Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara; 5 September
1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British singer, songwriter and
record producer, best known as the lead vocalist of the rock band
Queen. He was known for his flamboyant stage persona and three-octave
Mercury wrote numerous hits for Queen, including
"Bohemian Rhapsody", "Killer Queen", "Somebody to Love", "Don't Stop
Me Now", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", and "We Are the Champions".
He led a solo career while performing with Queen, and occasionally
served as a producer and guest musician for other artists.
Mercury was born of
Parsi descent in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, and
grew up there and in India before moving with his family to Middlesex,
England, in his teens. He formed
Queen in 1970 with guitarist Brian
May and drummer Roger Taylor.
Mercury died in 1991 at age 45 due to
complications from AIDS, having confirmed the day before his death
that he had contracted the disease.
Mercury was posthumously awarded the Brit Award for
Outstanding Contribution to British Music, and a tribute concert was
held at Wembley Stadium, London. As a member of Queen, he was inducted
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of
Fame in 2003, and the
UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2002, he was
placed number 58 in the BBC's 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.
He is consistently voted one of the greatest singers in the history of
1 Early life
2.3 Live performer
2.5 Solo career
3 Personal life
3.2 Friendship with Kenny Everett
3.3 Sexual orientation
4 Illness and death
5.1 Continued popularity
5.4 Importance in
5.5 Appearances in lists of influential individuals
5.6 Portrayal on stage
5.7 Portrayals in film and television
5.7.1 Biopic film
5.7.2 Other portrayals
10 External links
The house in
Mercury lived in his early years
Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara (Gujarati: ફારોખ
બલસારા, Pharōkh Balsārā) in
Stone Town in the
British protectorate of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, East Africa (now
part of Tanzania) on 5 September 1946. His parents, Bomi
(1908–2003) and Jer Bulsara (1922–2016),[a] were Parsis from
Gujarat region of the then-province of
Bombay Presidency in
British India.[b] As Parsis,
Mercury and his family practised the
Zoroastrian religion. The Bulsara family had moved to
that his father could continue his job as a cashier at the British
Colonial Office. He had a younger sister, Kashmira.
Mercury spent most of his childhood in India and began taking piano
lessons at the age of seven. In 1954, at the age of eight, Mercury
was sent to study at St. Peter's School, a British-style boarding
school for boys, in
Panchgani near Bombay (now Mumbai). At the age
of 12, he formed a school band, The Hectics, and covered rock and roll
artists such as
Cliff Richard and Little Richard. It has been
said that one of his formative musical influences at the time was
Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar, but one of Mercury's former
bandmates from the Hectics has said that "that is a lot of rubbish.
The only music he listened to, and played, was Western pop music."
A friend from the time recalls that he had "an uncanny ability to
listen to the radio and replay what he heard on piano". It was
also at St. Peter's where he began to call himself "Freddie", and in
February 1963 he moved back to
Zanzibar where he joined his parents at
English Heritage blue plaque at 22 Gladstone Avenue, Feltham, London
At the age of 17,
Mercury and his family fled from
Zanzibar for safety
reasons due to the 1964
Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of
Arabs and Indians were killed. The family moved into a small house
at 22 Gladstone Avenue, Feltham, Middlesex, England.
Isleworth Polytechnic (now West Thames College) in West London
where he studied art. He ultimately earned a diploma in Art and
Graphic Design at
Ealing Art College
Ealing Art College (now the Ealing campus of
University of West London), later using these skills to design the
Queen heraldic arms. A British citizen at birth,
Mercury remained so
for the rest of his life.
Mercury joined a series of bands and sold
second-hand clothes in the
Kensington Market in
London with girlfriend
Mary Austin. He also held a job at Heathrow Airport. Friends from the
time remember him as a quiet and shy young man who showed a great deal
of interest in music. In 1969 he joined the Liverpool-based band
Ibex, later renamed Wreckage. He lived briefly in a flat above the
Liverpool pub, The Dovedale Towers. When this band failed to
take off, he joined a second band called Sour Milk Sea. However, by
early 1970 this group had broken up as well.
In April 1970
Mercury joined guitarist
Brian May and drummer Roger
Taylor who had previously been in a band called Smile. In 1971 they
were joined by bassist John Deacon. Despite reservations of the other
members and Trident Studios, the band's initial management, Mercury
chose the name "Queen" for the new band. He later said, "It's very
regal obviously, and it sounds splendid. It's a strong name, very
universal and immediate. I was certainly aware of the gay
connotations, but that was just one facet of it." At about the
same time, he changed his surname, Bulsara, to Mercury. Mercury
designed Queen's logo, called the
Queen crest, shortly before the
release of the band's first album. The logo combines the zodiac
signs of all four members: two lions for Leo (Deacon and Taylor), a
crab for Cancer (May), and two fairies for Virgo (Mercury). The
lions embrace a stylised letter Q, the crab rests atop the letter with
flames rising directly above it, and the fairies are each sheltering
below a lion. There is also a crown inside the Q and the whole
logo is over-shadowed by an enormous phoenix. The whole symbol bears a
passing resemblance to the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom,
particularly with the lion supporters.
