Freddie Mercury

From Academic Kids

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Freddie Mercury - Live at Wembley 1986

Freddie Mercury (September 5 1946November 24 1991) was the pianist, songwriter, arranger, singer and lead vocalist of the British Rock band Queen.


Life and career

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Stone Town, Zanzibar to Parsee Indian parents. His parents Bomi and Jer Bulsara had immigrated to Zanzibar so his father could continue his job at the British Colonial Office. He also had a sister Kashmira. There is often confusion among fans over Freddie's ethnic and racial heritage. Many believe Freddie to be of mixed English caucasian and Persian ancestry, or just Persian/Iranian. The fact is that many Zoroastrian Parsees, who fled Persia because of the Muslim invasion and settled in India for hundreds of years, have been long assimilated into the Indian population. Freddie's birth certificate also notes that he was Indian.

Mercury was educated at St. Peter's boarding school in Panchgani near Mumbai, India, where he had his first musical training (Grade IV piano). His first onstage performance was also at St. Peters, with his five-member school band, the Hectics. It was at St. Peter's where he picked up the name 'Freddie'; soon even his parents addressed him by that name.

After spending his formative years in India, Mercury and his family fled Zanzibar because of a revolution there. He was 18 when he arrived in England. There, he pursued a Diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College, following in the footsteps of Pete Townshend. This knowledge was to come in useful when he designed Queen's famous crest.

With a wide vocal range and a somewhat operatic technique, he was one of the most versatile and technically accomplished singers to work in the pop idiom. He was the composer of many of Queen's hits, including "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Somebody to Love" and "We Are the Champions".

His songwriting was unique, demonstrating influence from a variety of sources, but with a strong individual sense of melody, harmony, and complex orchestration. In several of his most well-crafted and popular tunes he provided all of the vocal tracks, resulting in a smooth controlled sound that was at the time unprecedented.

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Freddie Mercury statue in Montreux

Queen started using studio overdubs a great deal with their second album, Queen II, which features Freddie's music on the entire second side of the LP (or, in CD parlance, tracks 6-11). Many listeners identify "Bohemian Rhapsody" as the pinnacle of his musical achievement, but it is possible to find the seeds of this mini-opera in his earlier works.

When the band decided to release Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, everyone told them it was far too long and just would not be a hit at 5 minutes and 55 seconds. But Freddie gave a copy of the single to friend and London DJ, Kenny Everett, informing him that it was for him personally, and that he must not play it on air. Everett ended up playing it on the air - fourteen times in one day. From then on, every major radio station played the song in full, not edited versions as would be expected. It was a colossal hit and established Queen as a leading band of the era. The video for the single, directed by Bruce Gowers using ideas from the band themselves, was considered to be the one that began the whole video craze. The single stayed at number one for nine weeks.

The album was, at the time, one of the most expensive ever recorded, but when "A Night at the Opera" was released in November 1975, it was a massive hit, and gave them their first platinum album.

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Queen logo

Freddie had designed a Queen logo for the "Queen" album, which was re-worked and used as the cover for "A Night At The Opera". The now-famous 'crest' features the band's star signs - two fairies for Virgo (Freddie, September 5th), a crab for Cancer (Brian, July 19th) and two lions for the two Leos (Roger, July 26th and John, August 19th). The launch party for the album was held in the exclusive Opera Bar at the London Coliseum Theatre.

He released two solo albums: Mr. Bad Guy (1985) and Barcelona (1988), the latter with Spanish soprano Montserrat Caball. The collaboration came as surprise to critics, being the first of its kind, but was nonetheless widely acclaimed if not commercially successful. One of his hits as a solo artist was a cover of the song "The Great Pretender" (1987), but after his death gained his first solo number 1 hit "Living On My Own", remixed by No More Brothers, which was his biggest UK hit.

He was bisexual, but never came out publicly. Freddie had a girlfriend Mary Austin, who he was in a relationship with for six years until he told her about his sexuality. After the relationship was over they still remained close friends. Mary Austin often fronted as his girlfriend to the press. Though previously promiscuous, his last boyfriend, Jim Hutton, lived with him for the last eight years of his life, cared for him when he was ill and was with him at his bedside when he died. He was a fan of Liza Minnelli and Michael Jackson, the latter of whom he collaborated with on some tracks, which were never published including "State Of Shock" which was performed by the Jacksons and Mick Jagger for the official release.

He was well known for his extravagance and hedonism, but also for his kindness and generosity. He adored cats and kept several, even writing a song about his favourite ("Delilah", on the Innuendo album, 1991). He was a heavy smoker, which contributed to a roughening of his voice in the eighties.

On November 23 1991, Freddie announced that he had AIDS. The next day he died peacefully at his home in London surrounded by friends and family. Freddie had kept his illness very private, and only those closest to him had been aware of just how close to the end he was.

He was cremated at Kensal Green Cemetery. The cremation was conducted in the Zoroastrian faith that Freddie's parents followed strictly; the wherabouts of his ashes are unknown. The remaining members of Queen founded The Mercury Phoenix Trust and organized The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

Mercury appears in the 2002 List of "100 Greatest Britons" (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public).

A species of East African isopod, Cirolana mercuryi N. Bruce, 2004 was named for Freddie Mercury, as, quoting the type, "arguably Zanzibar's most famous popular musician and singer."

His famous overbite was caused by the presence of four extra teeth which pushed his incisors out. He commented early in his career that he wished to have work done on his teeth, but regretted that he didn't have time to do it. He also expressed fears that such an operation might damage his voice.

Freddie possessed a very slight tenor voice, he was able to produce very sharp sounds, but also quite grave sounds. Mercury had an enviable voice range, with the superb extension of three and a half octaves.

Mercury left £100,000 to his chef, and left his £18-million house to his friend Mary Austin.

In pop culture

Although Mercury may have passed in the real world, he appears as a recurring character in the Japanese anime series Sakigake!! Cromartie High!. Wearing only long brown pants with red suspenders he is known to the main characters only as "Freddie". He does not speak despite moments of him singing (although his voice is not audible) and is sometimes seen riding around on a giant black horse. Some people wonder if he understands Japanese. He also is normally introduced by a harmonious guitar riff.

In December 2004, the rock group Electric Six released a cover version of Queen's "Radio Ga Ga". The promotional video features the lead singer, Dick Valentine, impersonating the ghost of Freddie Mercury dancing in front of his grave. This depiction has caused controversy amongst fans of Queen and Freddie Mercury, many of whom find it offensive, despite Electric Six claiming that it was intended to be interpreted positively.

The character Sol Badguy in the Guilty Gear series of fighting games is heavily influenced by Mercury, while the Street Fighter character Eagle was reimagined as a tribute to Mercury for Capcom vs. SNK 2.

Mercury appears in the video to Mylo's single "Destroy Rock & Roll".

Singer Kurt Cobain's suicide note[1] ( mentions Mercury:

"I feel guilty beyond words about these things—for example, when we're backstage and the light go out and the roar of the crowd begins, it doesn't affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love and relish the love and adoration of the crowd."

Solo albums


Box set

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