Remembering Freddie Mercury
Twenty years ago, the world not only lost a great personality, a true showman, but lost the best. Freddie was brilliant, his legacy is incomparable. As David Bowie said, he was definitely a man who could hold an audience in the palm of his hand. Rest in peace, dear. We will always miss you.
Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara (Gujarati: àª«àª¾àª°à«‹àª– àª¬àª²à«àª¸àª¾àª°àª¾â€Œ), 5 September 1946 â€“ 24 November 1991) was a British musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. As a performer, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and powerful vocals over a four-octave range. As a songwriter, Mercury composed many hits for Queen, including “Bohemian Rhapsody“, “Killer Queen“, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “We Are the Champions“. In addition to his work with Queen, he led a solo career, penning hits such as “Barcelona“, “I Was Born to Love You” and “Living on My Own“. Mercury also occasionally served as a producer and guest musician (piano or vocals) for other artists. He died of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS on 24 November 1991, only one day after publicly acknowledging he had the disease.
Mercury was a Parsi born in Zanzibar and grew up there and in India until his mid-teens. He has been referred to as “Britain’s first Asian rock star”.In 2006, Time Asia named him one of the most influential Asian heroes of the past 60 years, and he continues to be voted one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music. In 2005, a poll organised by Blender and MTV2 saw Mercury voted the greatest male singer of all time. In 2008, Rolling Stoneeditors ranked him number 18 on their list of the 100 greatest singers of all time.In 2009, a Classic Rock poll saw him voted the greatest rock singer of all time.Allmusic has characterised Mercury as “one of rock’s greatest all-time entertainers”, who possessed “one of the greatest voices in all of music”.
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. 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”. David Bowie, who performed at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and recorded the song “Under Pressure” with Queen, praised Mercury’s performance style, saying: “Of all the more theatrical rock performers, Freddie took it further than the rest… he took it over the edge. And of course, I always admired a man who wears tights. I only saw him in concert once and as they say, he was definitely a man who could hold an audience in the palm of his hand.” Queen guitarist Brian May wrote that Mercury could make “the last person at the back of the furthest stand in a stadium feel that he was connected.”
One of Mercury’s most notable performances with Queen took place at Live Aid in 1985, during which the entire stadium audience of 72,000 people clapped, sang and swayed in unison. Queen’s performance at the event has since been voted by a group of music executives as the greatest live performance in the history of rock music. The results were aired on a television program called “The World’s Greatest Gigs”. In reviewing Live Aid in 2005, one critic wrote, “Those who compile lists of Great Rock Frontmen and award the top spots to Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, etc all are guilty of a terrible oversight. Freddie, as evidenced by his Dionysian Live Aid performance, was easily the most godlike of them all.”
Over the course of his career, Mercury performed an estimated 700 concerts in countries around the world with Queen. A notable aspect of Queen concerts was the large scale involved. He once explained, “We’re the Cecil B. DeMille of rock and roll, always wanting to do things bigger and better.” The band was the first ever to play in South American stadiums, breaking worldwide records for concert attendance in the Morumbi Stadium in SÃ£o Paulo in 1981. In 1986, Queen also played behind the Iron Curtain when they performed to a crowd of 80,000 in Budapest, in what was one of the biggest rock concerts ever held in Eastern Europe. Mercury’s final live performance with Queen took place on 9 August 1986 at Knebworth Park in England and drew an attendance estimated as high as 300,000.