Freddie Mercury was a British singer, songwriter and record producer, known as the lead vocalist and co-principal songwriter of the rock band Queen. He also became known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range.
Mercury wrote and composed numerous hits for Queen -including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Killer Queen,” “Somebody to Love,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and “We Are the Champions”- occasionally served as a producer and guest musician , piano or vocals, for other artists and concurrently led a solo career while performing with Queen.
Find out more amazing facts about him, here!
1. Farrokh Bulsara was born 5 September 1946 in the British protectorate of Sultanate of Zanzibar, East Africa (now part of Tanzania).
2. His parents were Bomi and Jer Bulsara were Parsis from the Gujarat region of the then province of Bombay Presidency in British India.
3. The family surname is derived from the town of Bulsar (now known as Valsad) in southern Gujarat.
4. As Parsis, Mercury and his family practised the Zoroastrian religion.
5. Τhe Bulsara family had moved to Zanzibar so that his father could continue his job as a cashier at the British Colonial Office.
6. He had a younger sister, Kashmira.
7. Mercury spent most of his childhood in India and began taking piano lessons at the age of seven.
8. In 1954, at the age of eight, Mercury was sent to study at St. Peter’s School, a British-style boarding school for boys, in Panchgani near Bombay (now Mumbai).
9. At the age of 12, he formed a school band, The Hectics, and covered rock and roll artists such as Cliff Richard and Little Richard.
10. It has been said that one of his formative musical influences at the time was Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar, but one of Mercury’s former bandmates from the Hectics has said that “that is a lot of rubbish. The only music he listened to, and played, was Western pop music.”
11. A friend from the time recalls that he had “an uncanny ability to listen to the radio and replay what he heard on piano.”
12. It was also at St. Peter’s where he began to call himself “Freddie”, and in February 1963 he moved back to Zanzibar where he joined his parents at their flat.
13. At the age of 17, Mercury and his family fled from Zanzibar for safety reasons due to the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed.
14. The family moved into a small house at 22 Gladstone Avenue, Feltham, Middlesex, England.
15. Mercury enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic (now West Thames College) in West London where he studied art.
16. He ultimately earned a diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College (now the Ealing campus of University of West London), later using these skills to design the Queen heraldic arms.
17. A British citizen at birth, Mercury remained so for the rest of his life.
18. Following graduation, Mercury joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in the Kensington Market in London with girlfriend Mary Austin.
19. He also held a job at Heathrow Airport.
20. Friends from the time remember him as a quiet and shy young man who showed a great deal of interest in music.
21. In 1969 he joined the Liverpool-based band Ibex, later renamed Wreckage. He lived briefly in a flat above the Liverpool pub, The Dovedale Towers.
22. When this band failed to take off, he joined a second band called Sour Milk Sea. However, by early 1970 this group had broken up as well.
23. In April 1970 Mercury joined guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor who had previously been in a band called Smile.
24. In 1971 they found their bass player John Deacon who was to stay with the band until 1997.
25. Despite reservations of the other members and Trident Studios, the band’s initial management, Mercury chose the name “Queen” for the new band.
26. He later said, “It’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid. It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.”
27. At about the same time, he changed his surname, Bulsara, to Mercury.
28. Mercury designed Queen’s logo, called the Queen crest, shortly before the release of the band’s first album.
29. The logo combines the zodiac signs of all four members: two lions for Leo (Deacon and Taylor), a crab for Cancer (May), and two fairies for Virgo (Mercury).
The lions embrace a stylised letter Q, the crab rests atop the letter with flames rising directly above it, and the fairies are each sheltering below a lion.
30. There is also a crown inside the Q and the whole logo is over-shadowed by an enormous phoenix. The whole symbol bears a passing resemblance to the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, particularly with the lion supporters.
31. Although Mercury’s speaking voice naturally fell in the baritone range, he delivered most songs in the tenor range.
32. His known vocal range extended from bass low F (F2) to soprano high F (F6). He could belt up to tenor high F (F5).
33. Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé, with whom Mercury recorded an album, expressed her opinion that “the difference between Freddie and almost all the other rock stars was that he was selling the voice.” She adds,
34. His technique was astonishing. No problem of tempo, he sang with an incisive sense of rhythm, his vocal placement was very good and he was able to glide effortlessly from a register to another.
35. He also had a great musicality. His phrasing was subtle, delicate and sweet or energetic and slamming. He was able to find the right colouring or expressive nuance for each word.
36. The Who lead singer Roger Daltrey called Mercury “the best virtuoso rock ‘n’ roll singer of all time. He could sing anything in any style. He could change his style from line to line and, God, that’s an art. And he was brilliant at it.”
37. A research team undertook a study in 2016 to understand the appeal behind Mercury’s voice. Led by Professor Christian Herbst, the team noted his notably faster vibrato and use of subharmonics, particularly in comparison to opera singers. The research team studied vocal samples from 23 commercially available Queen recordings, his solo work, and a series of interviews of the late artist. They also used an endoscopic video camera to study a rock singer brought in to imitate Mercury’s singing voice.
