Freddie Mercury: you’ve heard his voice before, even if you don’t know it. Hopefully at some point in time, you’ve done the therapeutic act of gathering around with your friends, singing along with his vocals.
Maybe you sat gathered around a table and sang along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Under Pressure.” Even if you didn’t realize it was the voice of frontman Mercury, you probably at least knew you were singing along to Queen.
Freddie Mercury died 26 years ago, five years before I was born. I still research him, mourning death as if I knew him personally.
Influential artists die all the time – Bowie died almost two years ago in January 2016, Prince died in April 2016 and Tom Petty in October 2017, to name a few.
The thing about influential artists is, well, they’re influential. Though they’ve died, they’re still common household names. They live on through articles by Rolling Stone and plays on the radio and Spotify.
Freddie Mercury, whose real name was Farrokh Bulsara, was the British lead singer of Queen and is one of these people. He demonstrates how long someone can live after they’ve died.
His death happened too soon. At age 45, Mercury died in 1991 due to complications from AIDS. He remained steady through the disease and declined to confirm that he even had it until a little more than 24 hours before his death.
Mercury was open about his sex life, according to an article by Rolling Stone. When asked if the AIDS outbreak had changed Mercury’s viewpoints about his sex life, Mercury said “I’m doing everything and everybody.”
He must have reconsidered, however, because he decided to take the test for AIDS in 1985 and received negative results.
In 1987, he took the test again and tested positive for HIV. Because of AIDS, he died of bronchopneumonia.
He attempted to record as much as he could before his death. The last album released in 1991, nine months before Mercury’s death, was “The Innuendo.” It ended with “The Show Must Go On,” one of Queen’s more popular songs.
The song was written by Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen, about Mercury’s drive when he knew he was dying. Mercury’s body was failing as they were working on the album, yet he still managed to deliver some of his strongest and most emotional vocal material.
“Inside my heart is breaking/My make-up may be flaking/But my smile, still, stays on,” he sings as a guitar comes in.
Mercury is influential in the same way that Bowie was. He was unapologetically himself. Even when fans were throwing disposable razor blades onstage as he performed – their way of telling him to shed his identity after he decided to don the “gay clone look” – Mercury still wore his outfits and held his own.
Freddie Mercury may have gotten some of his confidence from Bowie’s example. Queen and Bowie paired up in 1981 for “Under Pressure,” but that wasn’t the first time they collaborated.
When Bowie had a larger following than Queen, Mercury went with him when he had a small set at Ealing Art College. Even if Bowie didn’t have anything to do with Mercury’s confidence, their pairing for “Under Pressure” became the second No. 1 hit for Queen’s home country after “Bohemian Rhapsody” and re-charted again shortly after Bowie’s death.
Queen has been in my life for as long as I can remember. When I played softball at age 13, we were singing a rendition of “We Will Rock You” as a cheer against the other team.
This song is also played at various sporting events, including just prior to tip-offs at basketball games. Queen’s music and Mercury’s vocals did rock me once I started really listening to the actual band. Queen’s songs are full of soul that you can’t find in many other places.
Freddie Mercury’s show will continue to go on. His light, influence and voice will never fade. Twenty-six years is a long time for someone to be gone, but I’m fairly confident I’ll be talking about him and listening to his music for 26 more.
My playlist for this week, "#13 RIP Freddie" is a nearly seven-hour masterpiece I created featuring artists and bands such as Queen, Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
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