November 24, 2021, marks the 30th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s passing, and he left behind an incredible legacy of songs that many of us think of as timeless. He made a bold impression on the music world. His death caused by AIDS shook the world just one day after he announced he
had the virus.
I have listened to Queen growing up with my siblings over the years. My interest in Queen’s music and Freddie Mercury’s story became deeper after seeing Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). When I learned the history of the songs and the band’s formation, I felt a deeper appreciation for Queen.
Development of Queen
The formation of Queen started in the 1970s when Freddie Mercury (known as Farrokh Bulsara at the time) met Brian May and Roger Taylor, whose lead singer had quit on them. The band’s previous name was Smile. In 1971, John Deacon joined Queen. Not so long after, Freddie Mercury came up with the name Queen and its legendary logo (still famous 50 years later!!). The design is impressive, intricate and bold, with a lot of thought to it. I read an article that the logo represents the astrological symbols of each member: John Deacon and Roger Taylor are Leo (represented by two lions), Brian May is Cancer (Crab symbol) and Virgo for Freddie Mercury. The detail going into the design is striking.
The 70s were an incredible decade for Queen, and the band was touring all over the world. Their famous hits included Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, and Don’t Stop Me Now.
Release of Bohemian Rhapsody
Freddie Mercury wrote the song Bohemian Rhapsody during the Summer of 1975. He recorded the song with the group while staying at his flat. There have been attempts to get radio stations and music labels to play it in its entirety of 5 minutes and 55 seconds. Some stations played a shortened version. Eventually, the full version played on the radio. It was number one for 24 weeks, according to sources.
For a brief period, Freddie Mercury went on to make a solo music career. He released two albums, Mr. Bad Guy (1985) and Barcelona (1988). Some of his singles included Living On My Own, The Great Pretender, and I Was Born to Love You. When he recorded the two albums (back to back), he lived in Munich, Germany. However, Queen didn’t split as a group but took a break. The other members also ventured into solo careers during that time.
Queen continued to be musically active in the 80s, along with their success – more hits came, including Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites the Dust. The band did a soundtrack for Flash Gordon with their song Flash. Queen recorded the song Under Pressure with David Bowie in 1981, and it happened by fluke when he passed by the studios, according to sources. The band did more tours up until 1986, in which Queen did their final concert with Freddie Mercury.
Freddie Mercury’s legendary moment was at Live Aid on July 13, 1985, as part of Queen with the famous 20-minute plus performance. It was a passionate and upbeat performance for the Rock band, and Freddie Mercury worked the crowd, including his famous “ay-oh,” a classic moment for the Queen frontman.
A Telus commercial refers to it, and sometimes it includes the “alright” moment.
AIDS Diagnosis and Final Years
Things changed for Freddie Mercury in the late 80s when he found out he tested positive for HIV/AIDS. Some say people suspected something was wrong, but he denied it. His final appearance at an event was in 1990, one year before his passing. The last album Freddie Mercury recorded with Queen was Innuendo. He kept his diagnosis private until 1991, and he continued to work with Queen and never discussed his illness. Freddie Mercury revealed his AIDS diagnosis on November 23, 1991. Then, the following day, he passed away on November 24, in his home in Kensington, UK.
Side Note: I remember reading about John Deacon and that he retired after Freddie Mercury’s passing because it deeply affected him.
Freddie Mercury’s legacy is profound and impactful. His creativity, whether with Queen or solo, was remarkable and intricate. Besides Rock, he covered many musical genres in his songs and composed with Queen and his solo albums. His vocal range was impressive and rich. He sang with passion, heart and soul. Like Rami Malek said in his speech when he won the Oscar for Best Actor, portraying the late frontman in 2019: “he lived his life just unapologetically.” He was authentic and genuine, true to who he was. His impact on the music scene is honoured with admiration -Freddie Mercury remains an inspiration to all. The influence of Freddie Mercury and Queen’s legacies is indescribable.
