Insights From The Hidden Life Of The Legendary Freddie Mercury
Queen is definitely among the most legendary rock bands of history, but their frontman Freddie Mercury was indeed a one in a million kind of man. Thanks to his magnificent voice and his incredible vocal range, he is considered as the best singer of all time. But behind his rock-legend appearance and lifestyle, Freddie was a complex man that hid many secrets.
Until his premature death in 1991, Freddie Mercury managed to stay true to his biggest passion, music, but suffered for a lot of personal things. After he passed away, his closest friends revealed many things about him that showed clearly what he was going through. Read on and discover all the things you didn’t know about rock and roll’s biggest royalty.
1. Real Name
Queen is definitely one of the most influential rock bands in history. The way they played and blended hard rock with pop rock, shook the masses across the world and left a mark that will stay remembered for a long time. However, most of the band’s eccentricity is thanks to Freddie Mercury, who had craziest ideas and a feeling for good songs.
Freddie was sure they were going to become legends, so he was always giving his heart and soul in each song they recorded. That’s how “Bohemian Rhapsody” was born. However, Freddie Mercury wasn’t the frontman’s real name. He was born as Farrokh Bulsara, but he felt that his name wasn’t good enough for a rock career and changed it to how we know him today.
Another thing you might not have heard about is that Freddie was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania on September 5, 1946. His parents worked for the British government on the colonized island, but the family didn’t stay there for too long.
The sandy beaches of Zanzibar weren’t meant to keep little Farrokh for long. Instead, his parents decided to send him to Bombay, India (now Mumbai) where he could go to St. Peter’s School, a British-style boarding school for boys. This school will turn out to be very important for his future.
3. St. Peter’s Boarding School
Little Freddie first met music in his boarding school in Bombay where he fell in love with piano. It turned out that he was really talented, and all he had in mind was music. At the age of 12 he formed his very first band – the Hectics.
His former bandmates said that he had an incredible talent to replay on piano whatever he heard on the radio. They covered Western pop music such as Cliff Richard and Little Richard. It was also the time when he began calling himself “Freddie”.
4. Moving to England
As Farrokh finished his studies, he decided to return to Zanzibar to meet his parents. However, the Bulsara family wouldn’t stay there for long, because they had to escape a violent riot in 1964, commonly known as the Zanzibar Revolution.
So, Freddie and his family moved to England. When they settled, Freddie started attending art school and graduated in 1969. He graduated from graphic art and design, but got his first job as a worker at Heathrow Airport.
5. Turn of Events
Freddie was following a band called Smile for a while, where the future Queen guitarist and drummer, Brian May and Roger Taylor, were already playing. He loved their sound and decided that one day he will become a part of his favorite band. And, surprisingly in 1970 he got an opportunity that will change his life forever.
The Smile’s lead singer decided to leave the band, which left the band in seek of a new singer. Freddie grabbed the opportunity and asked to join them. He loved their sound so he didn’t want them to separate. Like that he became the frontman and renamed the band to Queen.
6. A Good Feeling
It seems that Freddie always knew somehow that he would be something big. In fact, Chris Smith recalled Freddie commenting how he was going to be a big pop star. But then, one day, Freddie was sitting with his head in his hands being all sad. When asked what was wrong, Mercury said:“I’m not going to be a pop star. I’m going to be a legend!” It’s like he could foresee what was going to happen!
Everything the band and their front man did was getting a lot of attention. First, the band’s name raised much controversy due to its association with the LGBTQ community. However, Queen was more than aware of what they were doing and soon, this name will change everything.
7. Four Octaves
From the moment they heard him, his band members were amazed by Freddie’s amazing voice. But he also had a very rare one. Namely, Freddie could reach four octaves, which when compared to Mariah Carey’s voice of 5 octave range and Celine Dion’s three octave range, really explains it all.
It’s no wonder that the band didn’t want to lose Freddie with such a rare voice. But that wasn’t all that made Freddie so special. He was a natural performer that connected easily with the audience. All he was dedicated to was his life in music
8. Freddie Had 10 Cats
Freddie was a big cat-lover, and in fact, whenever he wasn’t in the studio, he loved to spend time with his ten cats. He loved his cats so much that he treated them very much like his children.
Whenever he was away on tours, he called his cats and demanded to talk to them. Also, over time his favorite cat emerged, Delilah. He loved her so much he even wrote a song about her in the “Innuendo” album.
9. Private Life Under Wraps
Public knew very little about Freddie’s personal life. When the band’s fame was rising, a woman by the name of Mary Austin was always by Freddie’s side. The two were incredibly in love and built a relationship on trust, love and friendship. She was there for him before and after he was in Queen, and he actually proposed to her.
Although they never married, the couple lived six years together, but something still wasn’t right. Finally, Freddie admitted that he was bisexual, and their relationship broke down. Soon, he will start a relationship with Jim Hutton, a guy he met at a bar in 1984. Since they met the couple was inseparable and stayed together until his death.
10. Eclectic Bunch Of Folks
Queen wasn’t eclectic for its outrageous music choices and brave songs. But the band itself was made of pretty different people too. Queen was an ensemble of people that pursued other interests before joining the band.
Brian May had a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy, John Deacon was an electronic engineer, while Roger Taylor trained to be a dentist. Of course, Freddie had a degree in graphic arts. Luckily, they all followed their passion for music.
11. Queen in Record Stores
The first album “Queen” was out in 1973, and although the band was super excited to see their album in record stores, it didn’t sell very well. However, when they released their second album “Queen II”, everything changed.
After Queen II, they started gaining some publicity that was much needed for a rising band. Soon they also had an opportunity to broadcast their music on a TV show called Lost Top of the Pops in 1974.
