Freddie Mercury's Story: The Queen Singer's Most Legendary Moments
Written by Brian Gilmore
Freddie Mercury touched the lives of millions when he sang that legendary set at Live Aid in 1985. But before that, and after that, the Freddie Mercury story gets a lot weirder, extremely devastating, and shows you why they've even made a movie about the Queen singer's most legendary moments titled "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Freddie Mercury And Michael Jackson Recorded A Duet Together
Throughout his life, Freddie Mercury made a prolific amount of music, spending his last time on earth recording as many songs as he could, knowing that he was dying, so that his band Queen could finish the upon his death. He could command an entire stadium full of people using only his voice in between songs, and fill up a stage as the icon that he was. The following are the best, worst, weirdest, funniest, and just all-around greatest, mostly unknown moments created by a man who lived, breathed, and died rock n' roll.
From the moment he hit the stage at Live Aid, for example, he sat down at the piano to start it off huge, which are two phrases that don't even really go together unless you're Elton John (or, apparently, Freddie Mercury). If you went back in time just to see Queen, because why not, you'd have all the time in the world, you would never guess that he opened with the "mama, just killed a man" part of Bohemian Rhapsody. That's how they opened. If planet earth had a last concert on earth, that is likely the song that would bring it all to an end. And that was just how it opened in Live Aid of 1985. But just that part. Not all of it. Just that part. Freddie Mercury's showmanship is almost unparalleled in that he played with people's emotions not by manipulating them, but by lifting their hearts before playing one of the most well-loved, inspiring, and beautiful sets that have ever been played in public by any band at all.
Through his fame, through his music, and encompassing what people dreamed a rock star could be, Freddie Mercury became a rock god in his career despite having some baselines physical flaws, to the point where his friends in school casually, lovingly called him "buck tooth." He was the hardest man to hate, and the easiest man to love, which went to show everyone that despite any flaws you have, despite some very very real prejudice about anything you may be, and despite the fact that you're really, really weird, you can be a world famous icon who will be remembered for as long as society is even a thing. Here are some great photos of Freddie Mercury exemplifying some of the craziest stories, greatest moments, and awesome, wonderful acts that made him not only the best singer in rock history, but a champion for humanity.
Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson recorded a duet for the song "There Must Be More to Life Than This," together while they were in the studio together, though the song was not released til way later on Mr. Bad Guy, Mercury's first solo album. In fact, Michael Jackson once cited Hot Space as a "major sonic influence" for his Thriller album.
He Slept With A Piano Headboard, So That Songs Never Escaped Him In The Night
This is actually how he started writing Bohemian Rhapsody. Freddie Mercury used a piano as a headboard just in case a song came to him in the middle of the night. Everyone has been there at some point, late at night, something occurs to them that wakes them up, and by the time the morning comes the thought is gone. Since melodies, songs, and lyrics were such an integral part of Mercury's genius, no thought could be lost, and hey, the world got one of the best songs ever written out of it.
Freddie Mercury's Vibrato Was Scientifically Extraordinary
According to a 2016 study, Freddie Mercury's voice was more than just amazing and pleasing to the ear. It was actually, scientifically, not normal. "While a typical vibrato will fluctuate between 5.4Hz and 6.9Hz, Mercury's was 7.04Hz. Or, his vocal cords even moved faster than the average singer's.
When Princess Diana wanted to go to a famous local gay bar, Freddie Mercury got her in by dressing her up as a man
One day Princess Diana, Freddie Mercury, Cleo Rocos, and their friend were sitting around watching Golden Girls reruns on mute while drinking champagne and giving all the scenes more "naughty" subplots. Naturally, this kind of night generally turns into something completely different, and this time, it happened that the crew was going to head out to a local South London gay bar famous for its bar fights. But clearly, Diana couldn't go because she was one of the most famous people in the world and every move she made was scrutinized in the mid-'80s. So, when the rest of the group had expressed their hesitance, Freddie Mercury, the deciding vote said: "Go on, let the girl have some fun." So they dressed her in a military jacket, sunglasses, and a leather cap. She was able to sit alone for twenty minutes in pure glee, drinking beer and wine, while the other three were mobbed because of who they were. They left safely and Princess Diana said that they should do it again sometime.
