Here Is Everything You Want To Know About Freddie Mercury, Queen's Legend
Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody took home the most awards with four on the 2019 Oscars. It cast on us a nostalgic feel about Queen, who took the world by storm and has kept influencing the masses to this day. But how it all started? How their quirky front man transitioned from Farrokh to Freddie?
1. Born As Farrokh Bulsara In Africa
Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar on Sep. 5, 1946, to parents working as registrars for the British government. But he didn't stay on the colonized island for long. The life of the future lead vocalist was about to take a turn.
2. Music Passion Developed In India
He went to a boarding school in Bombay, where his music talent developed into a passion. His mother once said: "Right from the start, Freddie was musical. He had it on his mind all the time." He even joined his first band, the Hectics, where he was first called Freddie.
3. Got A College Degree In England
Shortly after he returned to Zanzibar in 1964, the Zanzibar Revolution broke out, and his family moved to England, where Freddie was forced to attend college. After graduation with a degree in graphic art and design, he worked at Heathrow Airport. But destiny came knocking when he met three like-minded guys.
4. A Future Legend
Freddie followed a band called Smile, where Brian May and Roger Summers were performing. He loved their sound and was determined to join them. He always knew he was going to be something big, claiming "I'm not going to be a pop star. I'm going to be a legend!"
5. Opportunity Knocks
In 1970, a fortuitous event that would change music forever happened - Smile's lead singer left the band. Freddie saw the opportunity and grabbed the mic with both hands and renamed the band Queen. The new frontman was about to lead the new band to change everything.
6. An Amazingly Rare Voice
Freddie had an amazingly rare voice that could reach four octaves. The band knew they had someone special. Freddie could not only sing, but also channel the music and work the stage. This natural performer became hungry for a life in music.
7. Queen Gained Momentum
Freddie's electrifying stage presence charmed the audience so much that he could motion a crowd with a sweep of his hand. Distinct and unexpected, Queen's music was a breath of fresh air to a music industry where heavy rock and roll was saturating the mainstream. Queen gained momentum in the music scene.
8. Changed His Name Officially
Freddie then legally changed his name, insisting everyone called him Freddie, as his birth name wasn't befitting of a rock star. He also chose himself a last name - Mercury, a Roman deity serving as the gods' messenger. He knew Queen wasn't going to be an ordinary band.
9. An Eclectic Bunch Of Folks
Queen was an eclectic bunch of folks, and each member held degrees in different fields. Brian May has a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy, John Deacon received a doctorate in electronics, and Roger Taylor trained as a dentist. Thankfully, they changed course to pursue a life in music.
10. Their First Album Was A Flop
In 1973, the band released their first album, Queen. But it didn't sell very well partly because not many people had ever heard of them. One year later, they had an opportunity to show off their music on a TV show, Lost Top of the Pops. After that, they found publicity easier to come by and became commercially successful.
11. Their Big Break
They got their big break when they had the fortune to snag a place as the opening act for Mott the Hoople, a popular English rock and roll group. They then asked the Queen to perform with them in the US. But the tour was cut short when May woke up gravely ill with acute Hepatitis B.
12. Their First Sign Of Real Success
May was sent to home. Shortly after, they released the album Sheer Heart Attack with Killer Queen, which became a hit in the US and sat at number two in the UK charts. But they still didn't see much commercial success, because the management company they used was robbing them blind. Queen decided to fight back.
13. Everything Was Riding On The Night At The Opera
They hired Elton John's manager, John Reid. This, however, didn't stop them from being in debt. They were then riding high on their third album, A Night at the Opera, which spawned the song Bohemian Rhapsody. If the album flopped, the band might not have made it any further.
14. A Fun Fact
When Reid showed Bohemian Rhapsody to Elton John, seeing its over six minutes length, he responded, "Are you mad?" Producers begged Freddie to make the rock ballad shorter, but Freddie held his ground. He had a vision and believed his vision would come true.
15. Surprisingly Successful
Surprisingly, the album shot to number one on the UK charts and stayed there 9 weeks straight - a record at the time. Queen was finally seeing recognition and a paycheck to match. When the 80s began, Queen was a household name. Then in 1981, they received a call from Argentina.