12. Not All Roses
Mott the Hoople, an English rock and roll group, invited them to cross the Atlantic together and perform as the opening act for them in the United States. The band accepted, but they weren’t really living off their music yet. They were in debt and had no money.
That’s when they changed their manager, and hired John Reid, Elton John’s manager that had a great relationship with the band throughout their partnership. That’s when Queen was recording the album “A Night at the Opera”, an album that had to break it or make it for the band.
13. Bowie and Mercury
Before two legendary musicians Freddie Mercury and David Bowie came up with one of the greatest songs “Under Pressure”, they didn’t have much luck and fame. They had to struggle and fight for their passion just like everyone else.
Bowie was the first one to start. One day, he was about to perform in a small club and he invited Mercury to help him out with building a stage. In the end, they made a “stage” out of a few tables they pushed together. Their idea did the trick, and luckily, their “stage” didn’t collapse.
14. Organization Against AIDS
Freddie Mercury died from AIDS-related causes in 1991 in London. When that happened, the remaining members of Queen and their manager, Jim Beach, wanted to raise awareness about the disease. They organized the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness which led to the launch of The Mercury Phoenix Trust.
They used the band’s great popularity to fund medical research and studies into possible vaccinations that would protect against AIDS. The Trustees of this organization are all Freddie’s closest friends: Brian May, Roger Taylor, Jim Beach, and Mercury’s former girlfriend Mary Austin.
15. Queen Crest
As we mentioned, Mercury graduated with a diploma in Art and Graphic Design at the Isleworth Polytechnique which is today named West Thames College. It turned out that he even used his talent for design in order to create his famous band’s logo!
The logo is called the “Queen Crest”, and Mercury designed it shortly before the release of their first album in 1973. The band’s logo includes a letter Q for Queen, as well as zodiac signs of all four members: both John Deacon and Roger Taylor are Leos, Brian May is Cancer, while Freddie was a Virgo.
16. Impressive Record
But, we all know Freddie Mercury for his other talents: singing and song-writing. In fact, Mercury was credited as the songwriter on 10 songs out of 17 that were listed on Queen’s Greatest Hits album. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is only one of them
Having passed away so prematurely, Mercury didn’t get to collect all the credit he deserved for his song-writing talent. So, in 2003 Mercury was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2005 he was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection that was given from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.
17. Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds
Mercury’s family were zoroastrianists, practitioners of the Middle Eastern religion known as Zoroastrianism. This religions is considered as one of the oldest existent religions in the world. What’s interesting is that Mercury actually never abandoned this faith.
In fact, his funeral was performed by a Zoroastrian priest. Zoroastrianism is also called Mazdayasna and is a monotheistic faith which is centered in a dualistic religious concept of good and evil which believes in the ultimate destruction of evil.
18. Bad, But Successful Teeth
When the band was in the middle of promoting the release of A Day at the Races in 1976, they had to appear on the talk show Today with Bill Grundy. But, Mercury didn’t come because, namely, he hadn’t visited his dentist in 15 years and it turned out that on the day of the show, Mercury had a very bad situation with teeth and couldn’t postpone his visit.
As a result, Queen’s label, EMI, sent another, newer band instead of Queen: the Sex Pistols. In fact, thanks to this show, the young punk band had the big break they needed. They made an obscene scene on the show and earned public condemnation which definitely made them a hot topic in the music world. It seems that Sex Pistols might owe Mercury’s poor dental hygiene for having such an early success.
19. Queen vs. Sex Pistols
However, the Sex Pistols didn’t really show gratefulness to Queen because of the chance they got. In fact, they hated Queen’s image and fame, while Mercury thought that what Sex Pistols produced wasn’t even to be considered as music.
But, one day the bands’ paths crossed in their mutual recording studio. John Lydon, commonly known as Johnny Rotten, was very polite while talking to Queen, while Sid Vicious tried to pick a fight with the Queen’s lead singer. Mercury didn’t show any interest in it and responded by belittling Sid Vicious and calling him “Simon Ferocious”.
20. Solo Career
While Mercury will forever be known as the frontman of Queen, he also had a solo career. In 1985 and 1988, Freddie recorded two solo albums. The albums were a great commercial success, however there was still something that was bugging the critics.
Both Mr. Bad Guy and Barcelona made the critics quite perplexed because of the combination of opera and pop music. It seems that the critics thought Bohemian Rhapsody was good on its own. However, apart from the two albums Mercury also covered “The Great Pretender” in 1987.
21. Lasting Power
When Mercury died in 1991, Queen’s sales skyrocketed after having modest sales in the 1980s. It is believed that his tragic death helped the band sell so many albums.
But, others also think that the sales increased so drastically because of the use of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the popular comedy Wayne’s World. While both of these certainly influenced the dramatic sales, it is indisputable that Queen’s music and power is something that will last for decades.
22. Bottomless Mic
One of the symbols that made Mercury memorable was also his performing with a “bottomless mic”. But, this habit of his was a result of a complete accident. When Queen was still a very young band and they were only starting, Mercury’s stand broke in two in the middle of a song.
Mercury decided to just continue performing, without even trying to switch it out. The scene of it was so strong that they all decided that Mercury should continue performing like that even after.
23. Elton John Thought ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Was A Risk
When the “Bohemian Rhapsody” was recorded, everyone was shocked. Even Elton John thought the song was too long. Producers also begged Freddie to make the song shorter, as everyone was complaining about it’s length, but Freddie held his ground.
He had a strong vision and didn’t want to accept any modifications. Luckily, he managed to keep the song as it was intended to be, because after it was released it shot to number one on the music charts for nine weeks in a row in the UK – a record at the time.