Twenty nine years ago Freddie Mercury passed away, today we look back on the flamboyant entertainer's life.
Sadly, it was on this day back in 1991 that Queen's iconic front man, Freddie Mercury, passed away at the age of forty five. The very definition of a showman, Mercury could not win his battle against Bronchopneumonia. He passed away at his Kensington home, with Dave Clark by his side.
Freddie Mercury at Live Aid / Photo Credit: PA Images
Mercury had not really been seen in public for more than a year before his death, and even then he had looked weak and pale. It was not the way he would have wanted to be remembered and neither should it be. Mercury's contribution to the world of music cannot be under estimated. He and his band Queen changed the face of British Rock and Pop and took performance to another level.
Freddie Mercury you could argue was the least likely man you could imagine to front a rock band. He didn't really fit the profile, was awkward, unconventional and far more exotic than most conventional stars of the time. Convention though was something that Mercury would continue to defy, with his looks, his sexuality, his energy and his quite brilliant song writing ability.
Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, Mercury grew up in India, even forming his own band there, 'The Hectics', but it was in England that he would, eventually find his true calling. From 1970 onwards, after doing stints selling clothes and working as a baggage handler, Freddie Mercury teamed up with fellow band members Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon to form Queen.
The band's self titled, debut album came out in 1973 and contained the song that lead to Bulsara's change of name. 'My Fairy King' gave rise to the new stage name of Freddie Mercury and he never looked back from his adopted persona. The album also contained an introduction to one of the band's much loved, Mercury penned songs, 'Seven Seas Of Rhye', a song that showcases Mercury's incredible musicianship and vocal range. Of the ten songs on the first album, half are credited to Freddie Mercury.
'Queen' was followed by 'Queen II' and then 'Sheer Heart Attack' in 1974. By now, and with the help of tracks like 'Killer Queen' (Also written by Mercury) the band's momentum was almost unstoppable.
'A Night At The Opera' brought the band to international attention and stardom and contained their game changing song, 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. For that contribution to music alone Mercury should be lauded for all time. The song that doesn't follow any rules captured the hearts and minds of the public then and has continued to do so ever since. It's writing and arrangement to this day remain extraordinary.
As the rise of the band played out in public Freddie's private life began to change, he told his long term partner Mary Austin of his sexual orientation and began a relationship with record executive David Minns. Austin however would remain close, remain his life long friend and become more-or-less his one true constant.
By the time 1977 came around, and Punk was firmly on everyone's radar, Queen evolved their sound again to produce some of the most potent and punchy rock anthems ever recorded. 'We Will Rock You' and 'We Are The Champions' became immediate hits, even if some of their faithful following were not so keen on the overtly commercial change of tack. Freddie was now more than ever seeming to glow in the limelight he had been afforded and you can see him shedding some of his inherent shyness as he evolved into an ever more flamboyant performer.
'Jazz' cemented the band's change in tack away from a more progressive rock sound into a more radio friendly pop bias before the massive mainstream hits of 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' and 'Another One Bites The Dust' in 1980. By now Mercury was fully able to express himself, with his video performances that accompanied the songs revealing little by little his true self. The Rock-a-Billy bounce of 'Crazy Little Thing' and Mercury's choreographed dance moves were a far cry from Queen's origins.
Queen's collaboration with David Bowie in 1981 on 'Under Pressure' saw Freddie Mercury back at number one and back with another great song after the more questionable 'Flash Gordon' soundtrack album. It was also at around this time that more rumours about Freddie, his bi-sexuality and his promiscuity began to surface more frequently, with some even saying that he sought treatment for AIDS as early as 1982. (His partner from 1985 onwards, Jim Hutton, denied this and said that Freddy was diagnosed in April 1987)
The press attention however didn't detract from the performer and the showman. He said he lived his life the way he wanted to and that was it. His death in 1991 was still a shock to many. He was the first big Rock star to die of the disease and his death still represents a significant event in the time line of AIDS, it's impact and the public's awareness.
His life though should be remembered for all the positives he brought. He was a great musician, a brilliant, unequaled singer, a fantastic writer and a one off performer. He enjoyed massive success with his band Queen as well as significant solo success as well.
Mercury remained a firm favourite with his adoring fans throughout his colourful life and won a whole host of new ones with his legendary 1985 Live Aid performance. With his shortened mic stand in hand he strutted the stage in his white vest top and just captivated the crowd. This is how he should be remembered, full of life, full of vigour, performing his heart out and doing what he did best, entertaining. Freddie Mercury's is definitely a life less ordinary.