Mercury in 1977
Mercury's known vocal range
Although Mercury's speaking voice naturally fell in the baritone
range, he delivered most songs in the tenor range. His known vocal
range extended from bass low F (F2) to soprano high F (F6). He
could belt up to tenor high F (F5). Biographer David Bret
described his voice as "escalating within a few bars from a deep,
throaty rock-growl to tender, vibrant tenor, then on to a
high-pitched, perfect coloratura, pure and crystalline in the upper
reaches." Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé, with whom Mercury
recorded an album, expressed her opinion that "the difference between
Freddie and almost all the other rock stars was that he was selling
the voice". She adds,
His technique was astonishing. No problem of tempo, he sang with an
incisive sense of rhythm, his vocal placement was very good and he was
able to glide effortlessly from a register to another. He also had a
great musicality. His phrasing was subtle, delicate and sweet or
energetic and slamming. He was able to find the right colouring or
expressive nuance for each word.
The Who lead singer
Roger Daltrey called
Mercury "the best virtuoso
rock 'n' roll singer of all time. He could sing anything in any style.
He could change his style from line to line and, God, that's an art.
And he was brilliant at it."
A research team undertook a study in 2016 to understand the appeal
behind Mercury's voice. Led by Professor Christian Herbst, the
team identified his notably faster vibrato and use of subharmonics as
unique characteristics of Mercury's voice, particularly in comparison
to opera singers, and confirmed a vocal range from F#2 to G5 (just
over 3 octaves) but were unable to confirm claims of a 4-octave
range. The research team studied vocal samples from 23
Queen recordings, his solo work, and a series
of interviews of the late artist. They also used an endoscopic video
camera to study a rock singer brought in to imitate Mercury's singing
Mercury wrote 10 of the 17 songs on Queen's Greatest Hits album:
"Bohemian Rhapsody", "Seven Seas of Rhye", "Killer Queen", "Somebody
to Love", "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy", "We Are the Champions",
"Bicycle Race", "Don't Stop Me Now", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
and "Play the Game". In 2003
Mercury was posthumously inducted
into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2005 he was posthumously
Ivor Novello Award
Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection from the
British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.
The most notable aspect of his songwriting involved the wide range of
genres that he used, which included, among other styles, rockabilly,
progressive rock, heavy metal, gospel and disco. As he explained in a
1986 interview, "I hate doing the same thing again and again and
again. I like to see what's happening now in music, film and theatre
and incorporate all of those things." Compared to many popular
Mercury also tended to write musically complex material.
For example, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is acyclic in structure and comprises
dozens of chords. He also wrote six songs from
Queen II which
deal with multiple key changes and complex material. "Crazy Little
Thing Called Love", on the other hand, contains only a few chords.
Despite the fact that
Mercury often wrote very intricate harmonies, he
also claimed that he could barely read music. He wrote most of his
songs on the piano and used a wide variety of different key
Mercury performing live in September 1984
Mercury was noted for his live performances, which were often
delivered to stadium audiences around the world. He displayed a highly
theatrical style that often evoked a great deal of participation from
the crowd. A writer for
The Spectator described him as "a performer
out to tease, shock and ultimately charm his audience with various
extravagant versions of himself." David Bowie, who performed at
Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and recorded the song "Under
Pressure" with Queen, praised Mercury's performance style, saying: "Of
all the more theatrical rock performers, Freddie took it further than
the rest... he took it over the edge. And of course, I always admired
a man who wears tights. I only saw him in concert once and as they
say, he was definitely a man who could hold an audience in the palm of
Brian May wrote that
Mercury could make
"the last person at the back of the furthest stand in a stadium feel
that he was connected". Mercury's main prop on stage was a broken
microphone stand, which after accidentally snapping off the heavy base
during an early performance, he realised could be used in endless
One of Mercury's most notable performances with
Queen took place at
Live Aid in 1985. Queen's performance at the event has since been
voted by a group of music executives as the greatest live performance
in the history of rock music. The results were aired on a television
program called "The World's Greatest Gigs". Mercury's
powerful, sustained note during the a cappella section came to be
known as "The Note Heard Round the World". In reviewing Live Aid
in 2005, one critic wrote, "Those who compile lists of Great Rock
Frontmen and award the top spots to Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, etc all
are guilty of a terrible oversight. Freddie, as evidenced by his
Live Aid performance, was easily the most godlike of them
Over the course of his career,
Mercury performed an estimated 700
concerts in countries around the world with Queen. A notable aspect of
Queen concerts was the large scale involved. He once explained,
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille of rock and roll, always wanting to do
things bigger and better." The band was the first ever to play in
South American stadiums, breaking worldwide records for concert
attendance in the
Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo in 1981. In 1986,
Queen also played behind the
Iron Curtain when they performed to a
crowd of 80,000 in Budapest, in what was one of the biggest rock
concerts ever held in Eastern Europe. Mercury's final live
Queen took place on 9 August 1986 at Knebworth Park
in England and drew an attendance estimated as high as 160,000.
