As the main vocalist of Queen, Freddie Mercury is one of the most dynamic and captivating performers in the rock world. He is best known for his mock operatic masterpiece “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was also the title of a 2018 film on the performer’s life.
Freddie Mercury: Who Was He?
Freddie Mercury was a singer-songwriter and musician whose songs topped the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1970s and 1980s. Mercury was one of the most skilled and inventive vocalists of the rock period as the frontman of Queen. Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Tanzania, studied piano at an Indian boarding school before meeting many musicians at London’s Ealing College of Art. Mercury died on November 24, 1991, at the age of 45, of AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia.
Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar on September 5, 1946. Bomi and Jer Bulsara, Mercury’s parents, were Parsees, or adherents of the Zoroastrian faith with Persian roots. Following their marriage, Bomi and Jer relocated to Zanzibar, Tanzania, where Bomi worked as a cashier for the British government’s High Court. The family was reasonably well-off, with a nanny and other domestic employees. Kashmira, Mercury’s sister, was born in 1952.
Mercury’s parents moved him to a boarding school in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, when he was eight years old, where he played piano and spent his spare time with his aunt and grandfather. It didn’t take long for the dynamic young guy to join his first band, the Hectics. Mercury returned to Zanzibar in 1963.
The family migrated to London in 1964, after a deadly revolution on the islands. Mercury attended Ealing College of Art and became friends with other musicians.
Mercury became the main vocalist for the band Ibex in 1969. He was a member of many previous bands before teaming up with his eventual Queen colleagues.
Voice & Vocal Range
Mercury was born with four additional teeth in the back of his mouth, which resulted in the now-famous bucktooth smile. In reality, his childhood nickname was Bucky.
Mercury never had his teeth corrected because he was scared it would interfere with his four-octave vocal range.
Around the time he arrived to London in the 1960s, Queen Mercury met his future bandmates, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May. In 1971, they met bassist John Deacon. That June, the four, nicknamed Queen by Mercury, performed their first show together.
Queen released their debut album, Queen, in 1973. In 1974, they released their second album, Queen II, which they recorded in only one month. The album included the group’s characteristic harmonies and music genres, such as ballads, folk, blues, metal, pop, and rock, and contained the hit “Seven Seas of Rhye.”
Queen’s music, on the other hand, truly took off with their third album, Sheer Heart Attack, published in 1974.
Queen’s fourth album, A Night at the Opera (1975), was an even larger success the following year, with a sound that has been characterized as a blend of hard rock and glam rock.
With A Day at the Races (1976), News of the World (1978), and The Game (1980), Queen’s popularity soared throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. The group’s capacity to sell records started to decrease after The Works (1984), while Queen continued to attract massive audiences as a live performance across the globe.
Mercury was a great showman in addition to his abilities as a singer and composer. He knows how to amuse and connect with audiences. He loved to dress up and walk about the stage in skintight spandex, asking people to join in on the fun. Mercury, who was artistic in nature, was also actively engaged in creating the artwork for several of the group’s albums.
Mercury had a wealthy lifestyle as well. He enjoyed champagne and art, once spending almost $400,000 on a set of hand-painted dinnerware. Mercury was always one for a good time, and for one of his birthdays, he flew a group of buddies to the island of Ibiza. Fireworks and flamenco dance honored the event.
Mercury had virtually retired from public life by 1989. He did not promote or tour in support of Queen’s following album, Innuendo (1991), and rumors about potential health issues started to surface.
Mercury collaborated with Queen in the studio before his death. These efforts were used on Made In Heaven, the group’s last album with all of the original members, released in 1995. This compilation of Mercury’s last performances, albeit long gone, hit the top of the British charts.
In 2001, Mercury and Queen were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for their contributions to American music history.
Freddie Mercury and Queen’s ‘Killer Queen’
“Killer Queen,” a song about a high-class call lady, was included on Queen’s third album, Sheer Heart Attack. The record charted at No. 2 in the United Kingdom and No. 12 in the United States in 1974. Unlike most of his earlier work, Mercury composed the words first, followed by the music.
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen
For the 1975 album A Night at the Opera, Mercury penned “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a seven-minute rock opera. Mercury demonstrated his four-octave vocal range on this groundbreaking tune by overdubbing his voice. The song topped the charts in the United Kingdom and reached the Top 10 in the United States.
‘We Are the Champions’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ are two songs from the album.
“We Are the Champions,” from the album News of the World, scored a Top 10 success in both the United States and the United Kingdom in 1978. It was released as a single with “We Will Rock You.” As popular anthems sung during athletic events, both songs have taken on a life of their own.
