"I Won't Be a Rock Star. I Will Be a Legend."--the Freddie Mercury Story
"I like to be surrounded by splendid things."
Farrokh Bulsara, better known as Freddie Mercury, was born into a Zoroastrian (Parsi) family on September 5th, 1946 into the British protectorate of Stone Town, Zanzibar. He lived there until the age of seventeen when, for safety reasons due to the Zanzibar Revolution, he fled with his family and settled in Feltham, Middlesex, England.
He enrolled in art school and earned a diploma in Art and Graphic Design and joined a series of bands finally joining up with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor and formed the band which eventually became Queen, and Farrokh became Freddie. John Deacon joined on bass in 1971 to complete the lineup; a lineup that would remain intact until Freddie’s death in 1991.
"What will I be doing in twenty years' time? I'll be dead, darling! Are you crazy?"
"I think in the end being natural and genuine is what wins. I hope that comes out in my songs."
When asked about the name of the band, Freddy replied that he "was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it". Freddie's rampant sexuality-- especially his bisexuality--was no secret. Often when asked about his sexual orientation, he referred to himself as “trisexual” saying he “would try anything.” What gets lost in his flamboyant sexuality is that his first and greatest love was to a woman, Mary Austin. About her he’s quoted as saying: “All my lovers asked me why they couldn't replace Mary (Austin) but it's simply impossible. The only friend I've got is Mary and I don't want anybody else.To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that's enough for me.I couldn't fall in love with a man the same way as I have with Mary.” (^ Hauptfuhrer 1977) He had met Austin through guitarist Brian May and, while they ultimately remained friends throughout his life, the romantic relationship ended when he began an affair with an American male record executive
Like many young men, especially rich and famous ones, he had a sense of power and apparent immortality and engaged in risky behavior, often having unprotected sex with several strangers in one evening, men and women while taking copious amounts of drugs (mostly cocaine). When cautioned about his recklessness, especially in light of a new type of cancer that was invading the gay bathhouses and killing homosexual males at an alarming rate, he would scoff and exclaim, “I’m going to live forever.”
Freddie was right, though perhaps not in the context he was thinking when he uttered those words.
Despite this reckless behavoiur, many of Freddie's early lyrics lament his careless lifestyle, particularly those Bohemian Rhapsody. Perhaps the band's most famous song, it has strong allusions to sex and venereal disease and seems in many ways prophetic of his own early demise: "Mama, /I just killed a man/Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger now he's dead/Mama... life had just begun/But now I've gone and thrown it all away/Mamaaaaa oooh/Didn't mean to make you cry/If I'm not back again this time tomorrow/Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters/Too late, my time has come/Sends shivers down my spine, body's aching all the time/Goodbye, ev'rybody, I've got to go/Got to leave you all behind and face the truth/Mamaaaaa oooh/I don't want to die/I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all."
(wikipedia) (VH1 Behind the Music)
"I don't give a shit what people say about me"
In Queen, Freddie developed a persona as one of the most flamboyant and charismatic performers ever. To watch him perform with such gusto and charm, you would never know that off the stage he was quite shy and rarely granted interviews. His favorite singer was Aretha Franklin and Brian May once claimed that Freddie wanted to be reincarnated as the gospel goddess.
Despite Queen’s often un-gospel like lyrical content, the gospel influence was evident in many of Queen’s most famous songs from like Somebody to Love and You’re my Best Friend .
Allmusic has characterized Mercury as "one of rock's greatest all-time entertainers", who possessed "one of the greatest voices in all of music.” Rolling Stone Magazine voted him the greatest rock vocalist of all time. His speaking voice was baritone but he generally performed as a tenor, with a range from a Low F to a high F. He was also a skilled pianist and an able guitarist.
From the mid 70's until 1986, Queen was one of the biggest and best selling acts in rock n roll. Queen has been estimated to have sold 300 million records worldwide and have spent more weeks on UK album charts than any other act, including the Beatles.
(Wikipedia) (Queen Live at Wembley interview disc)
"A concert is not a live rendition of our album. It's a theatrical event."
"I dress to kill, but tastefully. "
"I guess I've always lived the glamorous life of a star. It 's nothing new - I used to spend down to the last dime."
"I have fun with my clothes onstage; it's not a concert you're seeing, it's a fashion show."
"We're a very expensive group; we break a lot of rules. It's unheard of to combine opera with a rock theme, my dear . "
At the conclusion of the Some Kind Of Magic Tour in August of 1986, Roger Taylor noted that Freddie seemed more fatigued then normal and he sensed that Freddie knew something was wrong. When the official AIDS diagnosis came in 1987, he gathered his band mates together, told them of the diagnosis and of his desire to keep this a private matter. In the words of Brian May, “As soon [as] we realised (sic) Freddie was ill, we clustered around him like a protective shell. We were lying to everyone, even our own families, because he didn’t want the world intruding on his struggle. He used to say, ‘I don’t want people buying our fucking records out of sympathy.’ We all became very close. We grew up a lot.” When asked about the future of the band, Freddie responded “We’re going to make records until the day I fucking die.”
This proved largely true as Queen no longer performed but continued to record and make videos through the late 80’s and into the early 90’s. In 1990, he made his final public appearance, joining Queen to collect the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.
Despite persistent rumors that Freddie had AIDS, fueled by Queen's abrupt retirement from touring, Mercury would deny these saying he was merely “exhausted” and that the band had quit touring only because he didn’t want to look “ridiculous” as an aging rock star "prancing about" on stage. Still, his increasingly gaunt appearance, coupled with the death of two of his former lovers from AIDS, lead to the continued conjecture.
Unable to walk and nearly blind, Freddie began refusing his medication, taking only his painkillers. Finally on November 22, 1991, he summoned the band’s manager saying it was time to finally make his illness public. A statement was prepared and was released on the next day.
“Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors, and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.”
A little over 24 hours after this statement was released, Freddie died with Mary Austin and his lover, Jim Hutton by his side. He was only 45 years old. Mercury was one of the first celebrities to die from AIDS and his death helped raise awareness about this terminal, yet preventable, disease.
He was given a Zoroastrian funeral and his body was cremated.
Queen did a tribute concert at Wembley Stadium and it was decided the band would carry on with a different singer. Deacon refused to perform without Mercury and left the group after the tribute concert. Queen still continues to perform and record and Freddie remains one of the most revered and influential performers of all time. He has become the legend he longed to be, indeed.