With the British national anthem "God Save the Queen" playing at the
end of the concert, Mercury's final act on stage saw him draped in a
robe, holding a golden crown aloft, bidding farewell to the crowd.
Mercury playing rhythm guitar during a live concert with
Frankfurt, Germany, 1984.
As a young boy in India,
Mercury received formal piano training up to
the age of nine. Later on, while living in London, he learned guitar.
Much of the music he liked was guitar-oriented: his favourite artists
at the time were The Who, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and
Led Zeppelin. He was often self-deprecating about his skills on both
instruments and from the early 1980s began extensively using guest
keyboardists. Most notably, he enlisted
Fred Mandel (a Canadian
musician who also worked for Pink Floyd,
Elton John and Supertramp)
for his first solo project, from 1982
Mercury collaborated with Morgan
Fisher (performed with
Queen in concert during the
Hot Space leg),
and from 1985 onward
Mercury collaborated with Mike Moran (in the
Spike Edney (in concert).
Mercury played the piano in many of Queen's most popular songs,
including "Killer Queen", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Good Old Fashioned
Lover Boy", "We Are the Champions", "Somebody To Love" and "Don't Stop
Me Now". He used concert grand pianos and, occasionally, other
keyboard instruments such as the harpsichord. From 1980 onward, he
also made frequent use of synthesisers in the studio.
Brian May claims that
Mercury was unimpressed with his own abilities
at the piano and used the instrument less over time because he wanted
to walk around onstage and entertain the audience. Although he
wrote many lines for the guitar,
Mercury possessed only rudimentary
skills on the instrument. Songs like "Ogre Battle" and "Crazy Little
Thing Called Love" were composed on the guitar; the latter featured
Mercury playing rhythm guitar on stage and in the studio.
See also: The Solo Collection
In addition to his work with Queen,
Mercury put out two solo albums
and several singles. Although his solo work was not as commercially
successful as most
Queen albums, the two off-
Queen albums and several
of the singles debuted in the top 10 of the UK Music Charts. His first
solo effort goes back to 1972 under the pseudonym Larry Lurex, when
Trident Studios' house engineer Robin Geoffrey Cable was working in a
musical project, at the time when
Queen were recording their debut
album; Cable enlisted
Mercury to perform lead vocals on the songs "I
Can Hear Music" and "Goin' Back", both were released together as a
single in 1973. Eleven years later,
Mercury made a contribution to the
Richard "Wolfie" Wolf mix of Love Kills on the 1984 album (the song
also used as the end title theme for National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon
1) and new soundtrack to the 1927
Fritz Lang film Metropolis. The
song, written by
Giorgio Moroder in collaboration with Mercury,
debuted at the number 10 position in the UK charts. It was produced by
Moroder and Mack. Mack also produced the 1987 single "Hold On"
Mercury recorded with actress Jo Dare for a German action drama
Mercury's two full albums outside the band were
Mr. Bad Guy
Mr. Bad Guy (1985) and
Mr. Bad Guy
Mr. Bad Guy debuted in the top ten of the UK Album
Charts. In 1993, a remix of "Living on My Own", a single from the
album, posthumously reached number one on the UK Singles Charts.
The song also garnered
Mercury a posthumous
Ivor Novello Award
Ivor Novello Award from
the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.
Allmusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia describes
Mr. Bad Guy
Mr. Bad Guy as
"outstanding from start to finish" and expressed his view that Mercury
"did a commendable job of stretching into uncharted territory". In
particular, the album is heavily synthesiser-driven in a way that is
not characteristic of previous
His second album, Barcelona, recorded with Spanish soprano Montserrat
Caballé, combines elements of popular music and opera. Many critics
were uncertain what to make of the album; one referred to it as "the
most bizarre CD of the year". The album was a commercial
success, and the album's title track debuted at No. 8 in the
UK and was also a hit in Spain. The title track received massive
air play as the official anthem of the
1992 Summer Olympics
1992 Summer Olympics (held in
Barcelona one year after Mercury's death). Caballé sang it live at
the opening of the Olympics with Mercury's part played on a screen,
and again prior to the start of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final
between Manchester United and Bayern Munich in Barcelona.
In addition to the two solo albums,
Mercury released several singles,
including his own version of the hit "The Great Pretender" by The
Platters, which debuted at No. 5 in the UK in 1987. In
September 2006 a compilation album featuring Mercury's solo work was
released in the UK in honour of what would have been his 60th
birthday. The album debuted in the UK top 10.
Mercury recorded several tracks with Michael Jackson,
including a demo of "State of Shock", "Victory" and "There Must Be
More to Life Than This". None of these collaborations were
officially released at the time, although bootleg recordings exist.