38. Mercury was noted for his live performances, which were often delivered to stadium audiences around the world. He displayed a highly theatrical style that often evoked a great deal of participation from the crowd.
39. A writer for The Spectator described him as “a performer out to tease, shock and ultimately charm his audience with various extravagant versions of himself.
40. In the early 1970s, Mercury had a long-term relationship with Mary Austin, whom he met through guitarist Brian May.
41. He lived with Austin for several years in West Kensington, London.
42. By the mid-1970s, the singer had begun an affair with a male American record executive at Elektra Records and, in December 1976, Mercury told Austin of his sexuality, which ended their romantic relationship.
43. Mercury moved out of the flat they shared, into 12 Stafford Terrace in Kensington and bought Austin a place of her own nearby.
44. Τhey remained close friends through the years, with Mercury often referring to her as his only true friend.
45. In a 1985 interview, Mercury said of Austin, “All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary [Austin], but it’s simply impossible. The only friend I’ve got is Mary and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.”
46. He also wrote several songs about Austin, the most notable of which is “Love of My Life.”
47. Mercury’s final home, Garden Lodge, 1 Logan Place, a twenty-eight room Georgian mansion in Kensington set in a quarter-acre manicured garden surrounded by a high brick wall, had been picked out by Austin.
48. In his will, Mercury left his London home to Austin, rather than his partner Jim Hutton, saying to her, “You would have been my wife and it would have been yours anyway.
49. Mercury was also the godfather of Austin’s oldest son, Richard.
50. During the early- to mid-1980s, he was romantically involved with Barbara Valentin, an Austrian actress, who is featured in the video for “It’s a Hard Life”.
51. By 1985, he began another long-term relationship with hairdresser Jim Hutton (1949–2010).
52. Hutton, who was tested HIV-positive in 1990, lived with Mercury for the last six years of his life, nursed him during his illness and was present at his bedside when he died. Hutton said Mercury died wearing the wedding band that Hutton had given him.
53. Radio DJ Kenny Everett first met Mercury in 1974 when he invited the singer onto his breakfast show on Capital London.
54. As two of Britain’s most flamboyant, outrageous and best-loved entertainers, they shared much in common and instantly became close friends. Everett would play a major role in Queen’s early success when, in 1975, armed with an advance copy of the single “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Mercury went to see Everett.
55. While privately Everett doubted any station would play the song due to its length at over 6 minutes, he said nothing to Mercury and placed the song on the turntable, and, after hearing it, enthused: “forget it, it’s going to be number one for centuries”.
56. While Capital Radio hadn’t officially accepted the song, the anarchic Everett would talk incessantly about a record he had but couldn’t play, before the song “accidentally” started playing, with Everett stating: “Oops, my finger must’ve slipped.”
57. Capital’s switchboard was jammed with callers wanting to know when the song was going to be released – on one occasion Everett aired the song 36 times in one day.
58. During the 1970s, their friendship became closer, with Everett becoming advisor and mentor to Mercury, and Mercury as Everett’s confidante, helping him to accept his sexuality.
59. Throughout the early- to mid-1980s, they continued to explore their homosexuality, as well as experimenting in drugs, and although they were never lovers, they did experience London night life on a regular basis together.
60. By 1985, they had fallen out over a disagreement on their using and sharing of drugs, and their friendship was further strained when Everett was outed by his biographer Audrey Lee “Lady Lee” Middleton, with Mercury taking Lee’s side.
61. With both suffering from failing health, Mercury and Everett started talking again in 1989, and they were able to reconcile their differences.
62. While some commentators claimed Mercury hid his sexual orientation from the public, others claimed he was “openly gay.”
63. Homosexual acts between adult males over the age of 21 were decriminalised in the United Kingdom in 1967, only seven years earlier.
64. In the 1980s, he would often distance himself from his partner, Jim Hutton, during public events.
65. In October 1986, The Sun claimed Mercury had “confessed to a string of one-night gay sex affairs.”
66. During his career, Mercury’s flamboyant stage performances sometimes led journalists to allude to his sexuality.
67. In 1992, John Marshall of Gay Times expressed the following opinion: “[Mercury] was a ‘scene-queen,’ not afraid to publicly express his gayness, but unwilling to analyse or justify his ‘lifestyle’… It was as if Freddie Mercury was saying to the world, ‘I am what I am. So what?’ And that in itself for some was a statement.”
68. In an article for AfterElton, Robert Urban stated: “Mercury did not ally himself to ‘political outness,’ or to LGBT causes.”
69. Although he cultivated a flamboyant stage personality, Mercury was shy and retiring when not performing, particularly around people he did not know well, and granted very few interviews. Mercury once said of himself: “When I’m performing I’m an extrovert, yet inside I’m a completely different man.”
70. While on stage, Mercury basked in the love from his audience, Kurt Cobain’s suicide note mentions how he both admired and envied the way Mercury “seemed to love, relish in the love and adoration from the crowd.”
