Dafato Team | May 29, 2022
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Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara (Zanzibar, September 5, 1946 - London, November 24, 1991), was a British singer-songwriter and composer of Parsi descent.
Remembered for his vocal talent and exuberant personality on stage, he is considered one of the most celebrated and influential artists in rock history and is recognized as one of the best frontmen ever. As a member of Queen he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, and as a single artist he entered the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2008, the U.S. magazine Rolling Stone ranked him 18th on its list of the best one hundred singers of all time, and the following year he was ranked first among rock voices by Classic Rock.
In 1970, together with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, he founded Queen, which was joined a year later by bassist John Deacon. For the British rock group, of which he was a member until his untimely death due to complications from AIDS from which he was suffering, he wrote hit songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Don't Stop Me Now, It's a Hard Life, Killer Queen, Love of My Life, Bicycle Race, Play the Game, Somebody to Love and We Are the Champions.
In addition to his activity with Queen, he embarked on a brief solo career in the 1980s with the release of two albums, Mr. Bad Guy in 1985 and Barcelona in 1988, the latter the result of a collaboration with Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé. In his memory, a Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was organized on April 20, 1992, attended by many artists from across the international music scene; part of the proceeds from the event were used to found The Mercury Phoenix Trust, an organization committed to the fight against AIDS.
Childhood and adolescence
Farrokh Bulsara, sometimes anglicized as Frederick, was born on September 5, 1946, at Government Hospital in Stone Town, the historic center of the capital of the Zanzibar archipelago, then a British protectorate. Here he spent his early childhood years with his parents Bomi Rustomji (1908 - 2003) and Jer Bulsara (1922 - 2016), who were joined by his younger sister Kashmira in 1952. Belonging to the Parsi ethnic group and of the Zoroastrian religion, the Bulsaras were originally from Gujarat, a region in western India, but had to move to Zanzibar because of their father's job, a cashier in the Secretariat of State for the Colonies. Some journalists criticized the singer for his decision to hide his origins from the public; Roger Taylor claimed that Mercury had rejected his origins because he felt they were incompatible with rock music and his public image.
In 1953, celebrations were held for his Navjote, the Zoroastrian initiation rite, in the Zanzibar Fire Temple. To gain access to a better education, on February 4, 1955 Farrokh began attending St. Peter's Boys School, a British boarding school in Panchgani, 380 km south of Bombay; during school breaks he lived in the company of his grandmother and aunt Sheroo Khory. At school Bulsara began to be called "Freddie." In addition to possessing considerable artistic talent, excelling in drawing, the boy also played a number of sports at excellent levels; in fact, he was a skilled sprinter and boxer and also achieved good results in other disciplines such as field field hockey and table tennis.
Young Farrokh also showed interest and aptitude for music, so much so that he was noticed by the principal of St. Peter College, who wrote a letter to his parents suggesting that, with an increase in monthly tuition, the boy could take additional lessons. With Bomi and Jer's approval, the boy reached the fourth grade learning piano, learned to read music and joined the school choir. While at the boarding school he also had his first experience with a musical group: he formed in 1959 with Derrick Branche, Bruce Murray, Farang Irani and Victory Rana the The Hectics, a band that performed at school parties and events and of which Freddie was the pianist, playing songs by Cliff Richard and Little Richard. Farrokh had to leave St. Peter College on Feb. 25, 1963, having failed the 10th grade entrance exam, and continued his education at St. Mary's School in Bombay.
The arrival in England and the pre-Queen groups
After spending much of his teenage years in India and returning to the African island, he had to move again in 1964, moving with his family to Britain because of the Zanzibar Revolution. The Bulsaras thus settled in a house in Feltham, Middlesex, near Heathrow Airport on the southwest outskirts of London. Freddie enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic and, in addition to his art studies, worked occasionally as a warehouseman and baggage handler at the nearby airport in his early British years.
In the spring of 1966 he obtained top marks in the Isleworth Polytechnic art exam, a score that gained him admission to Ealing Art College in London; here he enrolled in the course of study in Art and Graphic Design, moving into a small apartment he shared with a friend near Kensington Market. In college he met Tim Staffell, his classmate as well as the singer and bassist of Smile, a band that also included guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor; Bulsara tried several times to convince Staffell to let him join the group as a second singer, but was unsuccessful, although he often attended the band's rehearsals.
Shortly after graduating from Ealing Art College, Freddie joined the Ibex, a Liverpool band initially formed by Miler Bersin on guitar, John Taylor on bass, and Mick Smith on drums, heavily influenced by Cream; the trio gave a brief audition to Bulsara, who, however, was already following the band in concerts and giving them suggestions on the songs they played, and entrusted him with the role of singer. After rehearsing with the group in the spring of 1969, Freddie's first public performance was held on August 23 at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton; the singer immediately proved comfortable on stage, with showman-like attitudes that initially puzzled even the rest of the band. Returning briefly to London to work with Bulsara on some unreleased tracks, Ibex settled in Liverpool, where Freddie stayed above Dovedale Towers, a pub along Penny Lane.