Jackson went on to record the single "State of Shock" with Mick Jagger
for The Jacksons' album Victory.
Mercury included the solo version
of "There Must Be More To Life Than This" on his Mr. Bad Guy
album. "There Must Be More to Life Than This" was eventually
Queen and released on their compilation album Queen
Forever in 2014.
In addition to working with Michael Jackson,
Mercury and Roger Taylor
sang on the title track for Billy Squier's 1982 studio release,
Emotions in Motion
Emotions in Motion and later contributed to two tracks on Squier's
1986 release, Enough Is Enough, providing vocals on "Love is the Hero"
and musical arrangements on "Lady With a
Mercury lived at 12 Stafford Terrace in Kensington, London, before
moving into Garden Lodge
In the early 1970s,
Mercury had a long-term relationship with Mary
Austin, whom he met through guitarist Brian May. He lived with Austin
for several years in West Kensington, London. By the mid-1970s, the
singer had begun an affair with a male American record executive at
Elektra Records, and in December 1976,
Mercury told Austin of his
sexuality, which ended their romantic relationship. Mercury
moved out of the flat they shared, into 12 Stafford Terrace in
Kensington and bought Austin a place of her own nearby. They
remained close friends through the years, with
Mercury often referring
to her as his only true friend. In a 1985 interview,
Mercury said of
Austin, "All my lovers asked me why they couldn't replace Mary
[Austin], but it's simply impossible. The only friend I've got is
Mary, and I don't want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law
wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that's
enough for me." He also wrote several songs about Austin, the most
notable of which is "Love of My Life". Mercury's final home, Garden
Lodge, 1 Logan Place, a twenty-eight room Georgian mansion in
Kensington set in a quarter-acre manicured garden surrounded by a high
brick wall, had been picked out by Austin. In his will, Mercury
London home to Austin, rather than his partner Jim Hutton,
saying to her, "You would have been my wife, and it would have been
Mercury was also the godfather of Austin's oldest
During the early- to mid-1980s, he was reportedly involved with
Barbara Valentin, an Austrian actress, who is featured in the video
for "It's a Hard Life". However, in another article, Valentin
was "just a friend", and
Mercury was really dating German restaurateur
Winfried Kirchberger during this time. By 1985, he began another
long-term relationship with hairdresser Jim Hutton (1949–2010).
Hutton, who was tested HIV-positive in 1990, lived with
the last six years of his life, nursed him during his illness and was
present at his bedside when he died. Hutton said
Mercury died wearing
the wedding band that Hutton had given him.
Friendship with Kenny Everett
Kenny Everett first met
Mercury in 1974 when he invited the
singer onto his breakfast show on Capital London. As two of
Britain's most flamboyant, outrageous and best-loved entertainers,
they shared much in common and instantly became close friends.
Everett would play a major role in Queen's early success when, in
1975, armed with an advance copy of the single "Bohemian Rhapsody",
Mercury went to see Everett. While privately Everett doubted any
station would play the song due to its length at over 6 minutes, he
said nothing to
Mercury and placed the song on the turntable, and,
after hearing it, enthused: "forget it, it's going to be number one
for centuries". While Capital Radio hadn't officially accepted the
song, the anarchic Everett would talk incessantly about a record he
had but couldn't play, before the song "accidentally" started playing,
with Everett stating: "Oops, my finger must've slipped." Capital's
switchboard was jammed with callers wanting to know when the song was
going to be released – on one occasion Everett aired the song 36
times in one day.
During the 1970s, their friendship became closer, with Everett
becoming advisor and mentor to Mercury, and
Mercury as Everett's
confidante, helping him to accept his sexuality. Throughout the
early- to mid-1980s, they continued to explore their homosexuality, as
well as experimenting in drugs, and although they were never lovers,
they did experience
London night life on a regular basis together.
By 1985, they had fallen out over a disagreement on their using and
sharing of drugs, and their friendship was further strained when
Everett was outed by in the autobiography of his ex-wife "Lady Lee",
Mercury taking Lee's side. With both suffering from failing
Mercury and Everett started talking again in 1989, and they
were able to reconcile their differences.
While some commentators claimed
Mercury hid his sexual orientation
from the public, others claimed he was "openly
gay". In December 1974, when asked directly, "So how about
being bent?" by the New Musical Express,
Mercury replied, "You're a
crafty cow. Let's put it this way: there were times when I was young
and green. It's a thing schoolboys go through. I've had my share of
schoolboy pranks. I'm not going to elaborate further." Homosexual acts
between adult males over the age of 21 had been decriminalised in the
United Kingdom in 1967, only seven years earlier. In the 1980s, he
would often distance himself from his partner, Jim Hutton, during
public events. In October 1986, The Sun claimed
"confessed to a string of one-night gay sex affairs".
