50 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Freddie Mercury
At a certain point, Freddie was literally abused by the media. Around 1990, his orientation and health condition was mentioned in the media practically every day.
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After more than a quarter of a century, the famous singer seemed to have come to life again. Queen's and Freddie Mercury's hits are getting radio play, people pick them in the jukebox at the bar, humming them on a bus, everywhere. However, this phenomenon did not just appear out of nowhere - the film Bohemian Rhapsody, which celebrates the band Queen and Freddie Mercury, has been a big part of this comeback.
Extravagant, stylish, mysterious, fierce - there are many adjectives that fit this man. We've looked at his life to commemorate one of the most distinctive musical personalities of all time, pointing out a few interesting facts that you should definitely know about this legendary singer.
He wasn't fond of his own name
He wasn't born British. On September 5th, 1946, he was born in East Africa in Zanzibar (part of Tanzania today). Freddie Mercury is a pseudonym, while his original name is Farrokh Bulsara.
Little Farrokh has spent his childhood in India and music was always dear to him. His heart's desire was the piano, which he began learning to play at the age of seven. Several of Queen's big hits, including "Killer Queen", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "We Are the Champions", "Somebody to Love" and "Don't Stop Me Now" have been blessed by Freddie himself on the keys. However, he avoided playing the instrument at concerts. He was passionate about moving around the stage, exchanging with the audience and performing his energetic show.
It didn't take long for Farrokh to form his first band. He was only 12 years old and they mostly played songs by their favorite rock and roll performers. Sometime during this period, Farrokh gradually turned into Freddie. He allegedly didn't really like his own name, so he began to introduce himself under a pseudonym.
Finding the (right) band ain't that easy
Around 1964, when Freddie was 17, a revolution began in Zanzibar. Fear for life forced the family to relocate to a safer place. They decided to choose the city of Feltham in England, where Freddie continued to study art.
He earned a degree in graphic design from Ealing Art College. Apparently the visual, which is known as the official logo of the band Queen, was designed by Freddie himself (in it he used the horoscope signs of the members of the group, two lions holding the letter Q, and a phoenix).
After finishing school, Freddie met his lifelong love, Mary Austin. They worked together in a thrift shop, while he was still working at the airport as a helper. They allegedly often made fun of him there because of where he came from. At that time, he was already trying to make it in music somehow. Several times he tried to form a band without success.
Have you ever heard of the bands such as Ibex, Wreckage or Sour Milk Sea? Don't worry if you didn't. These were the unsuccessful music projects that Freddie tried to break through with in 1969.
In 1970, he met the guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, who played in a band called Smile. Their meeting was arranged by a singer, who was just leaving the band and brought Freddie as a replacement for himself. In 1971, after a long search, they hired the fourth member - bassist John Deacon.
After Freddie's insisting, the band Smile finally changed its name to Queen. February 19th, 1971, they officially performed as Queen for the first time in the London hall of Hornsey Town. Apparently it was a time for namechane - around that time, Farrokh officially changed his name to Freddie Mercury, which he is now known by (he was allegedly inspired by the ancient god Mercury, the messenger of the gods).
A slow but promising start
Queen's first album in 1973 was far from successful comparing to competition. However, it was a very promising start for a new band. On the list of bands, they took the 24th place.
The second album came a year later in March, and it was already a huge success. It became the 5th best-selling album in Britain and the next album from November 1974 was 2nd.
The biggest album hit came in 1975 - A Night at the Opera with the Bohemian Rhapsody song. In just 10 days, the single reached number 1 on the British charts, reigning for almost 9 weeks.
This is where the queenomania began, and it lasted essentially until his death in 1991. People don't remember Freddie by his long hair. They don't reminisce on him looking sick. His iconic sneakers, the typical look, beard under the nose, energetic dance, crown on the head and many other symbols, is what everyone remembers him by. When he was on the top.
Crazy or genius? Visionary or a clown? Everyone had a different opinion. "I don't just want to be a star, I want to be a legend," he said at a time when the Queen's fame was beginning to rise sharply.