In the last months of 1969, after Smith left the group and was replaced by Richard Thompson, former 1984 drummer, Freddie suggested changing the band's name to Wreckage and also began writing songs that would later evolve into hits such as Seven Seas of Rhye, Stone Cold Crazy, and Liar. None of the songs offered at the time, however, were as successful as hoped, except for a track entitled Green, and the group, due to a lack of offers at venues, disbanded after a few months. The second half of 1969 was an economically difficult period for both the singer, who had meanwhile returned to London, and the Smiles; Bulsara and Taylor, in order to earn a few pounds, began selling second-hand clothes in Kensington Market, a business they carried on until 1971.
Freddie Bulsara again began looking for a new band and responded to an ad placed in the Melody Maker by Sour Milk Sea; on March 1, 1970, after a bizarre audition at which the singer presented himself in a pompous and eccentric manner, Chris Dummett, Jeremy Gallop, and Paul Milne signed him. Originating as a British blues band with influences from bands such as John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Fleetwood Mac, Sour Milk Sea had previously opened for Deep Purple and P. P. Arnold at venues such as Guildford Civic Hall. However, with the arrival of Bulsara, there was a change in artistic direction, with the singer offering sounds far removed from those usually covered by the band; relations between the band members deteriorated, Gallop and Dummett after years of friendship quarreled, and Sour Milk Sea in the spring decided to split up.
Smile's first single, Earth
In April 1970 Farrokh Bulsara began calling himself Freddie Mercury, a decision made with the composition of the song My Fairy King. On June 27, 1970, the three, joined on bass by Mike Grose, performed in public for the first time in Truro at a benefit concert for the Red Cross; at that time May introduced the singer to Mary Austin, with whom Mercury had a long relationship and cohabited in a house on Victoria Road. In 1971 the band was completed by bassist John Richard Deacon and organized their first tour, playing Cornwall venues with the aim of gaining more stage confidence. In 1972 Mercury designed the final Queen logo, called the "Queen Crest," drawing inspiration from the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom and including the zodiac signs of the four band members in the design. The following year the band's first album, Queen, was released, featuring tracks recorded at Trident Studios; before the album's release, Mercury released the singles I Can Hear Music and Goin' Back, covers of songs by The Ronettes and Dusty Springfield, respectively, under the pseudonym Larry Lurex.
The band's early albums such as Queen, Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack were well received by critics, generating a rapid rise in the group's popularity; however, the singer's desire was to innovate as much as possible in their musical style, drawing on a wide variety of musical genres. In 1975 A Night at the Opera was released, which definitively established the quartet. The single Bohemian Rhapsody, characterized by overdubs and portions of rock music alternating with opera, became the symbol of the group's creativity and especially of Mercury, who was its author; the recording of the song lasted three weeks, one of which was devoted exclusively to the central vocal part. In 1976, during the A Night at the Opera Tour, Queen visited Japan, whose culture greatly influenced Freddie Mercury. In the following years, Mercury wrote some of the British band's most important songs, such as Somebody to Love (A Day at the Races, 1976), We Are the Champions (News of the World, 1977), Don't Stop Me Now (Jazz, 1978), Crazy Little Thing Called Love (The Game, 1980).
By the mid-1970s, the singer began to become aware of his sexual orientation and, in December 1976, ended his relationship with Austin. Leaving his Victoria Road home, Freddie moved to a large apartment at 12 Stafford Terrace; the two remained close, however, and Mercury arranged for the girl to move into an apartment near him so they could see each other from their respective windows. During these years the singer, undergoing the glam rock allure, became increasingly eccentric, dressing in clothes by fashion designer Zandra Rhodes and appearing with long hair and enameled nails; even Queen's own performances in their first decade were characterized by extravagant and theatrical shows, in which Mercury and May would appear in makeup and dressed totally in black and white. The band would close their concerts by throwing roses at the audience, toasting with them with champagne and intoning God Save the Queen. The audience, impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of the band and especially the frontman, began to form a strong bond with Queen.
On October 7, 1979, the singer performed with dancers from the Royal Ballet at a charity gala at the London Coliseum, singing and dancing Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Bohemian Rhapsody in front of 2,500 people; for the show, to which he was invited directly by Wayne Eagling on the advice of Joseph Lockwood, he had to train for a week, later performing onstage free-body somersaults and being lifted into the air by three shirtless men. Two months later Queen performed at the invitation of Paul McCartney at London's Hammersmith Odeon for Rock for Kampuchea, a benefit concert for the people of Cambodia.
In 1980, the year in which Flash Gordon, the soundtrack to the film of the same name, was released, Mercury changed his appearance considerably, cutting his hair and growing a mustache, following the "Castro clone" fashion launched in San Francisco by the homosexual community of the time; this transformation was initially opposed by some supporters, who sent the singer disposable razors. 1983 was a year of transition, as Freddie moved to Munich, whose nightlife affected him to such an extent that he admitted he could "hardly ever work in perfect psychological condition."