During his career, Mercury's flamboyant stage performances sometimes
led journalists to allude to his sexuality. Dave Dickson, reviewing
Queen's performance at
Wembley Arena in 1984 for Kerrang!, noted
Mercury's "camp" addresses to the audience and even described him as a
"posing, pouting, posturing tart". In 1992, John Marshall of Gay
Times expressed the following opinion: "[Mercury] was a 'scene-queen,'
not afraid to publicly express his gayness, but unwilling to analyse
or justify his 'lifestyle'... It was as if Freddie
Mercury was saying
to the world, 'I am what I am. So what?' And that in itself for some
was a statement." In an article for AfterElton, Robert Urban
Mercury did not ally himself to 'political outness,' or to
Although he cultivated a flamboyant stage personality,
Mercury was shy
and retiring when not performing, particularly around people he did
not know well, and granted very few interviews. Mercury
once said of himself: "When I'm performing I'm an extrovert, yet
inside I'm a completely different man." While on stage, Mercury
basked in the love from his audience; Kurt Cobain's suicide note
mentions how he admired and envied the way
Mercury "seemed to love,
relish in the love and adoration from the crowd".
Mercury celebrated his 41st birthday at the Pikes Hotel,
Ibiza, several months after discovering that he had contracted
Mercury sought much comfort at the retreat and was a close
friend of the owner, Anthony Pike, who described
Mercury as "the most
beautiful person I've ever met in my life. So entertaining and
generous." According to biographer Lesley-Ann Jones, Mercury
"felt very much at home there. He played some tennis, lounged by the
pool, and ventured out to the odd gay club or bar at night." The
party, held on 5 September 1987, has been described as "the most
incredible example of excess the Mediterranean island had ever seen",
and was attended by some 700 people. A cake in the shape of
Sagrada Família was provided for the party, although the
original cake collapsed and was replaced with a 2-metre-long sponge
with the notes from Mercury's song "Barcelona". The bill, which
included 232 broken glasses, was presented to Queen's manager, Jim
Illness and death
Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, Queen's recording studio
from 1978 to 1995.
Mercury recorded his final vocal here in May 1991.
In December 2013, the studio was opened free as the "
Experience", with fans asked for a donation to the
In October 1986, the British press reported that
Mercury had his blood
tested for HIV/
AIDS at a
Harley Street clinic. A reporter for The Sun,
Hugh Whittow, questioned
Mercury about the story at Heathrow Airport
as he was returning from a trip to Japan.
Mercury denied he had a
sexually transmitted disease. According to his partner Jim Hutton,
Mercury was diagnosed with
AIDS in late April 1987. Around that
Mercury claimed in an interview to have tested negative for
HIV. Despite the denials, the British press pursued the rampant
rumours over the next few years, fuelled by Mercury's increasingly
gaunt appearance, Queen's absence from touring, and reports from
former lovers to various tabloid journals. By 1990, the rumours about
Mercury's health were rife. At the 1990
Brit Awards held at the
Dominion Theatre, London, on 18 February, a visibly frail
his final appearance on stage when he joined the rest of
collect the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to
Music. Towards the end of his life, he was routinely stalked
by photographers, while The Sun featured a series of articles claiming
that he was ill; notably in an article from November 1990 that
featured an image of a haggard-looking
Mercury on the front page
accompanied by the headline, "It's official – Freddie is seriously
Mercury and his inner circle of colleagues and friends, whom
he felt he could trust, continually denied the stories, even after one
front-page article published on 29 April 1991, showed Mercury
appearing very haggard in what was by then a rare public
appearance. It has been suggested that he could have made a
AIDS awareness by speaking earlier about his situation
and his fight against the disease.
Mercury kept his
condition private to protect those closest to him, with Brian May
confirming in a 1993 interview he had informed the band of his illness
much earlier. Filmed in May 1991, the music video for "These
Are the Days of Our Lives" features a very thin Mercury, in what are
his final scenes in front of the camera. The rest of the band
were ready to record when
Mercury felt able to come into the studio,
for an hour or two at a time. May says of Mercury: "He just kept
saying. 'Write me more. Write me stuff. I want to just sing this and
do it and when I am gone you can finish it off.' He had no fear,
really." Justin Shirley-Smith, the assistant engineer for those
last sessions, states: "This is hard to explain to people, but it
wasn't sad, it was very happy. He [Freddie] was one of the funniest
people I ever encountered. I was laughing most of the time, with him.
Freddie was saying [of his illness] 'I'm not going to think about it,
I'm going to do this.'
After the conclusion of his work with
Queen in June 1991, Mercury
retired to his home in Kensington, west London. His former partner,
Mary Austin, had been a particular comfort in his final years, and in
the last few weeks of his life made regular visits to his home to look
after him. Near the end of his life
Mercury was starting to lose
his sight, and he deteriorated to the point where he could not get out
of bed. Due to his worsening condition,
Mercury decided to hasten
his death by refusing to take his medication and continued taking only
On 22 November 1991,
Mercury called Queen's manager
Jim Beach over to
Kensington home to discuss a public statement. The next day the
following announcement was made to the international press on behalf
Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two
weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested
HIV positive and have
AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to
protect the privacy of those around me. 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.
