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QUEEN Vocalist Freddie Mercury Dies From AIDS Complications Aged 45
November 24th, 1991

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury, vocalist of English rock group Queen, died on November 24th, 1991 at the age of 45 due to bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.

On November 22nd, Mercury was visited by Queen manager Jim Beach at his Kensington, London home, discussing making a public statement. The day after, a public statement was issued to international media, with Mercury confirming he was indeed suffering from AIDS.

As early as October 1986, it was reported by British media that Mercury was tested for HIV / AIDS at a Harley Street clinic, although Mercury was reportedly diagnosed shortly following the Easter of 1987. Despite press reports, Mercury would continue to deny he had contracted the disease until shortly before his passing. On February 18th, 1990 at the 1990 Brit Awards held at the Dominion Theatre in London, Mercury made what was to be his final public appearance onstage, Queen collecting an award for Outstanding Contribution To Music.

Filmed in May 1991, the music video ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’ marks Mercury’s final scenes in front of a camera. Mercury retired to his home in Kensington, West London in June 1991, following the conclusion of work with Queen. Former partner Mary Austin visited him regularly to care for him at this time.

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5th, 1946 in the British protectorate of Sultanate of Zanzibar, East Africa (now part of Tanzania) to parents Bomi and Jer. Mercury’s family included a younger sister, named Kashmira. Parsis, Mercury as well as his family practiced the Zoroastrian religion.

Spending much of his childhood in India, Mercury began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. At the age of eight, Mercury attended St. Peter’s School – a boarding school for boys – in Panchgani near Bombay (now Mumbai), where he adopted the name Freddie. School band The Hectics was formed at the age of 12, covering rock and roll artists like Cliff Richard and Little Richard.

Mercury moved back to Zanzibar in February 1963, moving in with his parents at their flat. The Bulsara family left Zanzibar for safety reasons in 1964, due to the Zanzibar Revolution in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed, moving to 22 Gladstone Avenue in Feltham, Middlesex. Mercury enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic (now West Thames College) in West London, where he studied art. At Ealing Art College, he earned a diploma in Art And Graphic Design.

Mercury was a member of a series of bands following graduation, as well as selling second-hand clothes in Kensington Market in London.

In 1969, he joined Liverpool-based group Ibex, who later rechristened themselves Wreckage. Mercury briefly lived in a flat above the Liverpool pub, The Dovedale Towers. He subsequently joined a second band named Sour Milk Tea, although this outfit had disbanded by early 1970.

Mercury joined guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor in April 1970, previously part of the band Smile. Bass player John Deacon entered the fold in 1971. Roughly the same time as the band adopted the moniker Queen, Bulsara changed his surname to Mercury. Queen’s logo, a crest, was designed by Mercury shortly prior to the issue of Queen’s July 1973 self-titled debut, the logo combining the zodiac signs of all four members.

Throughout their 21-year history from 1970 through to 1991, Queen issued 14 studio full-lengths as well as a brace of live outings.

Discussions were held with Trident Studios during 1972, Queen having been spotted at De La Lane Studios by John Anthony. Norman Sheffield resultantly offered the band a management deal under Neptune Productions, a subsidiary of Trident, to manage them as well as enable them to use the facilities at Trident to record fresh material.

A deal with Trident / EMI was inked in 1973.

Queen’s July 1973 self-titled debut was spearheaded by lead single ’Keep Yourself Alive’. Second platter Queen II emerged in March 1974, its Mick Rock-photographed cover being used as the basis for the music video for future track ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. The album charted at position five in the UK, while the composition ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye’ entered at position ten on the UK singles charts. An inaugural US tour supporting Mott The Hoople began in April 1974, which was cancelled the following month due to Brian May collapsing and being diagnosed with hepatitis.

Third outing Sheer Heart Attack arrived in November 1974, reaching position two in the UK. Central track ‘Killer Queen’ reached number two in the UK, additionally reaching number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. Second single ‘Now I’m Here’ achieved position eleven in the UK, meanwhile.

A January 1975 US tour saw Queen as headliners, the quartet also visiting Canada. Seven cities in Japan were performed in from mid-April to the start of May. Queen split with Trident in September of that year, searching for new management. Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant made an offer to sign Queen to Led Zeppelin production company Swan Song Records, although the band eventually recruited Elton John manager John Reid for the position.

