Autism, Aspergers Syndrome and Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury's last days
Freddie Mercury, Autism and Aspergers Syndrome
My son is partial to many diverse musical tastes. To date it has been interesting to note his choices e.g. he went through a phase of Beethoven and more recently Lady Gaga took his fancy.
For my autistic son it is the particular beat and rhythm of the music that seems to do it for him. It is well known that Beethoven was considered to be on the autistic spectrum. Personally too I have my suspicions about Lady Gaga and if you have too then please see my other Hub i.e. The Aspergers Female Uncovered.
So last week when we were motoring along I put on an old CD I found. Queen's greatest Hits. Before long I noticed my son listening intently to the drum beats of the music and rocking from side to side as he does when he is really enjoying a tune. So I put Radio Gaga on for a second time and sure enough my son was bopping away again.
Hmm I suddenly thought to myself. It’s the late great Freddie Mercury of Queen that seems to be appealing to my son this time. That put me thinking about Freddie Mercury’s life. I had always liked his music and it was obvious that he had been a great showman. Now it struck me also that his dress style in his music videos was certainly flamboyant and unique.
So then I decided to watch the music video for Queen's Radio Gaga and I realized it was full of symbolism that seemed to be delving into a very complex mind. Ding ding I realized sudden;y wasn't Freddie Mercury's approach rather like Lady Gaga's? Lady Gaga also being a very creative song writer, who is always completely involved in the production and choreography of her music videos. As well as writing all her own songs as they come to her at the strangest of times e.g. in the bath or lying in bed in the early hours of the morning, Freddie Mercury was like this too.
So when I got home I googled Freddie Mercury of Queen fame and then it really hit me just how many autistic characteristics he possessed during his whirlwind lifetime. A summary of them is as follows:
Freddie Mercury of Queen was a shy retiring type:
Underneath Queen's front man's stage image i.e. the flamboyant costumes and his ability to totally captivate and enthrall his legions of fans Freddie Mercury was actually reported to be quite shy. Also he didn’t like the limelight much at all and he rarely gave interviews.
David Wigg was one person who got to know Freddie well as a friend and associate and these are some of the things he had to say about Freddie Mercury:
'Although Freddie was famous for the way he dominated a stage, I found him entirely different in private. The showmanship was replaced by someone who was shy, suspicious and guarded his privacy with an obsessive tenacity.
There was even a period when he was afraid of meeting people as he thought they might be disappointed that he was not the larger-than-life person they saw on stage. ‘I don’t want to shatter the illusion,’ he said. ‘I’m a sort of chameleon. I think it’s a combination of a lot of characters. And I’m a person of extremes.’
'As long as I live, I’ll never forget my first meeting with Freddie Mercury. Storming into his dressing room where I was waiting after a two-hour show, he picked up a clothes iron and hurled it at a full-length mirror, smashing it to pieces.
Well, I thought, he’s obviously not superstitious! The outburst had been sparked by a faulty microphone on stage. Although the audience were unaware anything was wrong, Freddie blew his top.
When he’d calmed down, I asked if it was worth getting so wound up over a problem the public knew nothing about. ‘Some people can take second best, but I can’t. If you’ve got the taste for being number one, then number two isn’t good enough,’ he said, slapping me on the knee as he exploded with laughter.'
'What struck me was the vocal power he possessed. It was this brilliance that led to the world-famous soprano Montserrat Caballe partnering him for their number one hit Barcelona in 1987.'
I often saw Freddie preparing to go on stage. Swigging down a few vodkas, he’d warm up his voice with a run of vocal exercises. His valet would have his stage clothes laid out for him. After one last puff on a cigarette, he would rush through his door to the stage to the cheers of Queen’s adoring fans. He was like a hurricane.'
Freddie Mercury once said about his stage image:
‘When I’m on stage, I become very different,’ he said. ‘There are no half measures. You have to be resilient to be a rock star, you can’t falter once.'
Freddie Mercury's areas of Special Interest and Aspergers Syndrome:
Also Freddie Mercury didn’t think he was a very good pianist. That meant he hated performing Bohemian Rhapsody live because he worried he would mess up on the piano in the process. However he seems to play it very well in any live recordings of the song that I have seen and this could be indicative of another autistic characteristic i.e. everything has to be done with total perfection and if this can’t be managed then he would prefer not to do it at all. This is all linked to the so called Aspergers/Autism area of Special interest as discussed in my other Hub The Aspergers Female Uncovered.
..Now the Domestic Queen Aspie female is just a caricature to demonstrate that every person with Aspergers Syndrome’s has an absolute need for attention to detail and an innate unquenchable desire to excel at that one area that interests them like no other i.e. the so called area of special interest. They are then consumed and passionately driven to be perfect in this area no matter what it takes.
By no means does it necessarily have to any of the areas discussed above it could just as easily be a need to be the perfect mother, actress, singer, architect, Solicitor, Presenter, Astronomer or as above the perfect Fashion Goddess. The point I want to get across here is that people with Aspergers cannot bear to be just be okay at something they are passionate about instead they either have to do this task exceptionally well or else they will eventually have to avoid doing this task altogether...