The outer walls of Mercury's final home, Garden Lodge, 1 Logan Place,
west London, became a shrine to the late singer. Pictured in 2014.
On the evening of 24 November 1991, just over 24 hours after issuing
Mercury died at the age of 45 at his home in
Kensington. The official cause of death was bronchial pneumonia
resulting from AIDS. Mercury's close friend, Dave Clark of The
Dave Clark Five, had taken over the bedside vigil when he died. Austin
phoned Mercury's parents and sister to break the news of his
death, which reached newspaper and television crews by the early
hours of 25 November.
On 27 November, Mercury's funeral service at West
was conducted by a
Zoroastrian priest. In attendance at Mercury's
service were his family and 35 of his close friends, including the
remaining members of
Queen and Elton John. His coffin was
carried into the chapel to the sounds of "Take My Hand, Precious
Lord"/"You've Got a Friend" by Aretha Franklin. In accordance
with Mercury's wishes, Mary Austin took possession of his cremated
remains and buried them in an undisclosed location. The whereabouts of
his ashes are believed to be known only to Austin, who has stated that
she will never reveal where she buried them.
In his will,
Mercury left the vast majority of his wealth, including
his home and recording royalties, to Mary Austin and the remainder to
his parents and sister. He left £500,000 to his chef, Joe Fanelli;
£500,000 to his personal assistant, Peter Freestone; £100,000 to his
driver, Terry Giddings; and £500,000 to Jim Hutton. Austin
continues to live at Mercury's former home, Garden Lodge, Kensington,
with her family. The outer walls of Garden Lodge in 1 Logan Place
became a shrine to
Mercury following his death, with mourners paying
tribute by covering the walls in graffiti messages. Three years
after his death, Time Out magazine reported, "Since Freddie's death,
the wall outside the house has become London's biggest rock 'n' roll
shrine." Fans continue to visit to pay their respects with
messages in letters appearing on the walls. Hutton was involved
in a 2000 biography of Mercury, Freddie Mercury, the Untold Story, and
also gave an interview for
The Times in November 2006 for what would
have been Mercury's 60th birthday.
A wax sculpture of Freddie
Mercury at Madame Tussauds, London
The extent to which Mercury's death may have enhanced Queen's
popularity is not clear. In the US, where Queen's popularity had
lagged in the 1980s, sales of
Queen albums went up dramatically in
1992, the year following his death. In 1992, one American critic
noted, "What cynics call the 'dead star' factor had come into
Queen is in the middle of a major resurgence." The movie
Wayne's World, which featured "Bohemian Rhapsody", also came out in
1992. According to the Recording Industry Association of America,
Queen had sold 34.5 million albums in the US by 2004, about half
of which had been sold since Mercury's death in 1991.
Estimates of Queen's total worldwide record sales to date have been
set as high as 300 million. In the UK,
Queen has now spent
more collective weeks on the
UK Album Charts
UK Album Charts than any other musical
act (including The Beatles), and Queen's Greatest Hits is the
best-selling album of all time in the UK. Two of Mercury's songs,
"We Are the Champions" and "Bohemian Rhapsody", have also each been
voted as the greatest song of all time in major polls by Sony
Ericsson and Guinness World Records, respectively. Both
songs have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame; "Bohemian
Rhapsody" in 2004 and "We Are the Champions" in 2009. In October
2007 the video for "Bohemian Rhapsody" was voted the greatest of all
time by readers of Q magazine.
Aerial view of Mercury's rented Duck House cabin on
Lake Geneva which
features in the cover of Made in Heaven
In November 1995,
Queen released Made in Heaven, an album featuring
Mercury's previously unreleased final recordings from 1991—as well
as outtakes from previous years and reworked versions of solo works by
the surviving members. The album cover features the Freddie
Mercury statue that overlooks
Lake Geneva superimposed with Mercury's
Duck House lake cabin that he had rented. This is where he had written
and recorded his last songs at Mountain Studios. The sleeve of
the album contains the words, "Dedicated to the immortal spirit of
Featuring tracks such as "Too Much Love Will Kill You" and "Heaven for
Everyone", the album also contains the song "Mother Love", the last
Mercury made prior to his death, which he completed
using a drum machine, over which May, Taylor and Deacon later added
the instrumental track. After completing the penultimate verse,
Mercury had told the band he "wasn't feeling that great" and stated,
"I will finish it when I come back, next time." However, he never made
it back into the studio, so May later recorded the final verse of the
Statue of Freddie
Lake Geneva in Montreux,
A statue in Montreux, Switzerland, by sculptor Irena Sedlecká, was
erected as a tribute to Mercury. It stands almost 10 feet (3
metres) high overlooking
Lake Geneva and was unveiled on 25 November
1996 by Mercury's father and Montserrat Caballé, with bandmates Brian
May and Roger Taylor also in attendance. Beginning in 2003 fans
from around the world have gathered in Switzerland annually to pay
tribute to the singer as part of the "Freddie
Memorial Day" on the first weekend of September. The Bearpark And Esh
Colliery Band played at the Freddie
Mercury statue on 1 June
In 1997 the three remaining members of
Queen released "No-One but You
(Only the Good Die Young)", a song dedicated to
Mercury and all those
that die too soon. In 1999 a
Royal Mail stamp with an image of
Mercury on stage was issued in his honour as part of the UK postal
service's Millennium Stamp series.
