Freddie Mercury: As Amazing Off-Stage as On
Posted in Entertainment on Dec 11th, 2018
With the release of his biopic movie Bohemian Rhapsody, an entirely new generation of music lovers will be introduced to the life and talent of the late Freddie Mercury. From his distinctive, versatile vocal range to his iconic mustache, Freddie had a certain je ne sais quoi that drew fans from heavy metal, rock, and easy listening. His songs have stood the test of time and are among some of the best-known tunes in American and British rock history.
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15. Mercury was an Indian frontman
The son of Parsi parents, Freddie was one of very few Indian lead singers to reach mainstream Western musical tastes. He formed his first band with schoolmates in Mumbai and went on to push past Asian racism in the music industry. His birth name was Farrokh Bulsara, and he began going by Freddie during his school days in Mumbai. In 1970, as Queen was forming, Freddie legally changed his name to Freddie Mercury.
14. He and his family practiced Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions still active today. Although Freddie fell out of community practice, his funeral service was still performed by a Zoroastrian priest.
13. Freddie's recorded range was more than four octaves
To put this in more relatable terms, this is a range similar to Mariah Carey (she claims five), a vocalist known for her breathtaking, soaring vocals. This is even more unusual in a male musician, and in 2016, scientists determined to study Freddie’s voice and concluded that his vocal cords moved faster than a regular person’s making it easier for him to shift through the different registers.
12. Freddie designed the famous Queen Crest
A little-known fact is that Freddie has a degree in art and graphic design from Ealing Art College. The crest, developed prior to the band’s first album, features the Zodiac sign of all four members. It centers around a stylized letter Q and harkens to the English royal crest with lion supports on either side. Each band member is represented, with two Leo lions for John Deacon and Roger Taylor, a Cancer crab for Brian May, and two fairies to represent Freddie’s Virgo sign. The Q, of course, represents the band, and a phoenix guards the entire design.
11. Mercury was very shy off stage
Freddie Mercury was notorious for giving few interviews, leading to speculation about hidden aspects of his life. Despite his flamboyant performances on stage – including encouraging audience participation – Freddie was uncomfortable sharing with the public.
10. His "bottomless mic" was an accident
Today’s concert performers climb the rigging, descend from the ceiling of a venue, or run across an entire football field while being unencumbered by a mic on a stand. Freddie’s “baseless mic” was a happy accident. A broken stand at an early Queen concert resulted in his trademark mic. Freddie would go on to perform with a bottomless mic right up until his last stage show in front of an audience in 1990, receiving the BRIT Award alongside his bandmates.
9. He didn't reveal he had AIDS until the day before he died
Speculation about Freddie’s health had been rampant for two years prior to his death in 1991. Queen had stopped touring a few years before, and Freddie’s wasted visage, coupled with the open secret of his homosexuality, led many to assume the worst. However, Freddie and his manager refused to confirm rumors, protecting the star’s privacy.
8. Queen won the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution in 1990
The band took the stage together and performed for the last time as the original four. Although many didn’t know it at the time, this was to be Freddie’s last performance in front of an audience. He died the next year from complications from AIDS. Two years later, in 1992, Mercury received a BRIT Award posthumously for Outstanding Contribution for his own work.
7. He loved cats
Freddie had ten cats at one point and always had multiple felines for pets throughout his life. He even wrote a song about his favorite car on his debut solo album, Mr. Bad Guy. Here’s a bit of it: “Delilah, Delilah, oh my, oh my, oh my – you’re irresistible
You make me smile when I’m just about to cry” His estate took care of the remaining pets he had until they died, instead of rehoming or selling the famous cats.
6. He was known as an avid philatelist
That’s a fancy word for stamp collector, and it dovetails closely with his shy personality off stage. In fact, Freddie spent a considerable amount of his royalties from Queen on rare stamps, and his albums are still displayed by his estate today. As Freddie traveled, he indulged in his collection, both acquiring new items and displaying them. Currently, they’re on display at the Smithsonian.
5. Mercury wrote "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in the tub
Freddie was on tour, and one evening in the hotel tub was struck by inspiration. In fact, he demanded that a piano be brought to him – in the bathroom – so that he could compose what would become one of their best-known hits. So much for singing in the shower!
4. Freddie worked as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport
Long before his glamorous role as Queen’s frontman, Mercury worked as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport. His father worked for the Civil Service, and when the family moved from Tanzania (formerly Zanzibar) to England, Freddie did, as well, and sought employment. On September 5, 2018, several of the baggage carriers at Heathrow took to time aside to celebrate what would have been the star’s 72nd birthday by entertaining passengers and crew with a choreographed dance routine.
3. Mr. Bad Guy was his first solo album
In between touring with Queen, Freddie released a solo album, Mr. Bad Guy. It was launched in 1985 and has eleven songs, all penned by Freddie. True to his cat-loving self, Freddie dedicated the album “to my cat Jerry – also Tim, Oscar, and Tiffany, and all the cat lovers across the universe – screw everybody else.” it’s safe to say that he wasn’t a dog person. The album charted for 23 weeks in the UK, debuting in the Top Ten. It also reached Gold status – probably from the cat lovers across the universe.
2. Mercury recorded several tracks with Michael Jackson
He paired with the star, releasing “State of Shock,” “Victory,” and “There Must Be More To Life Than This” with Michael. He liked collaborating with other artists, and between the two singers, these tracks have some of the most jaw-dropping vocals recorded in pop history. Although these tracks didn’t reach number one, they show a wide range of creativity and collaboration, with emotional performances by both artists.
1. Freddie Mercury disguised Princess Diana
Yes, that’s right! Freddie and his bandmates would disguise the Princess as a man and sneak her out on the town. While one Queen didn’t like Diana, another one sure did! While Buckingham Palace has never officially acknowledged these rumors, it was an open secret at the time. Diana loved the thrill of sneaking about and dancing the night away, far from her upright, proper Princess behavior during the day.