In his own words, Freddie Mercury, vocalist and frontman for the rock band Queen was…
a shooting star leaping through the skies,
like a tiger defying the laws of gravity.
Burning through the skies,
200 degrees – that’s why they call me Mr Fahrenheit,
I’m travelling at the speed of light.
Mercury set out to become a legend, and so he did. When asked what he wanted with his legacy after he died, he had said, “Do anything you want with my music dear, just never make me boring!” And 24 years later, he is anything but that. His was one of the greatest voices in rock ever – and this statement is not made lightly, for a recent study claims that Mercury’s voice was a natural wonder.
Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara to a Parsi family in British Zanzibar in 1946. It was his teachers at the St Peter’s Church of England school in Panchgani, India who affectionately called him “Freddie”. It was a name he held on to.
When British Colonial rule ended in Zanzibar in 1963, Bulsara’s family moved to England. It was the era of the swinging London, and in an environment immersed in The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Freddie found his true element. It was here, as a student, that he met Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon, and together they created Queen, one of rock’s biggest and most controversial bands.
Freddie Mercury and Queen created music that is timeless and ageless. Under Pressure talks to everyone, no matter their year of birth. I have never met a person who does not foot-tap right on the rhythm with We Will Rock You, and if you ever meet a person who does not sing along to Bohemian Rhapsody, beware! “Galileo!” must always be followed by “Figaro!”.
Mercury was, and still remains, an enigma. Even though he filled stadiums and sold millions of records, his personal life remained strictly personal. So much so that except his band members, only a handful of people knew of the illness that killed him in 1991.
But that was not how he was on stage. There, Freddie Mercury lost every ounce of self-consciousness, owning stadiums around the world, and enchanting the audience with a voice unlike any other in history. He was a fiercely physical performer, creating an electrifying atmosphere with his clothes, his theatrics, and with the way he interacted and connected with the audience.
He proved it too, at the 1985 Live Aid concert. With Freddie at the center, the band emerged as the most powerful and important movement in rock. They stole the show with a 20 minute set – remembered as a concert in itself – in the presence of giants like David Bowie, U2, Dire Straits, Sting and Elton John.
They went on to sign another stadium deal for the next year. The Magic Tour on July 12, 1986 was one of the biggest events for the band. They performed in front of a live stadium audience of 72,000, with 15 cameras recording every move with the intention of making a film. It was first released on cassette tape in 1990.
At the time of the Magic Tour, rumours about the band breaking up were rife. Mercury, however, insisted, "We're gonna stay together until we fucking well die, I'm sure.” A statement loaded with irony – it was one of their last live performances.
Five years later, Mercury died of bronchopneumonia related to aids. He kept his illness hidden from his fans. He died an elusive and deeply personal death, having lived a flamboyant and exceedingly free life. Freddie Mercury raised questions that he never bothered answering, but his life and sexuality were all there for the world to see and interpret.
The band’s last studio album with Mercury, Innuendo, was practically a tribute to Freddie and the wonderful time the band had together. All he wanted till the end was to make music. Timeless, incredible, and gorgeous music that has kept the magical musical genius alive.
Queen has since then collaborated with a few vocalists, but to be completely honest, the classic band was and always will be all about Freddie. He was the voice, the soul, the power and the presence. Freddie Mercury not only created masterpieces, he elevated them a level of other-worldly brilliance.
And all he regretted in the end was that he wasn’t done, that he still had music in him.