“It would be so boring to be 70. I’ve lived a full life and if I’m dead tomorrow, I don’t give a damn.” These words, said by Freddie Mercury, perfectly sum up his life – and famous attitude.
The once-shy boy, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar in 1946, went on to become one of the world’s most eccentric frontmen. Mercury’s range – both vocally and in terms of his character – was legendary, making it virtually impossible to fit all of him into just one film!. But many have tried – resulting in a slew of documentaries over the years, right through to 2018’s hit biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
Next month, the BBC will be releasing a new documentary on the enigmatic singer, titled Freddie Mercury: The Final Act, which looks at the last chapter of his life, including his heartbreaking death 30 years ago at just 45 years of age on November 24, 1991, after a private struggle with AIDS.
A legendary songwriter, music producer, and all-around theatrical entertainer, Mercury was one of the 20th century’s best-known lead signers, who sang for Queen from 1970 until his death.
Known for challenging the parameters of pop and rock, Mercury was willing to take any musical risk to prevent him from being mainstream. He unapologetically pushed artistic boundaries and was the life of all of the band’s live performances, ensuring no two shows were the same.
Electric and eccentric, he worked across a range of genres, but the songs were always poetic and heartfelt, filled with melodies you wanted to hum and witty metaphors you couldn’t help but remember.
From perhaps his most famous song, Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, through to We Are the Champions in 1977 and then Crazy Little Thing Called Love in 1979, which pays homage to Elvis Presley’s rockabilly styling, Mercury took music to bold new heights.
A six-minute-long banquet, Bohemian Rhapsody involved a lavish mixture of production, vocal layers and choral overdubs. Described by Mercury as “mock opera”, it topped the British charts for nearly nine weeks. And rightfully so.
Mercury possessed a voice so powerful and expressive it would be hard not to want to listen to him sing. His excellent pitch and incredible vocal control, array of note choices, dynamics, tones and vocal effects were astounding.
Queen’s live performances were iconic, with one of their greatest generally acknowledged as being their Live Aid Concert at London’s Wembley Stadium in July 1985. Mercury was phenomenal on stage, controlling the entire crowd of 72,000, who were all clapping along to the rhythm of We Will Rock You. Their set was electrifying.
Years of touring had given him “an arsenal of stagecraft prowess, strutting, holding poses, dressed in his glam-rock style” and the audience adored his flamboyance.
Thirty years later, Mercury continues to influence many musicians, such as 12-time Grammy award winner Lady Gaga, who has said the inspiration for her stage name came from the Queen song Radio GaGa. In the past decade, Queen’s Somebody to Love was used in film soundtracks for Happy Feeet (2006) and Ella Enchanted (2004).
Mercury will always be remembered as the powerful songwriter with the magnetic stage presence who was taken far too soon. But his legacy, of course, will continue to live on.