At the end of 1982, Queen, after the success of The Game Tour and the Hot Space Tour, decided by mutual agreement to separate for a time, due both to public dissatisfaction with the Hot Space album, in which even the band did not fully recognize itself, and to some tensions that had matured within the group. The four thus began to devote themselves individually to their own solo projects; Mercury, who had previously speculated about releasing an album of his own, worked in Munich with Giorgio Moroder on the soundtrack for the restored version of Fritz Lang's film Metropolis. With the Italian disc jockey, he wrote the song Love Kills, his first solo single, which reached number 10 on the British charts, despite the fact that critics had judged the song negatively, nominating it for Worst Original Song at the Razzie Awards. In 1983 Freddie also moved to live in New York for a few months.
After solo projects, Queen reunited in August 1983 and recorded The Works together, opening a new world tour named The Works Tour. They held a number of concerts in Sun City, a South African city considered the symbol of apartheid, which had been opposed in the past even by the United Nations, which is why the band was strongly criticized worldwide and accused of aiming solely at money, effectively legitimizing racial segregation; the group responded that they were not a politicized band, further clarifying that the audience of their shows were men of all ethnicities, organizing in any case various events and charities after the protests. In late 1985, the year he met Jim Hutton, who was the most important partner in his life, Mercury returned to live in London, where he purchased for five million pounds a twenty-eight-room Georgian-style mansion located in Kensington, near Earl's Court, which he dubbed Garden Lodge.
Between January 12 and 19, 1985, the band took part in Rock in Rio, where they played in front of some 250,000 people in two nights, an absolute record for the time, and among the highlights of the event was a duet between Mercury and the audience to the tune of Love of My Life. On July 13, 1985, the quartet participated in Live Aid, a humanitarian concert organized by Bob Geldof that featured the participation of leading international artists in order to raise funds for the people of Ethiopia, who had been hit by a severe famine. Queen performed at London's Wembley Stadium and their twenty-minute stage performance "consigned Queen to history and made Freddie Mercury a legend." Their performance is considered one of the best of all time and Mercury built the "myth of unsurpassed frontman" in this performance.
On April 29 of that year Mercury's first solo album, Mr. Bad Guy, featuring pop, disco and dance sounds, was released. This his first work, produced by Reinhold Mack, contains a number of tracks written by the singer originally composed to be part of The Works but later discarded by the band, including Made in Heaven, I Was Born to Love You and There Must Be More to Life Than This. The latter track was the result of a collaboration between Mercury and Michael Jackson dating back to 1983, which was also supposed to cover State of Shock and Victory from the album of the same name, but the project between the two artists never materialized. Living on My Own was one of Mr. Bad Guy's most successful songs, which overall did not achieve notable results from a commercial point of view, although it was generally appreciated by critics, still reaching No. 6 on the UK charts and staying there for twenty-three weeks; in the United States the record only stopped at No. 159.
On June 6, 1986, Queen opened the Magic Tour in Stockholm, organized to promote A Kind of Magic, an album that was also the soundtrack to Highlander - The Last Immortal; in the twenty-six dates the band garnered about one million spectators. On July 11 and 12 they returned to play at Wembley Stadium, in front of an audience of 70,000, in what became two of their most famous and celebrated concerts; in the performances of this last tour Mercury wore the famous yellow jacket that became a distinctive icon of the singer. Freddie ended the set list of each date on the notes of God Save the Queen, dressed as a king and wearing a long fur cape and crown.Queen's last live performance was held on August 9, 1986 in Knebworth Park: this was Freddie Mercury's last concert, in front of 120 000 spectators.
During the course of that year, Mercury began to experience widespread malaise, deciding in October to have serological tests at a Harley Street clinic, but maintaining extreme secrecy about his physical condition with anyone; in late April 1987 Mercury had further, more specific medical examinations, during which he was diagnosed with AIDS syndrome, which caused him to develop other conditions such as Kaposi's sarcoma, as well as severe chronic respiratory problems; he never knew for sure by whom he was infected.
Despite being made aware of his condition, Mercury decided to continue his musical career and following the great triumph of the Magic Tour decided to devote himself to new personal projects. Also in 1986, in fact, he participated in the writing of Dave Clark's musical Time, writing and sometimes performing the ballads Time and In My Defence, while the following year he released The Platters' cover song The Great Pretender, distributed as a single in February, reaching number four in the UK charts and being among the biggest hits of his solo career, and recorded Hold On together with actress Jo Dare, a single produced by Reinhold Mack for the film Zabou.
During 1987, Mercury also stopped following the Castro Clone fashion, shaving off his mustache and growing a beard in an attempt to hide the signs of Kaposi's tumor.