Taking its name from a Marx Brothers movie, November 1975’s A Night At The Opera boasted signature track ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Number one in the UK for nine weeks, the song additionally reached position nine in the States. A 1992 re-release reached number on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks. And as well, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the only single to be a Christmas number one track on two separate occasions. Written by John Deacon, second single ‘You’re My Best Friend’ climbed to position 16 in the States, as well as reaching the top ten elsewhere. A tour in support of the effort began in November 1975, encompassing Europe, the United States, Japan, and Australia.

Again taking its name from a Marx Brothers movie, December 1976 jaunt A Day At The Races reached number one in the UK and Japan, and number five in the US. Gospel-inspired effort ‘Somebody To Love’ arrived at number two in the UK, and number thirteen in the US. That year, Queen participated in a free concert in Hyde Park, London.

October 1977’s News Of The World, featuring cover artwork by sci-fi artist Frank Kelly Freas, boasted two Queen live staples in the form of ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’, which have both been used frequently within sports settings.

Reaching position two in the UK and number six on the Billboard 200, November 1978’s Jazz included the singles ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and ‘Bicycle Race’, which were paired as a double-A side. A music video was shot for ‘Bicycle Race’, Queen renting Wimbledon Stadium for the day. Sixty-five naked female models were hired to stage a nude bicycle race. Queen toured the US and Canada during 1978, spending much of 1979 touring Europe and Japan. Inaugural live effort Live Killers underwent issue in June 1979.

October 1979 single ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’, performed in the style of Elvis Presley, marked Queen’s inaugural US number one, remaining there for four weeks. June 1980 opus The Game collected the track, as well as ‘Another One Bites The Dust’. The latter spent three weeks at number one during October 1980, the album itself topping the Billboard 200 for four weeks. Three sold out performances at Madison Square Garden occurred during September of that year.

December 1980 saw the release of the soundtrack to the movie Flash Gordon.

Queen visited South America in February 1981 as part of The Game Tour, which saw the band perform five shows in Argentina. An audience of 300,000 were at Buenos Aires, while two concerts at the Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo, Brazil saw Queen perform to more than 131,000 the first night and more than 120,000 the following night. In October, Queen played in Mexico. On November 24th and 25th, Queen performed at the Montreal Forum in Quebec, Canada, which was later issued as Queen Rock Montreal.

October 1981 single ‘Under Pressure’ paired Queen with David Bowie, and topped the UK singles charts. Inaugural compilation Greatest Hits surfaced that same month, collecting singles from 1974 until 1981; the compilation has since become the best-selling album in UK chart history.

May 1982 foray Hot Space marked a departure from Queen’s trademark style. Two gigs at The Forum in Inglewood, California on September 14th and 15th were to be Queen’s last US gigs. Parting from Elektra, Queen signed to EMI / Capitol Records.

February 1984’s The Works featured the singles ‘Radio Ga Ga’, ‘Hammer To Fall’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’, the album achieving modest success in the US. The Works Tour was the first to feature live keyboardist Spike Edney, and included nine sold-out dates in October in South Africa at the arena in Sun City, earning widespread criticism. Christmas single ’Thank God It’s Christmas’ surfaced that same year.

Freddie Mercury

Queen headlined two nights of the inaugural Rock In Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in January 1985, each night boasting an audience of over 300,000. April and May of that year saw the conclusion of the Works Tour courtesy of visits to Australia and Japan.

Queen appeared at Live Aid on July 13th, 1985, performing select tracks at the Wembley show in front of a 72,000-strong audience. The performance was acclaimed, and accredited with revitalising Queen.

June 1986 LP A Kind Of Magic featured reworkings of tracks Queen had recorded for the fantasy movie Highlander. The Magic Tour of summer 1986 was to be Queen’s final tour with Mercury, their July performances at Wembley later issued as Live At Wembley. A performance in Knebworth Park in London happened to be Mercury’s final live performance with Queen.

May 1989’s The Miracle was, songwriting wise, accredited to Queen as a group.

