A Look At Adam Lambert's Life-Changing American Idol Audition

The brilliant, tragic Freddie Mercury left very imposing shoes to fill, but iconic rock band Queen continues to perform. Today, they have another dynamic, flamboyant performer at their head: Adam Lambert. He has never claimed to be a "replacement" for Mercury. "I don't look like Freddie. I don't sound like Freddie. I sound like me," he once told Entertainment Tonight per Smooth Radio. Yet, he has risen as a star in his own right as part of Queen + Adam Lambert.

Remarkably, Lambert was just moments away from never getting his big break with the band. Here's the story of the fateful "American Idol" audition that changed everything for him and the most important rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" he ever performed — and how he almost didn't.

As Good Housekeeping reports, he spent his late teens in low-profile roles in the likes of "Wicked" (as Fiyero's understudy). His music career began with a stint as the head of rockers The Citizen Vein. This didn't satiate Lambert, though, as he once told The Los Angeles Times. "We had a handful of songs. I don't know if any of them were great, but it was a start," he said. His decision to audition for "American Idol" would change everything.

The birth of Queen + Adam Lambert

Lambert turned 27 in 2009, the year of his remarkable audition. He had sacrificed a lot (he wasn't allowed to be bound by another "entertainment contract" when he appeared on the show, so had to quit his job), but there he was on stage performing for Simon Cowell and his cadre of sharp-tongued judges.

He first performed "Rock with You," but the Michael Jackson number was a bust. Desperate for another chance, he asked to perform "Bohemian Rhapsody." Cowell worried that Lambert was "too theatrical" on stage, but performances like these were enough to convince Queen guitar legend Brian May, who was looking for potential replacements for singer Paul Rogers at the time.

"I had thousands of people send me the video, saying, 'You have to see this guy,'" May said in 2014 (per Smooth Radio). "So it immediately put [him] in there. And then we came to see."

Roger Taylor told "Good Morning America" (via Smooth Radio) a similar story. "A friend of mine called me up and said, 'I've just seen the most amazing singer on 'American Idol.” I checked it out and [Lambert] was singing 'Whole Lotta Love' by Led Zeppelin and just blowing it away. Fantastic," he recalled.

Watching him in person and performing together clinched it, and the rest is musical history.