In 1988, in collaboration with Montserrat Caballé, a Spanish soprano whom he met in May 1983 at a performance of Un ballo in maschera, he released Barcelona, an album with songs in English and Spanish that combines pop music with opera, a musical genre Mercury had appreciated since the 1970s and had already dealt with, for example, Bohemian Rhapsody. Critics were divided in their opinions of the record, between those who considered it an extremely successful experiment and described it as "the most bizarre CD of the year"; Barcelona was nonetheless commercially successful, reaching No. 8 in the UK charts and becoming a hit in Spain. The title track, presented in 1987 during a performance with the two singers at the Ku Club in Ibiza and replicated at the La Nit Festival in October 1988 before the King and Queen of Spain in what was Freddie Mercury's last live performance, became the official anthem of the Games of the XXV Olympiad in Barcelona in 1992; it was planned for Mercury and Caballé to perform during the opening ceremony of the games, but the singer's passing meant that the Spanish soprano sang the song accompanied on a screen by the voice of the British frontman, while a video montage of images of the city was shown.
Contrary to their usual practice, there was no Queen tour after the release of The Miracle in 1989, at the behest of Mercury, who he said was exhausted from the Magic Tour, so the quartet immediately began recording for a new studio album. Later in 1989, when signs of the disease began to be evident, the singer confessed to close friends that he was HIV-positive; to May, Taylor and Deacon, who had already guessed the singer's condition, he revealed his condition during a dinner in May of that year in Montreux, Switzerland, home of Queen's Mountain Studios, during the closing period of the recording of Innuendo. Some news outlets began to suspect that the frontman was indeed ill, suspicions derived mainly from his appearance, the decision to suspend the band's tours, and confessions of some of his lovers published in the pages of the British tabloids of the time; however, Mercury continued to publicly state that he had not received any diagnosis, but decided to abandon public life.
The last years of life and death
On February 18, 1990, Freddie Mercury made his last live television appearance at the awarding of the prize for Queen's contribution to British music at the BRIT Awards. Growing reports of Mercury's possible illness, amplified by the death from AIDS of Nikolai Grishanovich, one of his many lovers, led the group to decide to issue an official press release denying any inference about the singer. To escape the tabloids, Mercury moved to Montreux in the spring of 1991, where he rented a lakeside home called the Duck House.
His last public appearance was in the video for the song These Are the Days of Our Lives, in which the frontman appears very slimmed down; the video clip of the song, recorded on May 30, 1991 and taken from his last album with Queen, Innuendo, was, however, not made public until after his death, at his specific request, so as not to give rise to the various rumors, and edited in black and white to hide the signs of the disease on his skin. During his stay in Montreux, Mercury continued to record the vocal tracks of the various songs at Mountain Studios, despite being greatly debilitated by the illness and forced to rest for many hours a day. The last song the frontman recorded was Mother Love, between May 13 and 16, 1991, a song that, due to the weakness caused by the illness, he had to perform from a seated position and was unable to sing the entire song, having to give way to May.
Mercury returned to London in late June to be near his loved ones. His health condition deteriorated further and he was subjected to some experimental treatments with medicines that arrived secretly at the Garden Lodge. In his final weeks Mary Austin visited him often, spending several hours in his presence; in addition to the woman, Jim Hutton, Mercury's partner, Joe Fanelli, the rock star's personal chef, and Peter Freestone, his personal assistant, also supported the singer. In his final days, Mercury began to lose his eyesight and his own physical condition deteriorated further, to the point that he could no longer get out of bed; he thus decided to stop taking medications except for some painkillers. On November 22, 1991, aware of his terminal state and the great media attention devoted to him, the singer summoned Jim Beach, Queen's manager, to his home to draft an official statement that was delivered to the press the next day:
A little more than twenty-four hours after the announcement, at 6:48 p.m. on November 24, 1991, Mercury died at his Logan Place home of bronchopneumonia aggravated by complications from AIDS, at the age of 45, with Jim Hutton by his side. The funeral, held at Kensal Green Cemetery in a strictly private setting, was conducted by two Zoroastrian priests; the funeral was attended by only thirty-five people including her parents, her sister Kashmira with her husband, her bandmates John Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor, Mary Austin, and singers Elton John and David Bowie. The casket was escorted into the chapel to the sound of Aretha Franklin's covers of Take My Hand, Precious Lord and You've Got a Friend.
According to his last will and testament, Mercury was cremated and his ashes entrusted to Mary Austin, who stored them in his bedroom for about two years and then secretly scattered them at the singer's chosen location. In his will, the singer entrusted exactly half of his estate of about ten million pounds, as well as the Garden Lodge, to Mary Austin, while the rest of the estate was divided between his parents and his sister Kashmira Bulsara-Cooke; Jim Hutton, Peter Freestone, Joe Fanelli and Terry Giddings, his chauffeur and bodyguard, also got part of his inheritance. The outer wall of the Garden Lodge became a de facto shrine to Mercury, with fans plastering the wall with writing and sheets of paper, becoming, according to Time Out, "the largest rock 'n' roll temple in London."
Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and posthumous publications
Freddie Mercury's death represented a significant step in the history of AIDS, as it raised awareness of the risks due to HIV among millions of people worldwide. The frontman was criticized for revealing his positive HIV test only at the point of death, considering that his international fame would allow him to raise funds for research against the disease; instead, his attitude might have suggested to the public that AIDS was a disease to be ashamed of. According to Dave Clark, "Freddie wanted to keep the matter private because in those days the disease was considered a plague and he did not want to be branded." Two weeks after the singer's death, the proceeds from the remastering of Bohemian Rhapsody, which went to number one in the UK charts, were donated entirely to the Terrence Higgins Trust, a British organization dedicated to AIDS patients.
After mourning the leader's passing, in February 1992 the remaining members of Queen announced during the BRIT Awards their desire to hold a major event to pay tribute to the singer's life and career. The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was held on April 20, 1992 at London's Wembley Stadium and was attended by numerous international artists such as Tony Iommi, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, David Bowie, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, George Michael, Zucchero, Elton John, Lisa Stansfield, Annie Lennox, Elizabeth Taylor, Seal, Liza Minnelli, Extreme, Def Leppard, and via satellite U2; the 72,000 tickets for this event, which was broadcast to over a billion people, The concert, in addition to the exceptional nature of the musical event, was also notable for the great message it provided to the world about AIDS, raising £12 million that was partly donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust, and partly used to start The Mercury Phoenix Trust.
On November 16, 1992, almost a year after his death, The Freddie Mercury Album (in the United States The Great Pretender), a collection of remixes of his most famous solo songs, was released; criticized by the frontman's historical fans for distorting the singer's songs, this was nonetheless Mercury's most successful record, reaching number four on the UK Albums Chart. In contrast, it was the following year's Remixes, another compilation of six songs remixed by other artists; the remake of Living on My Own by the No More Brothers took the top spot on the singles chart in the UK and many other countries. On November 7, 1995, the album Made in Heaven was released, which became Queen's best-selling unreleased album in Britain; the record contains Mercury's last vocal tracks, recorded shortly before his death, such as A Winter's Tale, You Don't Fool Me, and Mother Love. In 1997 the three remaining members of Queen released No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young), a song dedicated to the late singer, the last work of Deacon, May and Taylor together.
In the early 2000s, Freddie Mercury Solo Collection, the largest collection of material in his memory, was released; a box-set containing ten CDs with sessions of songs never officially released for a total of ten hours of music, as well as two DVDs, The Untold Story and The Video Collection. On September 5, 2006, to coincide with his 60th birthday, Lover of Life, Singer of Songs: The Very Best of Freddie Mercury Solo was released, which reached the Top 10 in several European countries. During the 2010s, two additional collections were released, Messenger of the Gods: The Singles in 2016 and Never Boring in 2019.
Freddie Mercury showed a particular interest in music from an early age and grew up listening to the Eastern sounds of singer Lata Mangeshkar, whom he met during his youth in India.As he moved to London, he began to learn more about the music of the major artists of the period; among his favorite singers were Jimi Hendrix, also appreciating Jim Croce and Eric Clapton.
Mercury was also attracted to singer and actress Liza Minnelli. Elvis Presley also represented an example for Mercury, to whom he paid tribute with Crazy Little Thing Called Love, a song written in a rockabilly style; during concerts, the British band often used to play Presley's songs, such as Jailhouse Rock and (You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care. Among musical groups, he was strongly influenced by Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, and The Who; he then also harbored a great passion for opera. The glam style of Mercury, and of Queen in general, consisting of bizarre and eccentric outfits, made-up eyes and lacquered nails, was born in the late 1960s, and had as its first exponents David Bowie and T. Rex, artists to whom the four musicians also referred musically.
Throughout his career, Mercury touched on various forms of rock music that were already established in the music scene, such as progressive, art, and glam rock, yet drew on numerous other musical genres, moving from hard to pop rock, arena rock to heavy metal, rock and roll to psychedelic rock. He also experimented with sounds far from his musical roots, such as blues, dance rock, gospel, ragtime, funk, folk, classical music and more rarely punk rock, vaudeville, symphonic rock, rockabilly, dixieland and calypso. On the other hand, as far as Mercury's solo career is concerned, Mr. Bad Guy is characterized more, compared to Queen's albums, by pop, disco and dance sounds, with extensive use of the synthesizer; the album Barcelona, on the other hand, was greatly affected by the collaboration with Montserrat Caballé, as there are numerous elements characteristic of classical crossover, rock opera and opera music itself.
Despite his baritone voice, Freddie Mercury sang on light tenor tessituras during recordings and album recordings; especially in the first decade of his career, he also used the falsetto technique, which gave his voice an airy, feminine timbre, thus reaching tones uncongenial to him more easily. Mercury attributed his vocal extension to the hyperdontia from which he suffered, having been born with four incisors beyond the norm; for fear of changing the timbre or extension of his singing, he never wanted to correct this defect. David Bret said her voice was able to accomplish "musical scales in a few bars, going from a guttural rock roar to a pure, crystal-clear treble, a perfect coloratura." After his death, Montserrat Caballé said of him, "His technique was impressive. He had no problem with tempo, sang with an incisive sense of rhythm, gliding from one vocal register to another effortlessly. He had great musicality. His phrasing could be subtle, delicate and sweet or more energetic and forceful. He was able to find the right timbre, the right expressive nuance for each word." Who leader Roger Daltrey described Mercury as "the best rock 'n' roll singer of all time. He could sing anything in any way. He could change his style from verse to verse, a talent at which he was virtuoso. AllMusic judged the Queen frontman as "one of the greatest voices in music history."