The popularity of Queen remains influential to this day. An early example is Wayne’s World (1992) with the opening sequence, and Mike Myers had determination and perseverance to request to play the full version of Bohemian Rhapsody in the movie. Some sources say that Freddie Mercury received a copy of the film and saw the opening sequence before his passing in 1991.
1992 Tribute Concert
On April 20, 1992, there was a star-studded tribute concert to Freddie Mercury to raise money for the organization of AIDS awareness. It took place at Wembley Stadium. Artists, including Elton John, David Bowie, George Michael and Lizza Minelli. The show had incredible performances, from covers of Queen songs to artists performing their original hits. The celebration was touching and well-done. In May 2020, for 48 hours, Queen and Freddie Mercury fans could watch the concert, which was epic, and it felt like I was there.
Bohemian Rhapsody – The Movie
In 2018, the movie Bohemian Rhapsody came out, and it revived Queen’s music. It stars Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, whose portrayal won him an Academy Award, and the resemblance was remarkable. I had moments where I thought I was watching, thinking it was Freddie Mercury, then realized it was Rami Malek. The film also stars Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joe Mazzello. The cast was incredible in the movie. I heard the favourite sequence was the Live Aid. I heard that Rami Malek watched the video many and got help from movement coach Polly Bennett, following the exact moves of Freddie Mercury. I saw on Youtube a comparison between the movie and the original Live Aid footage. It was impressively accurate! Through this film, I learned about who Freddie Mercury was and how he impacted the music scene. I connected with him in some ways because of his skills in graphic design. He had a vision and never gave up on his dream.
*Mike Meyers’ appearances in two separate movie scenes were moments that added some comic relief.
*I read an article that Rami Malek met Freddie Mercury’s sister during the movie’s shooting.
Pop Culture References
Queen’s music has been in TV commercials, and I especially noticed it in the last three years. Some artists did parodies/covers of songs by Queen, and I even saw some during the lockdown when the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020. I remember an episode from The Simpsons at the end, where Homer and Cletus did a lovely parody of You’re My Best Friend, which was touching and sweet. I also noticed the memes on social media that reference Queen in recent years, including one of a job scenario that says, “Can you perform Under Pressure” then the answer is “No, but I know a little Bohemian Rhapsody.” Queen and Freddie Mercury had and still have an incredible impact on Pop culture to this day.
Here are artists who did remakes of Queen’s songs, including Five – We Will Rock You, Michael Bublé – Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Celine Dion’s – The Show Must Go On,
In February 2020, I saw a French program about music, including an appearance of a Queen cover band that came on the show performing Don’t Stop Me Now.
In the Summer of 2021, A Canadian and Québecois singer named Yvan Pedneault, who does tribute concerts for Queen and Freddie Mercury, did a virtual show performing hits by Queen and Freddie Mercury. He did a fantastic job of honouring the Rockband and the Queen Frontman. Yvan Pedneault shared his personal story regarding his love for Queen and how he got to perform their classic hits.
The Man Few People Know
I read recently that the diva image of Freddie Mercury was not the reality. I heard about a story of his final days when he bought Christmas presents for friends, even though he was sick and dying. The woman received her gift a month after he died. Freddie Mercury took care of presents, despite knowing he may not make it for the holidays. Also, I watched various interviews with Rami Malek, describing how Freddie Mercury was a generous human being, creative and loving, etc. Whether from the movie or multiple sources, these stories demonstrate the diverse facets of the late Freddie Mercury.
Personal Thank You
I want to say a personal thank you to Freddie Mercury for his contribution to music. He had incredible talent with a remarkable vocal range that no one could match. The songs he wrote and composed were a “think outside the box” way of working. Freddie Mercury impacted people’s lives, not just musically but also personally. His artistry was rich, bold and dynamic. His music, appreciated by many, lives on. When the movie Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) came out, I was studying Graphic Design, which led me to do three projects where Queen and Freddie Mercury were my sources of inspiration in 2018 and 2019. Queen’s music has reached me deeply since the film’s release and got me through challenging times.
Rest in Peace and Power, Freddie Mercury.