Freddie Mercury: Long live (the) Queen
The biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was the surprise winner at the Golden Globes. Freddie Mercury, the legendary frontman of the rock band Queen, died in 1991 of AIDS-related complications. Here's more on his story.
For the world premiere of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody in October 2018, Freddie Mercury fans filled London's 12,500-seat Wembley Arena, where Queen's Live Aid concert was also held in 1985. The hit movie went on to become a surprise winner at the Golden Globes: Rami Malek (above) picked up the best actor award for his portrayal of the legendary singer, while the musical was also crowned best film.
'The Great Pretender'
There's never been a rock star like Freddie Mercury, whose voice spanned four octaves and added a decidedly campy flavor to rock music. With his chest pushed forward like a rooster, Mercury managed to attract male and female followers alike while shaking his hips in hot pants. Even greater than his vocal talent was his personality — both on and off stage: confident, nonchalant and flamboyant.
'Now I'm Here'
Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar on September 5, 1946 but grew up mainly in India. At age 17, he and his parents moved to London, where he studied art while dabbling in music. That's when he met guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Initially, he worked as a roadie for the two musicians before sharing the limelight with them under his future stage name, Freddie Mercury.
'My Fairy King'
In 1970, May and Taylor took bassist John Deacon on board and released Queen's first album — with Freddie (left) on vocals. The track "My Fairy King" features the following lyrics: "Mother Mercury, look what they've done to me." The lyrics completed Freddie's nom de plume. Asked if he meant to address his actual mother with those words, he replied, "Yes, and from now on, I am Freddie Mercury."
'Now I'm Here'
During their early days, it proved quite difficult for the new band to get any recognition. It wasn't until 1974 that tracks like "Killer Queen" and "Now I'm Here" put Queen on the map and in the charts. The big breakthrough came with "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 1975. To this day, the award-winning hit single remains Mercury's signature song.
'We Are The Champions'
Queen dominated the British music charts with their fourth studio album, A Night at the Opera, and managed to gain recognition in the US and beyond. The group became one of the most successful rock bands in history. Celebrated not just for their songs but also for Mercury's stage antics, Queen toured the world to sold-out venues.
'Crazy Little Thing Called Love'
As much as he reveled in his public persona, Freddie Mercury kept his personal life under lock and key. In the late 1970s, he split up with his long-term girlfriend Mary Austin, telling her in private that he would seek male companions in the future. Mercury explored his homosexuality freely before HIV and AIDS started making headline news, affecting gay communities around the world.
'Don't Stop Me Now'
Denying rumors that he had contracted HIV, Mercury kept the diagnosis to himself in the late 1980s, continuing to record new tracks despite looking increasingly tired and gaunt. Many thought Queen's 1989 album, The Miracle, would be their last studio recording — with the mystery surrounding Mercury's health remaining until the last moment.
Freddie Mercury hit the recording studio with Spanish opera diva Montserrat Caballé to record the operatic duet "Barcelona." Released in 1987, the song initially reached no. 8 in the UK charts. But five years later, one year after Mercury's death in 1991, it resurfaced during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, catapulting the track to the upper regions of the charts in several countries.
'The Show Must Go On'
The Brit Awards ceremony on February 18, 1990, was the last time Mercury was seen in public. A shadow of his former self, he accepted an honorary award for Queen and their Outstanding Contribution to Music. As though in denial about the limited time he had left, Mercury went back to the studio to record Queen's last album, Innuendo.
'Who Wants To Live Forever'
The night before his death, Mercury finally made a public announcement admitting that he had been suffering from AIDS. Mercury died November 24, 1991 due to bronchial pneumonia brought on by the disease. After his death, Queen released one more album using material recorded in his final months. The record, released in 1995, is titled Made in Heaven.