There are differing opinions regarding his vocal range. Some sources describe him as being able to sing a scale of notes outside the normal range, reaching four octaves with the help of falsetto; others, however, are more cautious, considering his smoking and some health problems caused by the appearance of throat nodules that deprived Mercury's voice of agility and lightness, reasons why he used a more baritone vocal timbre at least in the last years of his career. It is also likely that the long tours with Queen had caused him additional difficulties. However, Caballé confirmed the four-octave thesis, saying that his voice extended from the F of the first octave to the F of the fifth (F2 - F6 in Anglo-Saxon notation), reaching the F of the fourth octave in full voice, such as in All God's People. In 2016, a research team studied Mercury's voice to analyze its texture and range; using interviews and musical excerpts, the team confirmed a significantly faster vibrato than opera singers, as well as exceptional use of subharmonics. As a voice amplitude, the scholars identified by default a range from F2 to A5, thus slightly above three octaves, without having been able to confirm the range of four intervals as peaks outside the research range were recorded in the singer's voice.
For the many hit singles he wrote, Mercury is recognized for his talent not only in singing but also in composing and writing songs. Indeed, numerous awards and accolades have been bestowed on his work; Bohemian Rhapsody won the award for the best British pop single released between 1952 and 1977, was voted the best British single of all time in 2002 by the Guinness Book of Records and in 2012 by the Official Charts Company, as well as being named the best song of the last fifty years by the latter organization in 2002 and entering the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2018, the first single from A Night at the Opera became the most streamed song of the 20th century ever, reaching 1.6 billion plays among all major platforms, as well as excelling in this chart as a rock song as well. We Are the Champions in 2009 was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, also being named the best song in the world by a worldwide poll organized by Sony Ericsson.
Of the 180 tracks written by Queen, the singer composed at least 51 songs, making him the band's major lyricist; in addition, 10 songs out of the 17 featured on the Greatest Hits collection, the best-selling album ever in Britain, were written by Mercury: 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. The main characteristic of his songwriting was the diverse range of musical styles he was able to incorporate into his works; in a 1986 interview he stated, "I hate doing the same thing over and over again. I like to observe the way the worlds of music, film, and theater evolve and integrate the characteristic elements of each." Compared to other famous songwriters, the British artist also tended to create complex melodies, such as Innuendo and Bohemian Rhapsody, songs with a complex basic structure and a multiplicity of chords, as opposed to songs centered on the repetition of a few simple chords as with Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Despite the fact that Mercury wrote harmonically and musically articulated compositions in a succession of ever-changing keys, he himself claimed that he could barely read the scores.
Mercury, starting when he was nine years old, took piano classes in India, and later, with his move to London, began playing guitar, then beginning in the 1980s to make extensive use of synthesizers in the recording studio. The frontman, however, never considered himself a very good musician, even dreading the live performance of Bohemian Rhapsody for some years because of the large number of chords in the song, with the risk that he might ruin it. For this reason, and especially in order to move with greater freedom on stage, thus interacting more easily with the audience, from the early 1980s Mercury began to use keyboardists both in the studio and in concerts; they alternated in this task first Fred Mandel, then Morgan Fisher, later entrusting the keyboards to Mike Moran in the recording studio and Spike Edney on stage.
The singer composed and played many of Queen's most important songs on the piano, such as Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy, We Are the Champions, Somebody to Love and Don't Stop Me Now; Mercury also composed his own arrangements with this instrument. In concert he preferably played grand pianos; occasionally, in the studio, he used other keyboard instruments, such as the harpsichord. Although he claimed to have only basic knowledge of the guitar and to have learned only three chords in his career, Brian May revealed that Mercury was actually quite good at playing this instrument, although he used it in an unorthodox way. Songs such as Ogre Battle and Crazy Little Thing Called Love were composed by him entirely with this stringed instrument; the first single from The Game was the only song that was also played by Mercury with the guitar on stage.
Freddie Mercury is often remembered for his live performances, usually held in stadiums, in which he could hugely engage the audience with his theatricality and charisma, regardless of the size of the event. The singer wanted every performance by his band to be a kind of work of art, a show in which his histrionics and improvisational skills were combined with dancing and singing. Freddie Mercury was capable of creating a close bond with the audience, a trait admired by numerous artists such as Bob Geldof, David Bowie, George Michael, Kurt Cobain, Dave Gahan, and Robbie Williams. The Queen frontman was very dynamic during his performances, and as he sang, he was constantly moving all over the stage, which was usually large and equipped with stairs and ramps. From the earliest concerts with Ibex, Mercury's microphone stand, usually a Shure Unisphere 565 SD, was stripped of its base and carried with him by the singer all along the stage, also becoming an integral part of his stage presence.
