Who Will Live Forever: The Incredible Story of Freddie Mercury
Few frontmen reach iconic legend status, but Freddie Mercury of Queen is undoubtedly one of the best among them. His music revolution turned the world of rock in a new direction nobody could have imagined at the time.
Behind the music genius that was Queen, there was an extraordinary man determined to have his voice heard. And what a voice it was! Let's take a closer look at the life of Freddie Mercury, the star who captivated the crowds with his passion and his pain and took the world by storm.
Born Farrokh Bulsara
With their songs loved by millions of fans worldwide, Queen is still considered one of the greatest bands in music history. Undoubtedly, Freddie Mercury played a big part in the band's incredible success with his amazing talent and vision.
Freddie's Early Years
Little is publicly known about the childhood years of Queen's lead singer. We think of him as always being a rock star, but he likely endured many of the same challenges that plague kids and teens as they grow up. He had a long way to go before reaching the top.
Moving to the U.K.
His stage name, "Freddie," dates back to his school years. Freddie’s family moved back to Zanzibar in 1963 but had to leave the following year during the Zanzibar Revolution to escape the violent situation.
A Legend in Disguise
Freddie discovered a band called Smile, and he liked their sound and wanted to be part of it. The future guitarist and drummer of Queen — Brian May and Roger Taylor — were playing in the band, and they had no idea that one of their followers would ultimately make them famous.
Queen Is Born
When Smile's lead singer left the band, Freddie saw the opportunity he had been waiting for and didn't hesitate to seize it. He joined the band as the lead singer and renamed it Queen. The name was initially perceived as controversial because (in relation to men) it was associated with the LGBTQ community.
High Voice in High Spirit
Freddie Mercury didn't have just talent. He had an exceptional voice that could span four octaves. This talent was very rare, and it became the trademark that set him apart from other singers. His incredibly wide vocal range allowed him to perform in a large variety of musical styles, and his willingness to do so made him much different from most rock stars.
Freddie Mercury's teeth were probably his most characteristic facial feature. He was born with four extra incisors, and he gave that extra space in his mouth credit for his wide vocal range. It was the reason he never wanted to fix his teeth, despite his newfound wealth. He believed they were the secret to his amazing voice.
Transforming the Musical Landscape
During the first years of the band, Queen started attracting new followers and slowly set the stage for success. Freddie had a special charisma and electrifying stage presence that were hard to resist. The audience followed his every move and couldn't get enough of him. It was something real and exciting!
Embracing His New Identity
When the band started to gain popularity, Freddie wanted to reaffirm his new identity. He wanted his name to reflect the person he was striving to be, so changed his name from Farrokh Bulsara to Freddie Mercury.
Different Walks of Life United by Music
The universe gathered a diverse group of unique individuals together under the band name Queen. If it wasn't for the band's creation, who knows if any of them would have had successful music careers? Each member came from a very different background, but they worked together extremely well.
The First Album: Trial and Error
In 1973, Queen released their first album named after the band. They were extremely happy with the achievement, but their enthusiasm waned when sales didn't meet expectations. This was mainly because they weren’t widely known yet, of course. They were frustrated, but they didn't give up.
The Big Breakthrough: Crossing the Atlantic
As the band started to increase in popularity, an opportunity came along that they couldn't pass up. It turned out to be exactly the kind of exposure the band needed. They signed on as an opening act for the famous English rock band Mott the Hoople on their U.S. tour.
Queen's first two albums weren't as successful as you might imagine, considering the important role Queen played in musical history. Nevertheless, Freddie was confident that the band had huge potential and was going to make it to the top.
Under New Management
Even though sales of the third album were good, Queen wasn’t well compensated. In fact, the production company they used took the lion’s share of the profits. They decided to fire their manager and look for someone new.
The Unlikely Success of Bohemian Rhapsody
Nobody believed that "Bohemian Rhapsody" would become a hit single. Not that the song wasn't good, but it was more than six minutes long — unthinkable for a rock song — and recorded partly to make a point that Queen wouldn’t be pigeonholed into a single genre. John Reid reportedly played the record for Elton John before its release, and he also didn't think it would be a hit.
They Are the Champions
The album A Night at the Opera was successful, and Queen became increasingly popular in the U.K. and in the U.S., where they also had a growing fan base. With the British Invasion of the mid-1960s long over, the band blazed a new trail for British musicians who were trying to attract American audiences.
The Woman by His Side
Freddie Mercury was constantly on display, sharing his energy with the crowds and demonstrating openness. However, he preferred to keep his personal life a secret, and not much is known about the people in his life.
Freddie asked Mary Austin to marry him, and she agreed. Despite his proposal, they never actually married. Even though they were best friends and loved one another, it wasn't the kind of intimate relationship that either of them needed. They started to drift apart, and it didn't look like the relationship was going anywhere.
The Other Love of His Life
After Freddie came out to Mary and revealed his sexual orientation, he embraced his sexuality and became more open about dating men and women. The other important relationship in his life was a romantic one with Jim Hutton. They met in 1984 and soon became so close they were seen together everywhere.
Life of Glory
Freddie Mercury may have kept quiet about his private affairs, but he wasn't shy about showing how much he enjoyed life and performing. His lifestyle was as fancy and extravagant as his personality, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he spent a fortune on works of art, flamboyant clothes and huge parties.
After the release of A Night at the Opera, Queen finally enjoyed phenomenal commercial success. The album itself was insanely expensive to make, but it proved to be worth it. In 1981, Queen was invited to perform a concert at a soccer stadium in Argentina, where they had a huge fan base they didn’t even know about.
South American Dream
The Queen concert in Buenos Aires turned out to be a huge success. The band played in front of a massive crowd of more than 100,000 people — their biggest performance up until then. It was also huge in terms of energy and impact.
The Unborn Song of Freddie and Michael
After the band returned from South America, Freddie had the chance to sing with Michael Jackson. He was a huge fan of the King of Pop and was very enthusiastic about the opportunity to record a song with him. Their communication started off well, but it soon started to get weird.
Fun fact: Freddie Mercury had 10 cats at home! As a man, he can’t qualify as a crazy cat lady, but he was definitely a real cat lover who treated his pets like his own children. He got the first pair of cats when he lived with Mary Austin. They named them Tom and Jerry.
Rise and Fall
Even though the band enjoyed great worldwide success, it went through some rough patches at times. When some of their records failed to match the band's earlier highs, the members decided to take a break to clear their minds and rejuvenate. During that time, each of them worked on their own projects.
Banned in the U.S.
The single "I Want to Break Free" became a huge hit. However, the music video wasn't received as well, which was a problem at the height of the MTV generation. The band members dressed as women in the video as a reference to the popular British TV show Coronation Street. It was accepted well in Europe, but the U.S. audience had a completely different reaction.
The Most Iconic Concert
One of Freddie Mercury's most iconic concerts was also one of his last: the 1985 Live Aid Concert at Wembley Stadium. The band gave the best performance of their careers. They were supposed to play for a mere 18 minutes but ended up playing for almost an hour.
The Beginning of the End
Freddie Mercury gave his best performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert, knowing he was terminally ill. His partner, Jim Hutton, was HIV positive, and so was Freddie. The singer wanted to keep it a secret, but he eventually shared it with the other band members. His wish was to keep on creating music until the end, and that's what he did.
Freddie realized his time was short, so he finally made a public announcement about his condition. On November 23, 1991, he released this statement:
Legacy of a Legend
On November 24, 1991, Freddie Mercury left the world he had conquered with his music. He died of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS. It was a sad day for music and for everyone who loved him.