During his career, Freddie has given about 700 concerts around the world with his band Queen. The band was the absolute first to play at the South American football stadium Morumbi Stadium (Sao Paulo), breaking the world record of visitors on a concert performance. In 1986, they played in front of an audience of 80,000 in Budapest, which was behind the Iron Curtain at the time.
Mercury's last live performance with the band Queen took place on August 9, 1986 in Knebworth Park, England. Estimated attendance was 300,000 spectators.
People only learned about his life after he passed away
Freddie kept almost everything a secret. It was never clear if he was gay, why he stopped performing live, how he lives his private life. Many people who knew him personally describe him as an introvert. He often did not even meet with journalists, it was more of a rarity when he did.
In October 1986, the British press reported that Mercury had undergone blood tests at the clinic and was HIV positive. To be clear, this diagnosis is perceived completely differently today than back in those days. Information about the disease, such as the transmission of HIV and what it causes, was far from clear to everyone. All the more so, Freddie was targeted by all these journalists.
After quitting the band in June 1991, Mercury left for his home in Kensington. His medical condition no longer allowed him to devote himself to music. His ex-girlfriend Mary Austin was one of his biggest supporters during his last weeks. She visited him regularly and took care of him.
Just before death, he started to lose his sight, his condition deteriorating to the point that he could no longer get out of bed, often losing consciousness and you'd hardly recognize him. He even refused medication and took only those that alleviated his pain. The musician's official statement to the media and the public came 24 hours before he died.
However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.
My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.”
— Freddie Mercury, November 23rd, 1991
On the evening of November 24th, 1991, Freddie Mercury died at the age of 45 in his home. The official cause of death was bronchial pneumonia, which developed as a result of the disease he had suffered for years.
A funeral was held on November 27th, 1991. In accordance with Mercury's wishes, Mary Austin buried his ashes in an unknown, never-made-known place.
An extraordinary hero of his time
We could write dozens of pages about this exceptional singer. He was a personality who won hearts of millions in the second half of the twentieth century, not only with musical talent, but also with an extraordinary lifestyle.
We could focus on every song, every album and every newspaper case. However, we decided to go with a new concept of personality presentation. We have put together a selection of 50 interesting facts from all corners of his life that will surprise, amaze and perhaps even inspire you.
- Today, everyone knows that he was gay. But first he dated his wife, Mary Austin, whom he called the love of his life until the very end (even though she already had a partner and a child and Freddie had a boyfriend). She was the main heir to his finances, property and licensing rights.
- Only a few of his loved ones knew that he was ill.
- He spent the last months of his life in the studio recording various vocals for the band to use to complete the recordings after his death.
- He left a sum of 500,000 pounds to a select group of people, including his partner Jim Hutton.
- Freddie Mercury was the first rock star to be widely known as a victim of AIDS.
- As written above, he was born in Zanzibar, so he is not a British born. Quite ironically, he came 59th in the ranking of the greatest Brits.
- Freddie had a voice range of almost 4 octaves.
- Biographer David Bret describes his voice as an escalation in several bars from the depths of a rock growl to an ordered vibrated tenor, then to perfect treble coloratures crystal clear at their peak.
- As usual, the band's popularity increased rapidly after his passing. For illustration: Queen has sold 34.5 million albums in the US. About half of that amount was sold after Mercury's death.
- He was very shy, but on stage he was the exact opposite.
- In his compositions we can spot rockabilly, progressive rock, heavy metal, gospel and disco, among other influences.
- Are you wondering what Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the most famous songs by Queen is about? It's about nothing at all. At least that's what Freddie said, "It doesn't really matter, it's a rhyming nonsense."
- Freddie had quite a strong overbite, but he refused surgery. Why would he do that when his teeth is healthy, he said. He might have been also afraid that the operation would change his vocals.
- After one unsuccessful attempt, he gave up driving. He never got a driver's license.
- Reportedly, he was a great painter. All of the paintings he drew are owned by his sister.
- Freddie didn't like his teeth. That's supposedly why he hid them discreetly with his hand during interviews.