Music critic John Harris said, "Those who make rankings of rock's greatest frontmen and assign the top positions to Mick Jagger, Robert Plant and others are guilty of a terrible oversight. Freddie, as demonstrated by his Dionysian performance at Live Aid, is undoubtedly the most divine among them all." David Bowie, at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, described the singer as "a man capable of holding the audience in the palm of his hand," while Axl Rose judged him "the best frontman of all time." Mercury said, "We are the Cecil B. DeMille of rock and roll, always wanting to do bigger and better things."
Over the course of his career, the British singer held 707 concerts in 26 different countries with Queen, most of them in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, 4 with Ibex, 5 with Wreckage, and 3 with Sour Milk Sea, as well as some school performances with The Hectics. The British rock band was the first ever to play stadiums in South America, breaking world records for concert attendance at São Paulo's Morumbi Stadium in 1981. Queen's performance at Live Aid in 1985, which saw the band perform at Wembley Stadium in front of 72,000 people, with a total audience of nearly 2 billion, was judged by a panel of experts, as well as by the artists in attendance and the audience, as the best live performance in the history of rock music. In 1986 Queen also played beyond the Iron Curtain, when they performed in Budapest in front of 80,000 spectators in what was one of the biggest rock concerts ever held in Eastern Europe. Mercury's last live show with the British band took place on August 9, 1986, at Knebworth Park in England, with a crowd estimated at 160 000, ending the concert with a crown and royal robes, as he used to give during the Magic Tour. On October 8, 1988, with the presentation of Barcelona to the King and Queen of Spain during La Nit Festival, was Freddie Mercury's last live performance.
Mercury is considered one of the greatest and most influential artists in rock history; in 2008, the US magazine Rolling Stone placed him 18th on its list of the top 100 singers of all time, while the following year he took the top spot among rock vocalists for Classic Rock. In 2015, on Billboard's list of the 25 best frontmen of all time, Mercury placed second, ahead of Bruce Springsteen. In September 2010, a survey of rock fans named Mercury the "Greatest Rock Legend Of All Time," ahead of Elvis Presley, David Bowie, Jon Bon Jovi, Jimi Hendrix and Ozzy Osbourne. The Queen singer was ranked second in both MTV's 2003 22 Greatest Voices in Music, behind Mariah Carey, and in the 2009 Planet Rock radio station's The Top 40 Greatest Voices in Rock poll, behind Robert Plant. In 2011, readers of New Musical Express and Rolling Stone magazines also placed Mercury as the second best singer of all time in two separate polls, later being elected via a public survey of Q readers the greatest rock legend in 2007. In a 2002 BBC poll called 100 Greatest Britons Mercury was ranked 58th, while in a further survey done by TheTopTens website, in which more than 370,000 people from around the world voted, he was named The Best Singer of All Time. In 2006, TIME Asia magazine named the frontman as one of the most influential Asian heroes of the past 60 years.
As a member of Queen he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004, later winning the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement with the band in 2018, while individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. The British band won a BRIT Awards for outstanding contribution to music in 1990, an award that was presented directly to Freddie Mercury in 1992, just months after his death. The frontman also won a number of Ivor Novello Awards during his career: he was honored with the Songwriter Award for Killer Queen in 1975, for Best British Single in terms of sales with Bohemian Rhapsody the following year, for Outstanding Contribution to British Music in 1987, for Best Single for These Are the Days of Our Lives in 1992, for Best International Single for Living on My Own in 1993, and for Outstanding Song Collection in 2005. In 2002, Queen also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Mercury's untimely death contributed to the growth of Queen's fame around the world; in the United States, a nation that had opposed the band since the 1980s, sales of the British group's records increased considerably in 1992, after the singer's death; one U.S. critic observed that what cynics like to call the "deceased star" factor had entered the picture, and in this way Queen spent a period of renaissance. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Queen has sold about 35 million albums in the United States, about half of them distributed since Mercury's death. The British band's total sales are estimated at about 300 million records sold, becoming the band in the UK that has been on the UK Albums Chart longer than anyone else; Greatest Hits is the best-selling album ever in Britain with over 6 million copies sold (over 25 million worldwide), joined in the Top10 by Greatest Hits II.
Mercury was an inspiration to many singers and musicians of various genres, nations and generations; among those who have stated that they partly drew inspiration from the British frontman in their use of vocals, composition of musical lyrics or public performances are Sebastian Bach, Jeff Buckley, Cesare Cremonini, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Katy Perry, Dave Grohl, George Michael, Seal, Right Said Fred, Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Robbie Williams, Even Michael Jackson, a friend of Freddie Mercury's in the early 1980s, cited Hot Space as inspiration for Thriller, an album on which the British frontman himself was to appear.