In 1967 he developed a complete fascination for Jimi Hendrix. So much so that Freddie began to obsessively sketch pictures of him which he would then hang up all over his flat. This would be a typical area of special interest activity that most autistic people have for a small number of subjects. I go into this aspect of Aspergers Syndrome/High Functioning Autism in more detail in my Hub The Aspergers Female Uncovered.
Freddie Mercury also had a hugely impressive stamp collection as well as being a keen philatelist (stamp collector). His enormous stamp collection is still exhibited at stamp shows world-wide. It is displayed under his birth name which was Farrokh Bulsara. He legally changed his name to Freddie Mercury around 1970, when Queen was formed.
Freddie Mercury and lack of empathy for others:
‘The moment I find someone’s betrayed me I go the other way. Once I’m betrayed, I’m an ogre.
People with Aspergers Syndrome or Autism are often thought to be very black and white about people. Meaning, that if they like you they can be completely charming and your best friend ever but if you betray their trust in some way be warned hell hath no fury like an autistic person scorned (just ask my husband he has many stories to tell).
For example once when Freddie Mercury was on tour in the United States, he found out the man he was seeing at the time i.e. Tony Bastin, was seen out with someone else. So as revenge he paid for Tony Bastin to fly to his concert. Freddie told Tony Bastin that he missed him and wanted to see him. After meeting him off the plane Freddie then berated him and told him he had paid for him to be on the next flight back to London and that he never wanted to see him again. Then on his return from tour he refused to give Tony Bastin back his cat and kept him himself.
Freddie Mercury and Cats:
Just in case you were wondering I do mean the furry kind and not the stage show. Although possibly he may have loved Cats the Musical too.
Like many autistic people Freddie Mercury felt he had a special affinity with animals and in his case he had many cats. He even had potraits painted of his cats which he hung up in his home.
Then when he was away he would ask his long-friend and ex-partner Mary Austin to phone him every day. She would always have to put the receiver up to the cat’s faces so Freddie could speak to them and ask then how they were. At one stage Freddie Mercury was reported to have had up to 10 cats. Also it is claimed that he once wrote and dedicated an album to cats and that he wrote Mr. Bad Guy in honour of his feline friends.
Freddie Mercury and love:
Freddie Mercury met Mary Austin during the early 1970s. They subsequently lived together for about six years. They split up amicably after an incident one night when Freddie told her in bed that he felt he might be bisexual. Mary though knew Freddie too well at that stage and turned around and said to him that she doubted it instead she said she knew he was gay.
Although Freddie who later claimed, ‘I am as gay as a daffodil, my dear,’ split up with Mary Austin at this time he never stopped loving her. He immediately spent £500,000 on a house for her so that she could live nearby and he always considered her to be his nearest and dearest friend. When he died, he left her most of his fortune, as well as his house, and his recording royalties.
It is already documented that many autistic people do have inner conflicts about their sexuality. In other Hubs I have written on this subject for example both Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie display strong autistic characteristics too and each of them also went through periods of questioning their sexuality.
This is an excerpt from my Hub Angelina Jolie Aspergers Syndrome and Brad Pitt
..Now Angelina told the excited paparazzi that she was in fact bisexual and confessed to having a relationship with another female actress. This is another interesting dimension of Angelina’s personality as it has been suggested that people with Aspergers Syndrome are more likely than Neurotypical people to fall in love with a member of either sex. This is sometimes suggested to be the case because a person on the autistic spectrum tends to fall in love with a person because of who they are and because they admire them, because of shared interests or because this person can offer them something that they themselves lack e.g. sociability or a different perspective on life. Therefore they fall in love with a person completely and whether they are male or female isn’t always necessarily the most important issue…
So it would appear that to Freddie Mercury, Mary Austin was his soul-mate but yet he was also sexually attracted to men and this is the reason he and Mary split up. Like so many autistic males though he fiund it extremely difficult to find long term success in any relationship that he had. He himself expressed his opinion that this may have been because the real Freddie was so different to the stage Freddie that everyone expected him to be. He was once quoted as saying this about his concerts:
‘I’ve tried relationships on either side — male and female. But all of them have gone wrong. I don’t think anyone can put up with me. I eat people and destroy them. I just want it all my own way, but doesn’t everybody? That doesn’t mean I’m not giving. I demand a lot, but I do give a lot in return.’
Other quotes from Freddie Mercury about his lack of luck in love:
‘I am a true romantic,’ he said. ‘But at the same time I have a hard exterior — it’s difficult for people to get through to me and I attract all the wrong kinds of people. I’m petrified of being alone.’
It has already been well documented that many autistic people are extremely naïve when it comes to their love life (I certainly was in my teenage years anyway). When people with Aspergers/HIgh Functioning Autism embark on a new relationship they do often tend to have rose tinted spectacles on. Immediately they are filled with intense feelings of love, roses and moonlight and are determined that they will indeed have a happy ever after ending.