16. A Huge Offer
The country's Army General invited them to give a concert that could hold over 50,000 people at a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires. The band was at first skeptical and then hesitant to visit a country under a dictatorship. But they eventually decided to take the chance.
17. Sang Their Heart Out
In Buenos Aires, they gave the biggest performance in their careers up until that point, singing to over 100,000 people. Freddie came to life carrying his microphone stick, and they went on to perform in Brazil. When they returned from South America, they felt unstoppable and continued recording.
18. Almost Made A Song Together With Michael Jackson
At this time, Freddie had a golden opportunity to sing with Michael Jackson, who he loved well before his pop days. However, Jackson's strange behavior rubbed Freddie up the wrong way. The final nail in the coffin came when Jackson kept bringing his llama to the recording studio.
19. Kept Private Life Under Wraps
Freddie kept his private life under wraps. Who was by his side in the midst of rising fame? It was Mary Austin, who Freddie met before he became the front man for Queen. Their relationship was built on trust. They moved in together after a few months of getting to know each other.
20. A Common-law Marriage
Freddie then popped the question with a jade ring enveloped into layers of boxes. But the two would never marry as something wasn't quite right in their relationship. After six years of living together, they drifted further and further apart. Austin then decided to take action.
21. Kept Sexuality Hidden
Austin broke it off with Freddie, believing he might be having an affair with another woman. Unexpectedly, Freddie confided to her that he was bisexual and was still struggling with his sexual identity. Regardless, Austin remained in Freddie's life as an intimate friend.
22. Mary Austin Wasn't The Only Love Of His Life
Freddie then openly dated both women and men. Apart from Austin, He also had a relationship with Jim Hutton, who he met at a bar in 1984. The two wore wedding rings in public and lived together through thick and thin until Freddie's untimely death.
23. He Had 10 Cats
In his spare time, Freddie liked to stay with his 10 cats. He was big on cats and treated them like his children. His favorite cat was named Delilah, and he even wrote a song of the same name about her in his Innuendo album. Delilah loved Freddie back and stayed by his side until the day he died.
24. It Wasn't All Rainbows And Butterflies
While their fame was at its peak, Queen made a few hits but from records that didn't sell quite so well. They quickly found themselves in a rut and took a temporary hiatus, to try and refresh themselves. Soon the band was back on top and ready to rock, but they hit a brick wall once again.
25. Their Comeback Video Was Banned
When they released their music video, I Want to Break Free, the band was ecstatic at the prospect of dressing in drag for a bit of shock value. Unfortunately, it was banned by many stations, because it was in reference to a popular British TV show Coronation Street and at the time was rather controversial.
26. The Performance Of Their Career
That was a tough blow for Queen. The band had also lost America's attention at a similar time. But they would make a successful comeback when they decided to perform the 1985 Live Aid Concert at Wembley Stadium - their most iconic performance. On an eighteen-minute clock, Queen played for nearly an hour.
27. Signs Of Trouble For Freddie
After the concert, they felt a new surge of life come through them, so they took on the world once more, and people once again came clamoring for Queen. But something wasn't quite right with Freddie. He felt that this may be his last major performance. Unfortunately, that would be proven true.
28. The Worst Kind Of Diagnosis
Beneath the charismatic surface, Freddie was hiding one vital secret: he was HIV positive (diagnosed in 1987). The band was devastated, but Freddie decided to write and sing until his very last breath, and asked his bandmates to keep his ailment under wraps, but it soon became apparent.
29. Unfinished Projects
Over time, Freddie got weaker, and soon, he was unable to perform live, and could hardly stand by the end. Soon bedridden, Freddie knew he didn't have much time left and there were some songs that he would probably never finish, such as Mother Love.
30. A Lasting Legacy
Freddie passed away shortly after turning 45 on November 24, 1991. He left everything to his good friend Mary Austin. To us, he left the purest music that continues to touch many lives generation after generation. His legacy reminds us to remain true to ourselves.