- If Freddie lived today, he would have had a significantly higher chance of a longer and better life.
- The original lead singer in the band Queen was Freddie's friend Tim Staffell, who advised him to work with the band.
- He had a huge collection of Japanese art.
- He also had a painting by Salvador Dali, some Victorian portraits and other works.
- In 2018, the film Bohemian Rhapsody came to theaters, which was created as a tribute to the band Queen. Freddie Mercury was portrayed by Rami Malek.
- Bohemian Rhapsody has already earned more than half a billion dollars and is becoming the most successful music biography of all time.
- He was originally supposed to be portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen, formerly known as the comedic character in Borat, Ali G and Brüno.
- To make the film more interesting, some facts are a bit enhanced. Specifically the following: The group met during their studies at an art school, where they were introduced by the singer of the band Smile, who decided to leave. Freddie's solo career was not an issue and they never broke up. Live Aid wasn't really their first concert in years. The band has actually performed with their previous album before this concert. Also, the band only found out about Freddie's serious illness about two years after the concert.
- He has dedicated several of his songs to Mary, the most famous of which is the Love of My Life hit.
- The group of music managers on Live Aid chose the presentation of the band Queen as "the best concert performance in the history of rock music".
- He wrote the song Crazy Little Thing Called Love in the bathtub. It's rumored that he had a piano brought to his bathroom so he could compose the song in honor of Elvis Presley.
- He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 as a member of the band Queen.
- Mercury celebrated his 41st birthday at the Pikez Hotel in Ibiza In 1987. The party was described as the most incredible extravaganza this Mediterranean island has ever witnessed. It was attended by 700 people.
- It is said that Mercury threw the craziest parties in the world. According to his butler, this is not quite the case. They were eccentric and there were drugs, but the parties were far from what was said of them (cocaine on a tray carried on dwarf's head and such).
- The outer walls of Freddie's house have become some sort of a shrine, where people leave messages to honor him.
- Between 1981 and 1983, Mercury recorded several songs with Michael Jackson. These works have survived only on bootlegs and, despite various promises, have not yet been officially released.
- He claimed to have a problem reading music.
- Together with the band Queen, his concert performances made him famous all over the world. He presented himself in a highly theatrical way, which was often accompanied by strong feedback from the audience.
- Freddie adored cats. In one period he allegedly owned 10 of them, each having its own room. He even dedicated the album Mr. Bad Guy to them.
- David Bowie said that Freddie has brought his style way further beyond any other theatrical rock artists. Pushing the boundaries.
- Queen's Brian May noted that Mercury had proved that the last spectator on the last bench of the stadium would feel involved at their concerts.
- Since 1980, he has also used synthesizers in the studio.
- In 1985, Freddie Mercury began his long-term relationship with the hairdresser Jim Hutton (1949-2010). Hutton, who tested positive for HIV, lived with Mercury for the last six years of his life, caring for him during his illness and on his deathbed. Hutton said Freddie died with the wedding ring he had given him before his death.
- At times, Freddie was literally abused by the media. Around 1990, his orientation and health condition was written about practically every day.
- His funeral was held on November 27th, 1991, attended by 35 closest people, including the Queen members and Elton John.
- Queen has sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.
- Two songs have reached the Grammy Hall of Fame: Bohemian Rhapsody in 2004 and We Are the Champions in 2009.
- In 2011, Rolling Stone readers ranked Mercury second among the best solo singers of all time.
- In November 1995, Queen released the album Made in Heaven, containing previously unpublished recordings from 1991, along with some rehearsal recordings.
- In April 1992, the remaining members of Queen formed The Mercury Phoenix Trust and organized an event that went down in history as The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Many well-established musicians performed at the time, and the concert was watched by an estimate of billion people.
- A statue overlooking Lake Geneva in Montreux, Switzerland was created in his honor.
- Although Freddie Mercury commonly composed guitar compositions, he only played this instrument on rare occasions.
- Mercury was a passionate philatelist (stamp collector), his collection still tours museums around the world.
- He was a cheerful man full of positive energy. One of those who never allow themselves to fall to the bottom.
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