71. In 1987 Mercury celebrated his 41st birthday at the Pikes Hotel, Ibiza, several months after discovering that he had contracted HIV.
72. Mercury sought much comfort at the retreat and was a close friend of the owner, Anthony Pike, who described Mercury as “the most beautiful person I’ve ever met in my life. So entertaining and generous.”
73. According to biographer Lesley-Ann Jones, Mercury “felt very much at home there. He played some tennis, lounged by the pool, and ventured out to the odd gay club or bar at night.”
74. The party, held on 5 September 1987, has been described as “the most incredible example of excess the Mediterranean island had ever seen,” and was attended by some 700 people.
75. In October 1986 the British press reported that Mercury had his blood tested for HIV/AIDS at a Harley Street clinic.
76. A reporter for The Sun, Hugh Whittow, questioned Mercury about the story at Heathrow Airport as he was returning from a trip to Japan. Mercury denied he had a sexually transmitted disease.
77. According to his partner Jim Hutton, Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS shortly after Easter of 1987.
78. Around that time, Mercury claimed in an interview to have tested negative for HIV.
79. Despite the denials, the British press pursued the rampant rumours over the next few years, fuelled by Mercury’s increasingly gaunt appearance, Queen’s absence from touring and reports from former lovers to various tabloid journals – by 1990 the rumours about Mercury’s health were rife.
80. At the 1990 Brit Awards held at the Dominion Theatre, London, on 18 February, a visibly frail Mercury made his final public appearance on stage when he joined the rest of Queen to collect the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
81. Towards the end of his life, he was routinely stalked by photographers, while The Sun featured a series of articles claiming that he was ill, notably in an article from November 1990 that featured an image of a haggard-looking Mercury on the front page accompanied by the headline, “It’s official – Freddie is seriously ill.”
82. However, Mercury and his inner circle of colleagues and friends, whom he felt he could trust, continually denied the stories, even after one front page article published on 29 April 1991, showed Mercury appearing very haggard in what was by then a rare public appearance.
83. It has been suggested that he could have made a contribution to AIDS awareness by speaking earlier about his situation and his fight against the disease.
84. Mercury kept his condition private to protect those closest to him, with Brian May confirming in a 1993 interview he had informed the band of his illness much earlier.
85. Filmed in May 1991, the music video for “These Are the Days of Our Lives” features a very thin Mercury, in what are his final scenes in front of the camera.
86. The rest of the band were ready to record when Mercury felt able to come in to the studio, for an hour or two at a time.
87. May says of Mercury: “He just kept saying. ‘Write me more. Write me stuff. I want to just sing this and do it and when I am gone you can finish it off.’ He had no fear, really.”
88. After the conclusion of his work with Queen in June 1991 Mercury retired to his home in Kensington, west London.
89. His former partner, Mary Austin, had been a particular comfort in his final years, and in the last few weeks of his life made regular visits to his home to look after him.
90. Near the end of his life Mercury was starting to lose his sight, and he deteriorated to the point where he could not get out of bed.
91. Due to his worsening condition, Mercury decided to hasten his death by refusing to take his medication and continued taking only painkillers.
92. On 22 November 1991, Mercury called Queen’s manager Jim Beach over to his Kensington home to discuss a public statement. The next day the following announcement was made to the international press on behalf of Mercury:
“Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.”
93. On the evening of 24 November 1991, just over 24 hours after issuing that statement, Mercury died at the age of 45 at his home in Kensington.
94. The official cause of death was bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.
95. Mercury’s close friend, Dave Clark of The Dave Clark Five, had taken over the bedside vigil when he died.
96. Austin phoned Mercury’s parents and sister to break the news of his death, which reached newspaper and television crews by the early hours of 25 November.
97. On 27 November, Mercury’s funeral service was conducted by a Zoroastrian priest.
98. In attendance at Mercury’s service were his family and 35 of his close friends, including the remaining members of Queen and Elton John.
99. His coffin was carried into the chapel to the sounds of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”/”You’ve Got a Friend” by Aretha Franklin.
100. Mercury was cremated at Kensal Green Cemetery, west London. In accordance with Mercury’s wishes, Mary Austin took possession of his ashes and buried them in an undisclosed location. The whereabouts of his ashes are believed to be known only to Austin, who has stated that she will never reveal where she buried them.
101. Austin continues to live at Mercury’s former home, Garden Lodge, Kensington, with her family. The outer walls of Garden Lodge in 1 Logan Place became a shrine to Mercury following his death, with mourners paying tribute by covering the walls in graffiti messages.
102. Three years after his death, Time Out magazine reported, “Since Freddie’s death, the wall outside the house has become London’s biggest rock ‘n’ roll shrine.”
103. Today fans continue to visit to pay their respects with messages in letters appearing on the walls. Hutton was involved in a 2000 biography of Mercury, Freddie Mercury, the Untold Story, and also gave an interview for The Times in November 2006 for what would have been Mercury’s 60th birthday.