He Actually Had Four Extra Teeth
Although Freddie Mercury owned every fiber of his being and never apologized for being who he was, and his famous overbite was something that bothered him when he was off-stage. He could be seen covering his mouth when he laughed in public, and always used to cover his teeth with the top of his mouth when he talked. He reportedly has four extra teeth that were pushing his front teeth as far up as they went, but he had a belief that part of the iconic sound of his voice was due to the exact nature of his mouth. So, he never had them fixed, because if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Freddie Mercury Probably Hit On Bono
One of the most tragic parts of Freddie Mercury's life was the time period he was born into and that he couldn't be himself, trying his hardest to make relationships work with women throughout his life (one of which was his best friend until his death). While U2 was also playing Live Aid, he was later interviewed saying that he'd met Mercury backstage. Bono said, "Freddie pulled me aside and said, 'Oh Bono, is it Bo-No or Boh-Noh?' I told him, 'It's Bah-Noh.' I was up against a wall, and he put his hand on the wall and was talking to me like he was chatting up a chick. I thought, 'Wow, this guy's really camp.'"
He certainly was.
Freddie Mercury Got On Darth Vader's Shoulders, But Not To Promote Star Wars
You've inevitably heard this rumor. Freddie Mercury, at the height of his fame, was "promoting Star Wars" by bringing Darth Vader out during a Queen show. This is, unfortunately not true. Enter rock photographer Tom Callins, who took the shot in August of 1980. Callins said: "It was during the encore, and it was during “We Will Rock You.” And he came out sitting on Darth’s shoulders. I guess it was a shtick he did that tour, because I’ve seen other photos of other shows. But I just happened to be at the right angle at the right place in front of the stage to get the shot."
Freddie Mercury's Mustache Was So Controversial People Threw Razors On Stage
People were reportedly throwing razors on stage because of Freddie Mercury's mustache, to which he didn't care one bit. He once told a crowd, while being recorded:
"Do you girls like this mustache? Do you boys like the mustache? A lot of people hate it, I don't give a ****. It's my mustache and I'm going to keep it."
The Lyrics To Bohemian Rhapsody Are Still A Mystery
Every reasonably well-researched assessment of what the hell Bohemian Rhapsody is even about coming from that part in the middle there where he starts calling upon various deities and speaking to what feels like a court of some kind. The BBC did a great job of really breaking it down, but most fans really take it as a positively cacophonous experience that is about what most songs are: love, loss, disappointment, redemption, and just great melodies. The supposed tongue-in-cheek nature of the middle has been seen as "not really mattering," but there's a hidden depth there. The way Freddie Mercury put it: "It's one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it. I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them."
Part Of What Made Bohemian Rhapsody Sound So Huge Was A Beatles' Method
Double-tracking is pretty standard these days, overall, in the case of vocal recordings meaning that the same notes are sung by the same singer, but just on top of each other for effect. The Beatles pioneered this kind of double-tracking, which they then taught to Michael Jackson, who, along with Queen, used this method to add a slightly different expression to the right parts of a song. The "so you think you can love me and leave me to die" part was supposed to originally go down in bitch or stay the same at the end of the phrase. When he sends it up into higher notes at the end there, it's part of what gives the end its gritty, dirty, and upliftingly badass flavor at the end of the song.
He Dedicated An Album To His Cat
As if Freddie Mercury weren't already everyone's favorite person in the history of the world, it turns out that he apparently had like ten cats. They were named Tiffany, Romeo, Delilah, Tom, Jerry, and more. His first solo album Mr. Bad Guy was actually dedicated to his two first cats Tom and Jerry and "all the cat lovers across the universe." He even had photos of his cats made into a waistcoat.
When Sick, He Once Vowed To Sing Until He Bled
Being the legend that he was, Freddie Mercury was really bad at letting his failing health get in his way. He spent most of his last days channeling as much as he could into his music. Queen Guitarist Brian May said that some of his last time on earth was spent feeling "strangely enough..." joy. He would regularly come in for a few hours, get tired, then have to stop, but for the few hours that he would be in the studio, you would never know that he was terminally ill. When someone doubted him or asked him to take care of himself or to stop he once said: "I'll sing it till I ****ing bleed."
He Wrote A Crazy Little Thing Called Love In A Hotel Bath Tub
Baths in a hotel are always kind of a nice luxury, but people usually aren't very productive in them. While he was in a hotel tub, he got inspired, as he usually did (see the keyboard headrest entry for more on this), and requested a piano be brought to the very tub where he was sitting. That's about as rock star as it gets.