There are also numerous tributes of various kinds proposed over the years concerning Freddie Mercury. In Montreux, Switzerland, a statue in honor of the singer was built by Czech sculptor Irena Sedlecká; this monument overlooks Lake Geneva and was unveiled on November 25, 1996, by the Bulsara family, Montserrat Caballé, Brian May and Roger Taylor; since 2003, every year, on the first weekend of September, fans of the singer travel to Switzerland to pay tribute to him, participating in Freddie Celebration Days. From May 2002 to 2014, a large statue of Mercury, later purchased by Roger Taylor for his home, stood at the entrance to London's Dominion Theatre, home of the musical We Will Rock You, and an additional 4.5-meter-tall monument depicting him was erected in Liverpool on June 3, 2011. More than 100 sculptures representing him are scattered around the world.
The Royal Mail, the British postal service, issued a stamp depicting Mercury and part of a special series called the Millennium Stamp. The National Entertainment Collectibles Association, an action figure manufacturer, created two figurines of Freddie Mercury: one in the outfit he wore during Live at Wembley Stadium in 1986, the other in the "biker" attire the artist used to wear during some live performances. In 2018, Funko produced three different Funko Pops related to the singer, featuring Mercury's iconic outfits and poses. On September 5, 2006, on what would have been his 60th birthday, asteroid 17473, discovered in 1991, the year of the artist's passing, was renamed 17473 Freddiemercury.
On November 24, 2009, 18 years after his death, a plaque was placed in Feltham near the home to which Mercury and his family had moved upon their arrival in England in 1964; a star was also installed in Feltham High Street, in memory of the singer's achievements, at the unveiling of which Jer Bulsara and Brian May were present. In addition to his virtual presence at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, in 2012 the singer duetted with the audience at the closing ceremony of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, in which the vocal improvisation made by Mercury at the 1986 Wembley concert was re-enacted.
Some new animal species discovered in the 21st century have been named after the British singer. In 2013, a genus of frogs belonging to the family Racoforidae and discovered in Kerala was classified as Mercurana, with only Mercurana myristicapalustris as a specimen of the genus; the designation was due both in homage to the singer and because the animal was found in the northern part of the same mountain range where Mercury lived in his youth. In the same year, a newly discovered species of zygoptera was classified in Brazil as Heteragrion freddiemercuryi; this and three other damselflies were so named as a tribute to the members of Queen. A new species of isopod discovered in Zanzibar was later named Cirolana mercuryi, in tribute to the island's "most famous musician and singer." In Mercury's memory, there is also a yellow rose, his favorite, named after him.
On October 24, 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody, a 20th Century Fox-produced film focusing on Mercury's life from the founding of Queen to Live Aid, was released in the United Kingdom. Initially planned for 2011, various cast and crew replacements delayed its completion, which saw Bryan Singer, who took over from Dexter Fletcher, directing and Anthony McCarten writing the screenplay. The role of the British frontman, first given to Sacha Baron Cohen, was eventually assigned to Rami Malek. The film garnered widespread acclaim and became the most successful musical biopic in film history, grossing more than $900 million worldwide. At the 2019 Golden Globes, Bohemian Rhapsody won Best Motion Picture Drama, while Malek was awarded Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama; the US actor also won the Academy Award for Best Actor, as well as the BAFTA Award and Screen Actors Guild Award.
After an affair between 1969 and 1970 with Rosemary Pearson, a fellow student at Ealing College Of Art, Mercury became romantically involved with Mary Austin, living with her for about seven years on Victoria Road. In the early 1970s, Mercury began to become aware that he was not heterosexual, later expressed in a December 1974 interview with the New Musical Express, in which he declared that he was "as gay as a narcissus." Between 1975 and 1976, the singer revealed his sexual orientation to Austin, breaking off their relationship; the two remained, however, deeply committed. Mercury dedicated several songs to the woman, including Love of My Life, and served as godfather to her son. He also bequeathed her half of his estate and the Garden Lodge, his London home. In a 1985 interview Mercury stated, "All my lovers ask me why they cannot replace Mary, but that is simply impossible-she is my only friend and I desire no one else. To me she is like my wife."
From 1975 to 1978, on and off, she had her first real relationship with a man, David Minns, a record company administrator, whom the singer refers to in the song Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy. Between 1978 and 1979 she then had an affair with Joe Fanelli, who later became her private chef. In the 1980s he had a brief affair with Austrian actress Barbara Valentin, who also appeared in the video clip for It's a Hard Life, In 1984 he instead began a love affair with hairdresser Jim Hutton; the man, who also turned out to be HIV-positive in 1990 and died of cancer in 2010, was Mercury's partner for the last years of his life.
Numerous were the opinions regarding the singer's sexuality and its public display; Mercury believed that this was a purely private matter and was always park and sometimes contradictory in his statements on the matter. While some critics claim that Freddie repeatedly publicly declared his homosexuality, others claim instead that he repeatedly tried to hide his sexual orientation, often distancing himself from Jim Hutton at public events. Some biographers have since affirmed his bisexuality, having dated both men and women throughout his life; the singer, celebrated on World Bisexual Pride Day, has been referred to as such by various news outlets, including The Advocate and BBC News.