Queen parted ways with Capitol in 1990, signing with Disney’s Hollywood Records. February 1991’s Innuendo was the final Queen album to be released during Mercury’s lifetime, its title track topping the UK singles charts. Second greatest hits compilation Greatest Hits II arrived in October; covering the period 1981 to 1991, it came less than a month prior to Mercury’s death.

Outside of Queen, Mercury pursued a solo career, issuing two full-length albums as well as several singles.

Under the pseudonym Larry Lurex, in 1972 Mercury was enlisted by Trident Studios’ house engineer Robin Geoffrey Cable to perform lead vocals on two tracks; ‘I Can Hear Music’ and ‘Goin’ Back’. Both were paired together as a single in 1973.

In 1984, Mercury co-penned the track ‘Love Kills’ with Giorgio Moroder, which was included on Moroder’s 1984 edit and restoration of the 1927 silent film Metropolis. The track debuted at position ten in the UK charts.

April 1985 debut full-length solo studio album Mr. Bad Guy debuted at position six in the UK album charts. Seven years later in 1993, a remix by No More Brothers of the composition ‘Living On My Own’ posthumously reached number one on the UK singles charts. Resultantly, Mercury was awarded a posthumous Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

The tunes ‘Time’ and ‘In My Defence’ were cut during 1986 for the Dave Clark-penned musical Time; drummer of namesake band Dave Clark Five, Clarke was a close friend of Mercury’s. A cover interpretation of The Platters track ’The Great Pretender’ reached number five on the UK singles chart in 1987.

Second solo studio affair Barcelona arrived in October 1988, pairing Mercury with Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé. An operatic affair, the album’s title track debuted at position eight in the UK, and was subsequently adopted as the official anthem of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Montserrat Caballé performed live at the opening of the Olympics, with Mercury’s part played on a screen.

Several tracks were recorded with Michael Jackson from 1981 to 1983, including a demo of ‘State Of Shock’, ‘Victory’ and ‘There Must Be More Life Than This’. Neither of these collaborative efforts were officially released. Jackson subsequently recorded ’State Of Shock’ with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger for the July 1984 The Jacksons’ outing Victory. A solo rendition of ‘There Must Be More Life Than This’ surfaced on Mr. Bad Guy, meanwhile, with a reworked Queen version including Jackson being featured on the November 2014 Queen compilation Queen Forever.

Besides collaborating with Michael Jackson, Mercury and Roger Taylor lent vocals to the title track of Billy Squier’s July 1982 record Emotions In Motion, and later contributed to two tracks on September 1986 effort Enough Is Enough – providing vocals to ‘Love Is The Hero’ as well as musical arrangements to ‘Lady With A Tenor Sax’.

Mercury’s funeral service was conducted by a Zoroastrian priest on November 27th, 1991, the service attended by his family and 35 of his close friends, including the remaining members of Queen and Elton John. The man’s coffin was carried into the chapel with ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ / ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ by Aretha Franklin playing in the background. Cremated at Kensal Green Cemetery, West London, Mercury’s ashes were left to Mary Austin in accordance with his wishes, who buried them at an undisclosed location.

The single ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’ was reissued as a double A-side shortly after the man’s passing, paired with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and reached number one in the UK. ’Bohemian Rhapsody’ was featured in 1992 comedy Wayne’s World, the track reaching number two in the States as a result.

The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was held on April 20th, 1992 at London’s Wembley Stadium to an audience of 72,000. Joining the three remaining members of Queen were the likes of David Bowie, Elton John, George Michael, Metallica, Def Leppard, Robert Plant, Guns N’ Roses, Annie Lennox and others, guests performing various Queen tracks. Televised to over 1.2 billion viewers worldwide, £20 million was raised for AIDS charities.

Posthumous Queen studio affair Made In Heaven arrived in November 1995, featuring previously unreleased final records from 1991 by Mercury, as well as outtakes from previous years and reworked renditions of solo works from the respective Queen members. Its front cover features a statue of Freddie Mercury which overlooks Lake Geneva in Montreux, Switzerland, where he had written and recorded his final songs at Mountain Studios. The song ‘Mother Love’ includes the last vocal recording cut by Mercury, Mercury never completing the final verse – the final verse being later recorded by May.

1997 single ‘No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young)’ was recorded by the three remaining members of Queen, and was dedicated to the late Mercury.

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