In 2009 a star commemorating
Mercury was unveiled in Feltham, west
London where his family moved upon arriving in England in 1964. The
star in memory of Mercury's achievements was unveiled on
Street by his mother Jer Bulsara and
Queen bandmate May.
Mercury statue above the West End's Dominion Theatre
A statue of
Mercury stood over the entrance to the
Dominion Theatre in
London's West End from May 2002 to May 2014 for
Queen and Ben Elton's
musical We Will Rock You. A tribute to
Queen was on display
Fremont Street Experience
Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas throughout 2009
on its video canopy. In December 2009 a large model of Mercury
wearing tartan was put on display in Edinburgh as publicity for the
We Will Rock You
We Will Rock You at the Playhouse Theatre.
For Mercury's 65th birthday in 2011,
Google dedicated their Google
Doodle to him. It included an animation set to the
song, "Don't Stop Me Now". Referring to "the late, great Freddie
Mercury" in their 2012
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech,
Guns N' Roses
Guns N' Roses quoted Mercury's lyrics from his song "We Are the
Champions"; "I've taken my bows, my curtain calls, you've brought me
fame and fortune and everything that goes with it, and I thank you
Tribute was paid to
Mercury at the closing ceremony of the
2012 Summer Olympics
2012 Summer Olympics in London. The band's performance of "We Will
Rock You" with
Jessie J was opened with a video of Mercury's "call and
response" routine from 1986's Wembley Stadium performance, with the
2012 crowd at the Olympic Stadium responding appropriately.
The frog genus Mercurana, discovered in 2013 in Kerala, India, was
named as a tribute because Mercury's "vibrant music inspires the
authors". In addition, the site of the discovery is very near to where
Mercury spent most of his childhood. A new species of the genus
Heteragrion (Odonata : Zygoptera) from
Brazil was named
Heteragrion freddiemercuryi in his honour, with the etymology: "I name
this species after Freddie Mercury, artistic name of Farrokh Bulsara
(1946–1991), superb and gifted musician and songwriter whose
wonderful voice and talent still entertain millions of people around
On 1 September 2016, an
English Heritage blue plaque was unveiled at
Mercury's home in 22 Gladstone Avenue in Feltham, west
London by his
sister Kashmira Cooke and Brian May. Attending the ceremony,
Karen Bradley, the UK Secretary of State for Culture, called Mercury
"one of Britain's most influential musicians", and added he "is a
global icon whose music touched the lives of millions of people around
the world". On 5 September 2016, the 70th anniversary of
Mercury's birth, asteroid
17473 Freddiemercury was named after
him. Issuing the certificate of designation to the "charismatic
singer", Joel Parker of the
Southwest Research Institute
Southwest Research Institute added:
Mercury sang, 'I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky' -
and now that is even more true than ever before."
The airline Norwegian painted the tail fin of two of its aircraft with
a portrait of
Mercury to mark what would have been his 71st birthday
in September 2017.
Mercury is the company's fifth "British tail fin
hero", joining England's
1966 FIFA World Cup
1966 FIFA World Cup winning captain Bobby
Moore, children's author Roald Dahl, pioneering pilot
Amy Johnson and
aviation entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker.
As the first major rock star to die of AIDS, Mercury's death
represented an important event in the history of the disease. In
April 1992, the remaining members of
Queen founded The
Trust and organised
The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS
Awareness, to celebrate the life and legacy of
Mercury and raise money
AIDS research, which took place on 20 April 1992. The Mercury
Phoenix Trust has since raised millions of pounds for various AIDS
charities. The tribute concert, which took place at London's Wembley
Stadium for an audience of 72,000, featured a wide variety of guests
Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin),
Roger Daltrey (of The Who),
Extreme, Elton John, Metallica, David Bowie, Annie Lennox, Tony Iommi
(of Black Sabbath), Guns N' Roses, Elizabeth Taylor, George Michael,
Def Leppard, Seal, Liza Minnelli, and U2 (via satellite). Elizabeth
Taylor spoke of
Mercury as "an extraordinary rock star who rushed
across our cultural landscape like a comet shooting across the
sky". The concert was broadcast live to 76 countries and had an
estimated viewing audience of 1 billion people.
Appearances in lists of influential individuals
Several popularity polls conducted over the past decade indicate that
Freddie Mercury's reputation may, in fact, have been enhanced since
his death. For instance, in a 2002 vote to determine who the UK public
considers the greatest British people in history,
Mercury was ranked
58 in the list of the 100 Greatest Britons, broadcast by the BBC.
