back Chat" and not allowing May to play any guitar solos because the style did not fit what Deacon wanted. This led to an acrimonious argument between the two. "Back Chat", and the album as a whole, would prove commercially unsuccessful, leading to the band returning to their rock roots in subsequent albums.
By the mid-1980s Deacon had started to play with other bands as well. He performed on the single "Picking Up Sounds" by Man Friday & Jive Junior, a supergroup also featuring Thin Lizzy's Scott Gorham, Bad Company's Simon Kirke and Mick Ralphs, and The Pretenders' Martin Chambers and played with The Immortals, which released the track "No Turning Back" as part of the soundtrack to the film Biggles: Adventures in Time. Deacon played bass on Mercury's single with Montserrat Caballe "How Can I Go On" and also worked with Elton John and Hot Chocolate's Errol Brown.
Deacon considered his songwriting to be of equal importance to his musical skills in Queen. He later said: "If I'd just been a bass player all my life with the band, I wouldn't be as satisfied ... I only consider that as part of what I do".
Deacon has often been described as the "quiet" member of the band. Although the rest of the band felt he was the right bassist for them, he barely spoke in rehearsals and avoided arguments. He lives in Putney in Southwest London with his wife Veronica Tetzlaff, whom he married on 18 January 1975, and is the father of six children. One of the reasons for Queen splitting from Trident, their original management company, is that it refused to lend Deacon money to put a deposit on a house.
According to the 2019 Sunday Times Rich List, Deacon was worth £130 million.