Best Known For
Freddie Mercury is best known as the rock worlds most versatile and engaging performers and for his mock operatic masterpiece, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Freddie Mercury - Full Biography (44:46)
The story of Queen is an inspiring, sometimes tragic, and honest story of four school friends who conquered the music world, selling an astonishing 300 million records.
Lesley-Ann Jones, author of "Mercury," describes Freddie Mercury's personality both on and off stage, as well as his legacy as a musician and the lead singer of Queen. Video courtesy of Simon & Schuster © 2012.
Born in Zanzibar to Indian parents, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury became a rock legend with songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody." Queen's album sales rival the Beatles, with Mercury's four octave range contributing to the band's success.
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The following year, the members of Queen collaborated with David Bowie to create “Under Pressure.” A No. 1 hit in Britain, the song’s distinctive bass line was later reportedly used by Vanilla Ice for his 1990 rap hit “Ice, Ice Baby.” Their abilities to sell albums began to wane by the mid-1980s after The Works (1984), which featured the minor hit “Radio Ga Ga.”
As a live act,
Queen continued to draw huge crowds around the world. One of their most notable performances was in 1985 at the Live Aid charity concert. Simply dressed in a tank top and jeans, Mercury led the crowd through some of the band’s greatest hits with great energy and style. He got the thousands of music fans at London’s Wembley Stadium to chant along to “We Will Rock You.” For many who watched the event live or on television, Queen gave one of the top performances of the day-long event, which was organized by singer and activist Bob Geldof and songwriter Midge Ure to raise money for victims of famine in Africa. Inspired by the event, the band wrote the hit “One Vision.”
In addition to his work with Queen, Mercury released several solo albums, including 1985’s Mr. Bad Guy. He also collaborated with opera singer Montserrat Caralle for 1988’s Barcelona.
Offstage, Mercury was open about his bisexuality, but he kept his relationships private. He also lived a lavish lifestyle. He loved champagne and liked to collect art, once spending more than $400,000 on a set of hand-painted china. Always one for a party, Mercury threw himself elaborate celebrations; for one particular birthday he flew a group of friends to the island of Ibiza. The occasion was marked by fireworks and flamenco dancing.
By 1989, Mercury largely retreated from public life. He did not promote or tour for Queen’s next album, Innuendo (1991), and rumors about possible health problems began to circulate. On November 23, 1991, Mercury released a statement: “I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.” The next day, he died from AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia at his London mansion. Mercury was only 45 years old.
Longtime friend and bandmate Roger Taylor provided some insight to Mercury’s decision to keep his battle with AIDS private. “He didn’t want to be looked at as an object of pity and curiosity, and he didn’t want circling vultures over his head,” Taylor said, according to a report in Entertainment Weekly. The rock world mourned the loss of one of its most versatile and engaging performers.
To honor his memory, the Freddie Mercury Tribute: Concert for AIDS Awareness was held in April 1992 at Wembly Stadium.
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