He was further listed at the 52nd spot in a 2007 Japanese national
survey of the 100 most influential heroes. Despite the fact that
he had been criticised by gay activists for hiding his
author Paul Russell included
Mercury in his book The Gay 100: A
Ranking of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and
Present. In 2008
Rolling Stone ranked
Mercury 18 on its list of
the Top 100 Singers Of All Time.
Mercury was voted the greatest
male singer in MTV's 22 Greatest Voices in Music. In 2011 a
Rolling Stone readers' pick placed
Mercury in second place of the
magazine's Best Lead Singers of All Time.
Portrayal on stage
On 24 November 1997, a monodrama about Freddie Mercury's life, titled
Mercury: The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God, opened in New York
City. It presented Freddie
Mercury in the hereafter: examining
his life, seeking redemption and searching for his true self. The
play was written and directed by
Charles Messina and the part of
Mercury was played by
Khalid Gonçalves (né Paul Gonçalves) and then
later, Amir Darvish.
Billy Squier opened one of the shows with an
acoustic performance of a song he had written about
Mercury titled "I
Have Watched You Fly".
Portrayals in film and television
Bohemian Rhapsody (film)
Brian May announced in a September 2010
BBC interview that Sacha
Baron Cohen, known for his comedic characters Borat, Ali G, and
Brüno, had been cast to play
Mercury in a biographical film. Time
commented with approval on his singing ability and resemblance to
Mercury. The film would be written by Peter Morgan, Academy
Award-nominated for his screenplays The
Queen and Frost/Nixon. The
film, which is being co-produced by Robert De Niro's TriBeCa
Productions, will focus on Queen's formative years and the period
leading up to the celebrated performance at the 1985
Live Aid concert.
Filming was planned to begin sometime in 2011.
In April 2011, May confirmed that pre-production work was continuing.
He said the band had approved a team to start filming later in 2011,
and Baron Cohen's eagerness had been the key to progress.
However, in July 2013, Baron Cohen dropped out of the role due to
creative differences with the members of Queen. May said they had
parted on good terms and said that the band had felt Cohen's presence
would have been distracting.
In December 2013, it was announced that Ben Whishaw, best known for
playing Q in the James Bond films
Skyfall and Spectre, had been chosen
to replace Cohen as Mercury. British actor and director Dexter
Fletcher was announced as director, but withdrew from the project in
March 2014. Production had been due to begin in the summer of
2014; any delays would cause further problems, with Whishaw committed
to begin work on the next James Bond film towards the end of the
In late 2015, producers
GK Films hired
Anthony McCarten to write a new
screenplay. In March 2016, during an interview on The Howard
Stern Show, Cohen elaborated on his departure and the creative
disagreements with May and Taylor – specifically on whether the
film's plotline should have continued past Mercury's 1991 death, and
his choice of crew, which included Morgan,
David Fincher and Tom
Hooper. On 4 November 2016, it was announced that the film was
now backed by 20th Century Fox,
New Regency and GK Films, with
shooting set to have begun in early 2017.
Mercury will be played by
Rami Malek, while
Bryan Singer is set to direct. In August
2017, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and
Joseph Mazzello were cast as May,
Taylor and Deacon. On 31 August 2017,
Allen Leech was cast as
Paul Prenter. In September 2017, the first image of Malek as
Mercury was released, as well as further information by Singer
regarding the film's timeline of 1970 to the
Live Aid performance in
1985, stating that the film is "not a traditional biopic" and will be
a story honoring the music, but that Mercury's dark and troubled
history will also be honored. On 6 September 2017, Lucy Boynton
was cast as Mary Austin. On 5 December Singer was fired by 20th
Century Fox due to "unreliable behaviour" on set, and was replaced
with Dexter Fletcher. Singer stated he was disappointed not to be
able to finish the film, "a passion project of mine".
Mercury appeared as a supporting character in the
BBC television drama
Best Possible Taste: The
Kenny Everett Story, first broadcast in
October 2012. He was portrayed by actor James Floyd.
He was played by actor John Blunt in The Freddie
Mercury Story: Who
Wants to Live Forever, first broadcast in the UK on Channel 5 in
November 2016. Although the programme was criticised for focusing on
Mercury's love life and sexuality, Blunt's performance and likeness to
the singer did receive praise.
Main article: Freddie
Queen (band) portal
Mr. Bad Guy
Mr. Bad Guy (1985)
Barcelona (with Montserrat Caballé) (1988)
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that is now in the Indian state of
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centres of the
Zoroastrian religion (the other four were also in what
is today Gujarat) and consequently "Bulsara" is a relatively common
name amongst Zoroastrians.
^ On Mercury's birth certificate, his parents defined themselves
with "Nationality: British Indian" and "Race: Parsi". The Parsis are
an ethnic group of Persian origin and have lived on the Indian
Subcontinent for over a thousand years.
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