Freddie Mercury Didn't Think He Was A Very Good Piano Player
As Queen guitarist Brian May told the BBC, it turns out the riff that people know causes headbanging thanks to Wayne's World was actually originally supposed to be played by Freddie Mercury on the piano. So Brian May gives Freddie all the credit for the riff, even though his guitar playing was impeccable because Freddie was playing it, originally, all in octaves on the piano. So that ending guitar riff would not have been there had it not been for Freddie Mercury's shyness about playing the piano. According to May, "I had that as a guide - and that's very hard to do, because Freddie's piano playing was exceptional, although he didn't think so. In fact, he thought he was a bit of a mediocre piano player and stopped doing it later on in our career."
The Microphone He Always Used Was Originally A Mistake
We've all used a mic stand at one time or another, even if it's just for a wedding speech or karaoke. Those things are rarely made very well. One time, when Freddie Mercury was lifting one off the ground, the mic stand broke in half, and he used it for the rest of a concert. After that time he started using the mic that way for the rest of his career.
Freddie Mercury Saw Live Aid As A Competition And Loved It
Freddie Mercury was part of the A-List musical lineup that made up the Live Aid concert of 1985, raising money and awareness for hunger in Ethiopia. Seeing Paul McCartney, Bono, Madonna, and every legendary act you could think of giving it their all gave him a thrill. He said they'd "be trying to outdo each other, which will cause a bit of friction. It makes me personally proud to be a part of it." Mercury went on to say that he felt like he was part of something that would make everything he'd "done over the years... [pay] off."
This is a video of the entire performance. The way they open the set is one of the greatest things you'll ever see.
He Designed Queen's Symbol
The symbol for Queen is an iconic piece of art that is recognizable anywhere in the world. It was, in fact, made by Freddie Mercury himself. Because he had an art and graphic design degree from Ealing Art College, he was able to masterfully craft what the band would be known for visually for the rest of time. The symbol is an amalgam of everyone in the band's zodiac signs. So that's a Cancer crab for guitarist Brian May, two fairies representing the Virgo sign for Freddie, and two lions for the Leos in the group Roger Taylor and John Deacon.
His Friends Used To, Lovingly, Call Him "Bucky"
Freddie Mercury was always as great as he was on stage, even if just it was just for his childhood friends. They remembered him as a "12-year-old prodigy" who gave them someone to look up to. And, of course, they lovingly called him "Bucky" because of his famous "buck" teeth.
His Family Was Zoroastrian
One of the actual oldest monotheistic religions in human history, Zoroastrianism deals with the duality of everything, i.e. the existence of good and evil, as Christianity does, and the eventual destruction of evil. More on that here, it's pretty interesting. He wasn't an actively practicing member of their religion, but his funeral was performed by a Zoroastrian priest.
Freddie Mercury Recorded "The Show Must Go On" While Being Completely Immobile
Ironically, Freddie Mercury recorded the song "The Show Must Go On" while he couldn't even walk.
Live Aid Was Actually Redemption For Queen
While Queen was one of the biggest bands in the world at the time of the 1985 Live Aid concert, their star was thought to have begun to fade. They played with so many different styles of music that they seemed to have alienated a lot of their audience, and after they played in Apartheid Africa, which Rolling Stone called a "mind-stopping error of judgment," nobody thought they would storm the stage the way they did. Known as one of the greatest sets in rock history, they did not disappoint and left the world with the gold standard of what it is to really play a rock show.
Freddie Mercury Used To Work At Heathrow Airport
Freddie Mercury used to be a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport, and to celebrate what would have been Freddie Mercury's 72nd birthday in 2018, the current baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport choreographed a dance to "I Want To Break Free."
He Left His Estate To His Long-Time Girlfriend
There was one person who was there for Freddie throughout his entire life. They dated, but they really stuck through the best and worst together. They, of course, split up when he came out, at least to her, but she stuck with him until the very end. So, he left her most of his estate, including his London mansion.
The Famous Call And Response From Live Aid Was Spontaneous
Freddie Mercury was born to play on stage while the world looked on. Airing all over the world, and spanning their career, and opening with their most famous song, Queen proceeded to play Radio Ga Ga second, after which the Wemberly Stadium crowd of 72,000 kept singing the chorus after it was already over. This led to the video you no doubt have seen of Freddie Mercury commanding a crowd with only his voice.
Freddie Mercury's Birth Name Was Farrokh Bulsara
When Freddie Mercury described that one day he would become "Mother Mercury," he thought he'd gone mad. Later, he legally changed his name to Freddie Mercury when they started Queen in the '70s.
