Nowhere to go nothing to do with my time,
I get lonely, so lonely, living on my own.
Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara, 5 September 1946 — 24 November 1991) was a British singer-songwriter and musician who was most famous as the lead vocalist of Queen. A flamboyant showman with incredible vocals, he is perhaps one of the most iconic frontmen in music history, although he would be the first to tell you that Queen was a collaborative effort.
Born in Zanzibar (then a British protectorate) to Indian Parsinote parents from Gujarat, he spent much of his early life in India, before returning to Zanzibar in 1963. A year later, he and his family were forced to flee the island when the Zanzibar Revolution broke out, after which they settled in England.
After graduating from college in 1969, Mercury worked odd jobs and joined a couple of short-lived bands around this time, meeting future Queen bandmate Roger Taylor. The two joined guitarist Brian May, founder of the rock band Smile, to be joined shortly by bassist John Deacon. And so, in 1970, Queen was born.
In 1973, while Queen were recording their debut album, Mercury released his first solo single, a Cover Version of the Ronettes' "I Can Hear Music", under the pseudonym Larry Lurex. In the late 1980s, Freddie recorded two solo albums. The first one, Mr. Bad Guy from 1985, was notable for the hit "Living on My Own", which would become a much bigger hit after a posthumous remix by No More Brothers was released in 1993. Barcelona from 1988 was notable for the fact that he recorded it with famous opera singer Montserrat Caballé, with whom he also sang the iconic Title Track, which was meant and used for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, becoming one of his biggest hits. Freddie also scored a hit single with his Cover Version of "The Great Pretender" from 1987.
At the time, rumours went about that Queen had disbanded because it took so long before another album was released, but Mercury assured everyone that his solo albums were just a Solo Side Project. Other rumours claimed that Mercury was seriously ill, as he didn't appear as much in public or in music videos in the later half of The '80s and at the turn of The '90s, and when he did, he looked gaunt and pale. He denied it to protect his family from being harassed by the tabloids, but in the end, on November 23, 1991, the singer finally made public that he had AIDS, having been diagnosed all the way back in 1987. Before the world could overcome the shock, he had already died, 24 hours after making the statement. He was 45 years old.
Freddie's death caused a huge renewed interest and appreciation of Queen, whose albums sold in spectacular numbers. In 1992, a tribute concert was held for Freddie to raise money for AIDS research. Several huge pop stars such as Guns N' Roses, George Michael, Annie Lennox, David Bowie and Elton John performed Queen songs that night. He remains well-beloved worldwide as a performer and is widely considered one of the greatest vocalists and live performers of all time for his ability to unify and captivate stadium-sized audiences with his sheer charisma and showmanship.
He ended at #58 in One Hundred Greatest Britons. He is the only person not of European ancestry to make the list.
For Freddie's copycats in fiction, see also Freddie Mercopy.
- Mr. Bad Guy (1985)
- Barcelona note (1988)
Freddie Mercury's works provide examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Larry Lurex, the stage name he used for his debut solo single.
- Clothes Make the Legend: The white slacks and yellow jacket he donned during the Magic Tour. The chest-exposing checkerboard leotards from 1976-1978 are also iconic.
- Cover Version:
- His first solo single was a cover of "I Can Hear Music", written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector and originally performed by Spector protégés The Ronettes. The B-side was also a cover: "Goin' Back", written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and most famously performed by Dusty Springfield.
- His biggest solo hit, "The Great Pretender", is a cover of a song by the Platters.
- Face Death with Dignity: Not only alluded to in "The Show Must Go On" ("I'll face it with a grin/I'm never giving in/On with the show"), but Freddie's own send-off was like this since, knowing that the end was inevitable at that point, he simply stopped taking the medicine that would keep his HIV at bay.
- Gallows Humor: More than likely unintentional, but the closing remarks in his public statement announcing his AIDS diagnosis reads, "My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue." Given that he would be dead 24 hours after said statement went public, he wasn't kidding.
- I Am the Band: Often discussed by fans, critics, and the band themselves. Although all four members were strong songwriters and contributed to the albums collaboratively, Freddie has often received the majority of attention: In addition to his prominence as lead vocalist, frontman, and live performer, he wrote many of the band's hits and often heavily influenced the direction of the band. Even for songs he didn't write, he still played a part in restructuring and arranging songs for the other band members. Even in the present day, many fans feel that there is no Queen without Freddie, often adding that he originally changed the band's name from Smile to Queen; John Deacon thought as much too, which led to his retirement in 1997. That being said, how much each bandmate genuinely contributed is up for debate.
- Iconic Item: His bottomless microphone stand; during a gig very early in the band's career his mic stand snapped in half in the middle of a song, but he carried on with the intact bit and decided it would be more interesting to keep it like that.
- Important Haircut: He cut his long hair at the start of the '80s to match Queen's embracing of synthesizers for a new decade, concurrently growing a mustache within two years. He shaved the mustache in 1987 while shooting the music video for his Cover Version of "The Great Pretender" and donned a beard shortly afterwards to hide the Kaposi's sarcoma and weight loss caused by his AIDS. Finally, he went clean-shaven again at the start of the '90s as the disease made it increasingly difficult to continue performing.
- Keeping the Handicap: He elected to never get his distinctive overbite fixed despite being self-conscious about it for fear that the surgery would damage his voice.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: Freddie loved his cats so much that he dedicated his first solo album, Mr. Bad Guy, to "cat lovers across the universe— screw everybody else." "Delilah" from Innuendo was a farewell to them.
- Large Ham: He was famous for his showy and theatrical on-stage personality.
- Let's Duet: Sang "Barcelona" with opera singer Montserrat Caballé on their album Barcelona.
- Meaningful Name: Mercury is the planetary ruler of Virgo, Freddie's Zodiac sign.
- Real Men Wear Pink: He was a camp icon of legendary theatricality. He was also an avid and skilled boxer who once intimidated Sid Vicious into backing down after the latter tried to start a fight with Freddie.
- Scatting: "Living On My Own" is the most obvious example; it has an entire verse of scatting in the original album version, which was shortened for the club remix. He also had scatting duets with the audience in concerts.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: His range was quite large and he was really pleased with what technology allowed him to do, so he sang a lot of his own backing vocals. Some Queen ballads like "Love of My Life" and "You Take My Breath Away" have absolutely no input from Brian or Roger (or John, but he didn't sing anyway). The intro to "Bohemian Rhapsody" is just a bunch of Freddies. On his solo album, he made a point of singing absolutely everything, even wiping out some backing vocals Roger had done and a duet with Michael Jackson. On his duets album (with Montserrat Caballé), he also sang the vast majority of the backing vocals.
- Shirtless Scene: Is well remembered for often appearing bare-chested during concerts.
- Shout-Out: The stage name Mercury used for his debut solo single, Larry Lurex, was inspired by the similarly Alliterative Name of fellow Glam Rock singer Gary Glitter.
- Solo Side Project: Released two solo albums while still part of Queen, namely Mr. Bad Guy and Barcelona, in collaboration with opera singer Montserrat Caballé.
- Stage Names:
- He was born Farrokh Bulsara but gained the nickname Freddie during his school days. "Mercury" was inspired by a line in "My Fairy King" and thus Freddie had his legal name changed.
- In the early '70s, he recorded a single as "Larry Lurex".
- Vocal Evolution: His voice was youthful and almost ethereal in the early '70s; his voice gradually became heavier, and he started smoking in 1980, which caused his voice to gradually turn huskier. However, when he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1987, he stopped smoking, and his voice lost a little huskiness and became somewhat angelic again, although still very mature.