‘Yet Another Bites the Dust’
Queen, who was always looking for fresh and diverse sounds, tried their hand at the disco-flavored “Another One Bites the Dust,” from their 1980 album The Game.
‘It’s a Crazy Little Thing Called Love’
Mercury and the rest of the band demonstrated their variety as performers on The Game with the rockabilly-influenced 1980 smash “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” which Mercury wrote.
‘Under Pressure,’ featuring David Bowie
In 1981, Queen collaborated with David Bowie on the song “Under Pressure.” The song’s unique bass beat was subsequently purportedly utilized by Vanilla Ice for his 1990 rap smash “Ice, Ice Baby.”
‘Radio Ga Ga’ is a popular song
Although Queen’s success started to diminish in the mid-1980s, the band had a small hit in 1984 with “Radio Ga Ga.” Lady Gaga, a pop performer, got her stage name from the song.
Mercury, in addition to his work with Queen, recorded many solo albums, notably Mr. Bad Guy in 1985. He also worked in Barcelona with opera vocalist Montserrat Caballé in 1988.
Performance for Live Aid
One of Queen’s most memorable performances occurred during the Live Aid charity event in 1985. Mercury, dressed simply in a tank shirt and slacks, led the audience through some of the band’s best tunes with amazing enthusiasm and elegance. Thousands of music enthusiasts at London’s Wembley Stadium joined him in chanting “We Will Rock You.”
For many who saw the event live or on television, Queen’s performance was one of the highlights of the day-long event, which was organized by musician and activist Bob Geldof and composer Midge Ure to collect funds for African famine victims. The band was inspired by the incident and composed the song “One Vision.”
Fiancé Mary Austin
Mercury was frank about his homosexuality offstage, but he kept his romances secret. He was betrothed to Mary Austin and was in a seven-year relationship with Jim Hutton when he died.
Austin and Mercury met in 1969 when she was a 19-year-old music shop clerk and he was a 24-year-old on the verge of fame. They started dating fast, and Mercury composed the song “Love of My Life” for Austin.
Mercury proposed in 1973, but the wedding was put off when he confessed to her that he was bisexual. The two stayed close, and Austin cared for Mercury once he was diagnosed with AIDS. Mercury bequeathed most of his assets, as well as his London residence, Garden Lodge, to Austin, who eventually married and had two children.
“All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible,” Mercury said in an interview in 1985. “Mary is my only friend, and I don’t want anyone else.” She was my common-law wife to me. It seemed like a marriage to me. We have faith in one other, and that is enough for me.”
Jim Hutton is her boyfriend
Mercury met Hutton, an Irish hairdresser, at a homosexual nightclub in London in the 1980s. Mercury offered to buy Hutton a drink, but Hutton didn’t recognize him and declined.
A year and a half later, they rejoined at another nightclub. They started dating again this time, and Hutton moved in with Mercury less than a year later. Despite the fact that Mercury never came out, the pair remained together until Mercury died of AIDS in 1991.
Austin allegedly booted Hutton out of Garden Lodge after Mercury died. Mercury and Me, a book about Hutton’s friendship with the musician, was eventually published. He died of cancer at the age of 60 in 2010.
Mercury died on November 24, 1991, in his London townhouse, of AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia. He was 45 years old at the time.
Mercury issued a statement the day before his death, on November 23, 1991, saying, “I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV-positive and have AIDS.” To preserve the privacy of individuals around me, I believed it was appropriate to keep this information hidden to date. However, the moment has come for my friends and followers all across the globe to learn the truth, and I hope that everyone will join my doctors and all others fighting this dreadful illness.”
Roger Taylor, Mercury’s longtime friend, and bandmate, gave some insight into Mercury’s choice to keep his AIDS diagnosis hidden. “He didn’t want to be looked at as an object of pity and curiosity, and he didn’t want vultures circling over his head,” Taylor told Entertainment Weekly. The music industry grieved the passing of one of its most varied and captivating artists.
In April 1992, Wembley Stadium hosted the Freddie Mercury Tribute: Concert for AIDS Awareness in his honor. From Def Leppard to Elton John, a varied variety of rock groups performed to honor Mercury and further, the battle against cancer that claimed his life. The next year, Mercury’s mock operatic masterpiece, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” debuted in the film Wayne’s World and returned to the Billboard 100 pop charts, demonstrating its eternal popularity.
The Film ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
Bohemian Rhapsody, a 2018 film starring Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek as Mercury, depicts Queen’s career building up to their memorable Live Aid performance in 1985.
Following the premiere of the film, Queen’s music saw a rebirth in popularity decades after their previous studio album. The group’s song “Bohemian Rhapsody” jumped from 87th to 15th on Spotify the day before the film’s premiere, and it reached the Billboard 100 for the third time.