Freddie Mercury certainly fit this profile according to those who knew him and loved him. It has been said too that he would always fall head over heels in love with a new partner from the start and then he would be determined that this one would have a fairy-tale ending. However it was often the fact that Freddie was so passionately intense about his love life that scared many of his aprtners off as they were not willing to make that level of commitment or couldn't deal with his constant need to be loved or his foul temper.
Freddie Mercury also believed that his stage image had been responsible for preventing him from developing relationships:
‘I created a monster. I’m handicapped because people think I’m like that. When I’m trying to get a relationship together I’m the nicest person you could meet, my dear. I’m a peach,’ he said, dissolving into hysterical laughter.
‘Because audiences love me, it’s hard for them to believe that somebody like Freddie Mercury could be lonely,’ he said. ‘In fact, my kind of loneliness is the hardest. You can be in a crowd and still be the loneliest person, because you don’t really belong to anyone.’
Off stage Freddie Mercury was said to be shy, emotionally diverse and prone to volatile mood swings. He was also a total perfectionist in everything he did. He was once quoted as saying about Queen.
As the late 1970s progressed Freddie embarked on a number of gay relationships but he always found that true love seemed to elude him. A number of his ex-partners have been quoted as saying that Freddie fell in love many times and that every time he went out with someone new he was always very intense and was always hoping for a serious commitment.
Still he liked to play the field too and threw many wild, lavish parties including one very infamous one in a brothel. Also while the official line is that Freddie Mercury did not embark on a gay relationship until he split up with his longtime girlfriend Mary Austin others claim that he did actually have gay partners while they were still living together.
The nearest Freddie ever came to achieving his dream of true love in a gay relationship was with his last partner Jim Hutton who worked as a hairdresser for the Queen singer. He and Freddie Mercury lived together for the last six years of the singer's life. Jim Hutton was there at the Queen's singers bedside on November 24, 1991 when he lost his battle with AIDS. Freddie only revealed publicly that he had AIDS the day before he died. Up to that point only his nearest and dearest were aware of his battle with AIDS even though it was obvious for a long time before this that Freddie Mercury was not well.
Is Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody an autistic meltdown:
Then came to me the most interesting song that Freddie Mercury ever wrote and the pinnacle of why I think Freddie Mercury could certainly have had the mind of a high functioning autistic individual.
Brian May of Queen has been quoted of saying about the meaning Bohemian Rhapsody:
“Bohemian Rhapsody started off really in Freddie’s head … It developed a little bit longer way, but basically that’s Freddie’s dream or Freddie’s nightmare and it still lives on.”
Brian May has also suggested at times that the song Bohemian Rhapsody does have references to Freddie Mercury's personal life and emotions. Brian May has also been quoted as saying that
"Freddie was a very complex person: flippant and funny on the surface, but he concealed insecurities and problems in squaring up his life with his childhood. He never explained the lyrics, but I think he put a lot of himself into that song."
On another occasion Roger Taylor of Queen maintained that the true meaning of Bohemian Rhapsody is "fairly self-explanatory with just a bit of nonsense in the middle."
Freddie Mercury once said the following about the meaning of Bohemian Rhapsody.
‘It's one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it. I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them... "Bohemian Rhapsody" didn't just come out of thin air. I did a bit of research although it was tongue-in-cheek and mock opera. Why not?’
Much of Queen's material was written in the studio according to Brian May, but he also once said that Bohemian Rhapsody was "was all in Freddie's mind"
Many have already speculated about the true meaning of the song for example a music scholar named Sheila Whiteley once suggested that
"the title draws strongly on contemporary rock ideology, the individualism of the bohemian artists' world, with rhapsody affirming the romantic ideals of art rock." Commenting on bohemianism, Judith Peraino said that "Mercury intended... [this song] to be a 'mock opera', something outside the norm of rock songs, and it does follow a certain operatic logic: choruses of multi-tracked voices alternate with aria-like solos, the emotions are excessive, the plot confusing."
My own personal belief from studying Freddie Mercury’s life and career is that Bohemian Rhapsody is actually a rendition of the confusion and conflict that was going on inside his mind that he chose to get out and deal with through writing and performing Bohemian Rhapsody.
In my precious Hub, Angelina Jolie Aspergers Syndrome and Brad Pitt. Link here:
Angelina Jolie was once asked if she had ever considered therapy for the issues that she had and her reply was: Therapy? I don't need that. The roles that I choose are my therapy.'
I think for Freddie Mercury he put all his unresolved emotions into his songs and for him that was how he dealt with his inner conflict. To another person with Aspergers this method of dealing with inner conflict makes perfect sense as personally my writing is always my therapy too.
To me Bohemian Rhapsody appears to have been the ultimate therapy session for Freddie Mercury. Particularly because the different stages of the song mirror exactly the different emotional states a person who is having an autistic meltdown typically experiences. To me that along with all the other evidence makes it very possible that Freddie Mercury's genius was largely due to his autistic way of thinking. He simply excelled at his favourite area of special interest as so many successful autistic people often do.
I was going to go through the different stages of Bohemian Rhapsody now and explain my theory in more detail but I have now decided to make this a separate Hub as this one is quite long enough already. So please do stop by again next week for, 'Freddie Mercury Bohemian Rhapsody and an autistic meltdown.'