HOUSTON, September 10, 2012 — It was 1993, and I was sitting on a bus on the way to summer school. No one knew me and I was the brunt of many teenagers mocking me, but they didn’t faze me. I had my Walkman out and I was listening to the words of Freddie Mercury: “Spread your wings and fly away, far away, far away. Pull yourself together ‘cause you know you should do better, that’s because you’re a free man.”
The ride to school in the morning, followed by the ride home in the afternoons, were my favorite part of the day because I would listen to Queen and escape in their music.
Like so many people, Queen, and specifically the incredible voice of Freddie Mercury, inspired me, encouraged me, comforted me, and I felt then just like I do today, a connection to their music.
They were much more than just a rock band. Their music often couldn’t fit into one genre, covering a myriad of styles: jazz, rockabilly, rock, metal, opera, and many more. Each member of Queen had unparalleled talent, but it was the front man, Freddie Mercury, who would capture the attention of millions worldwide.
Although he had no formal vocal training, his voice ranged from a bass low F to soprano high F. He wrote many of Queen’s most popular songs: Bohemian Rhapsody, Don’t Stop Me Now, Somebody to Love, and We Are the Champions, to name a few.
Although he was shy and introverted as a person, he was extroverted and unleashed as a performer. Whether he was playing the piano or guitar or strutting on stage, gripping his trademark microphone with a half-stand attached, Mercury entertained and connected with the audience like no other.
Guitarist Brian May wrote that “Mercury could make the last person at the back of the furthest stand in a stadium feel that he was connected.”
Queen performed an estimated 700 concerts around the world. Their Live Aid performance in 1985 is legendary. They performed in front of a sold out Wembley Stadium of 72,000 people and for a record breaking TV audience of 1.9 billion people. That same year they headlined two nights in a row for the Rock in Rio festival at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and played in front of over 300,000 people each night.
Queens’s worldwide record sales are in the neighborhood of 300 million. Their record sales in the U.S. reveal how strong their legacy is, selling 34.5 million albums in the United States, about half of which have been sold since Mercury’s death.
Mercury passed away on November 24, 1991, from bronchial pneumonia brought on by AIDS. This loss affected millions worldwide because so many people felt connected to their music. Last week on September 5, Freddie Mercury would have turned sixty-six, but to millions still his spirit is alive.
Although his sexual orientation was a focus for many tabloids and journalists, his fans couldn’t have cared less. It was reported that he was a bisexual, having partners of both sexes throughout his life. But it was his former partner, Mary Austin, that Mercury felt closest too.
In a 1985 interview Mercury revealed, “All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible. The only friend I’ve got is Mary and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.”
Mercury wrote many songs for Mary of which Love of My Life is the most popular. She helped nurse him the last weeks of his life and was next to him when he passed away.
Although Mercury hid the fact he had AIDS, admitting it one day before his passing, his voice is still an encouragement to others with this disease and because of the time of his passing, it was a huge voice in spreading awareness of this horrific disease.
On April 20, 1992, at a sold out Wembley Stadium, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness event was held as a tribute to the legacy of Freddie Mercury, and to help raise money for AIDS research. Artists that performed include David Bowie, Metallica, George Michael, Elton John, and many others, often accompanying the remaining artists of Queen on stage to perform their songs.
Freddie Mercury was much more than a singer, a performer, a songwriter, a musician, and an entertainer: he transcended all of these labels and took them to a whole new level. His voice captivates millions today just as it did when he was alive. New fans of Queen still emerge and if time has shown us one thing, Freddie Mercury is remembered, admired, and missed. And as I write this I can’t help but think of the lyrics from These Are the Days of Our Lives, the last song he recorded:
“Those were the days of our lives
The bad things in life were so few
Those days are all gone now but one thing is true
When I look and I find I still love you.”
Carter Lee is the author of When Jonathan Cried For Me, a professional speaker, Executive Consultant to verawear.com, Senior Editor and columnist to theWTV.com, and is soon launching his show, The Fever. For more information on his book, appearances, or to schedule an appearance; visit Innovative Social Dynamics.
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