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On November 24 2012 it was exactly 21 years since Freddie Mercury passed away from AIDS, aged 45.  However, his legacy still continues to inspire and thrill  music lovers all over the world to such an extent that it seems like Mercury never really left the stage. The albums of Queen are still top sellers and the still untitled biopic produced by Robert De Niro with Sacha Baron Cohen starring as Freddie Mercury is set for release sometime in 2014, once again  proving that Freddie Mercury certainly did something right in his lifetime.

(Images via Queen.)

Freddie Mercury Portrait

Freddie Mercury in 1982

As it Began

Stone Town in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous province of Tanzania may be the last place in the world one would think a flamboyant British rock star could be born in, but it was where Freddie Mercury was born on September 5, 1946. Born as Farrokh Bulsara to a Parsi family, Freddie spent most of his childhood in Panchgani near Mumbai, India where he studied at St. Peter’s School, a British-style boarding school for boys where he listened to the early rock and roll of the 1950s and played covers of Little Richard’s and Elvis Presley’s songs in a school band.

Following  the violent 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, the Bulsara family fled to England for security reasons (his father worked as a cashier at the British Colonial Office) and Freddie began his studies of Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College in London, where he met Roger Taylor and Brian May and the line-up of Queen was almost complete.

Queen in 1974

The Iconic Queen Portrait Taken by Mick Rock in 1974

Queen

Brian May  and Roger Taylor had played in a band called ‘Smile’ before they met Freddie Mercury. ‘Smile’ was disbanding at the time Freddie came along and suggested they form a whole new band, with him as the lead singer. He suggested the name for the new band should be ‘Queen’, and although Taylor and May were somewhat upset with the possible gay connotations, they agreed. When the young bass player John Deacon joined them, the greatest rock band in history was complete. It was at this time that Freddie changed his surname to Mercury, the ruling planet of Virgo, his zodiac sign.

Queen struggled to make a hit record during the early 1970s, and although their early albums, ‘Queen’ (1973), ‘Queen II’ (1974) and ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ (1974) did spawn several notable singles and are now considered to be among the band’s finest works, it wasn’t until their fourth album, the 1975 ‘A Night at the Opera’ and its extravagant single ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ that Queen became really big.

Freddie poured his love for opera, heavy rock and his Middle Eastern heritage into ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the 6 minute rock operetta, the band’s greatest commercial and critical success and now widely considered to be one of the greatest songs ever committed to tape.

In the following years, Queen released eleven more albums and were the undisputed rules of stadiums and concert halls all over the world throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, playing some of the biggest concerts the world had ever seen at the time. Freddie Mercury was considered to be the greatest living entertainer, equal only to Mick Jagger himself. Queen toured extensively until 1986 and their triumphant ‘Magic Tour’, the last in Freddie’s lifetime.

Freddie Mercury Monument

Freddie Mercury Monument in Montreaux, Switzerland

The Man

Although a flamboyant entertainer on stage, Freddie Mercury was actually extremely shy and almost notoriously unhappy person off stage. He never discussed his private life, remaining silent about his sexual orientation throughout his life and publicly announcing his illness less than a day before he died.

Mercury once said “I’m fortunate enough to be rich. Sometimes I believe the only bit of happiness I can create is with my money.” Perhaps being the lasting cultural influence and inspiration to millions around the world is another bit of happiness money can’t buy.

 


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