Freddie Mercury Has A Species Of Flower Named After Him
There's a beautiful kind of flower that blooms during the summer, which is a golden yellow with red around the edges called Rose Freddie Mercury. Yellow roses were his favorite while he was alive, so fans raised over $2,000 to have a new species of yellow rose named after him.
For Live Aid, Queen Requested A Time Slot So The World Could See
While time slots as music festivals today are pretty much the record and PR industries' Olympics, Queen was able to request a time slot they wanted. Every band from Paul McCartney to U2 to Madonna did the same, but the way Queen thought of it was right at the beginning of the UK time slot in primetime. That would make it 2 PM in Washington DC, and a comfortable 11 AM on the West Coast. Over one billion people saw the concert.
He Collected Stamps
Known as being a philatelist, even though he was one of the most famous people in the world, with the coolest job in the world, he collected stamps.
Freddie Mercury Was Not Nervous To Sing In Front Of The Whole World
Over one billion people saw the Live Aid concert. It was the biggest concert that had ever been put together up to then, and maybe the biggest one that will ever be put on given the iconic bands that played there. Brian May, in one of what must be a million interviews he's given since Freddie Mercury's death, said that Freddie took a huge drink of his drink and then:
"I remember a huge rush of adrenaline as I went on stage and a massive roar from the crowd, and then all of us just pitching in... I remember coming off and thinking it was very scrappy. Freddie was our secret weapon. He was able to reach out to everybody in that stadium effortlessly, and I think it was really his night..."
Montreux Made A Statue Of Freddie Mercury Because He Loved The City So Much
When Queen went to record the album "Jazz" in Montreux, Switzerland's Jazz Festival, he fell in love with the city of Montreux and decided to stay there. Montreux is a city in Switzerland, where he fell in love with the lake, bought a flat, and decided to even get a recording studio there. That studio is where Queen recorded their last album aptly titled "Made In Heaven."
His Favorite Queen Song Was Somebody To Love, Written By Him
Freddie Mercury loved the song "Somebody To Love" so much that he kept it a secret for a very long time, and often avoided the question altogether because he didn't want people to take his words as arrogance or narcissism, as other songs were written by other band members. He was an artist who always strived to recreate the love he had for music for people to share with him, and if he did that for himself there's really nothing wrong with that. Also, it's a great song.
His Favorite Artists Were Jimi Hendrix And Aretha Franklin
Not only known for being a famous showman himself, but he also admired some of the world's biggest personalities, taking influence and even going on record to say that his favorite artists were Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix.
Bohemian Rhapsody Can Even Be Interpreted Literally
The logic in this webcomic is pretty flawless, actually.
Freddie Brushed Aside The Gay Implications Of The Band Name
Freddie was quoted as not noting the band name reflected his sexuality, but rather a variety of other factors too. They all worked in harmony to create one great word. "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. Always unapologetically himself.
The Last Song He Was Able To Record Was "Mother Love"
Brian May's account of the final songs he was able to record says that Freddie wanted to keep recording until the very end. He said "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."
Freddie Mercury Probably Knew He Was Dying Much Before He Told People
A famous quote coming from him went "What will I be doing in twenty years' time? I'll be dead, darling! Are you crazy?" Which is just so him, so charming, and a morbid way to forecast the fact that he knew, or at least had an inkling, that he wouldn't last too long.
Freddie Mercury Only Announced He Had AIDS A Day Before His Death
Much like David Bowie and his commitment to his art, to his fans, and to the world despite his health, Freddie Mercury waited until the last minute to tell the world, via his manager, that he had AIDS. He let everyone know the day before he died. As he said, "the show must go on." More importantly, like a lot of his songs, even if they happened decades before his death, they always had a universal relatability, the lyrics to "Don't Stop Me Now" come to mind. "Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time, I'm having a ball."
Freddie Mercury Decided When He Was Going To Die
As his condition got worse and worse, he became frustrated with the process of it all. He never wanted people to see him suffer, and he didn't want to suffer. A good performer knows when and how to go out when they need to. And Freddie Mercury did just that. He decided to speed up his death when he started refusing to take his medications (except for the painkillers) leading up to the end.
Freddie Mercury Was Buried To The Tune Of His Favorite Voice
It was known that Jimi Hendrix and Aretha Franklin were Freddie's favorite artists, so it was only natural, that during his procession, people carried his coffin to the song "Take My Hand, Precious Lord/You've Got A Friend." One of Aretha Franklin's most well-loved songs. And also with some tongue-in-cheek lyrics for a funeral. It also ends with an uplifting chorus and completely turns around after being dreary, but hopeful throughout.
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