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On September 5, 1946, “Freddie Mercury” was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa. He died on November 24, 1991 of bronchopneumnia, which was the result of the AIDS disease. Mercury publically acknowledged he had the disease one day prior to his death.
Mercury was a British singer and songwriter best known as the lyricist and lead vocalist for the rock band Queen. He also played the piano. The following songs were composed by Mercury for the band: "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Killer Queen", "Somebody to Love", "Don't Stop Me Now", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "We Are the Champions". Mercury also enjoyed a solo career, and he was a producer and guest musician (vocals and piano) for other musicians.
In 2002, Mercury rated #58 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Three years later, a poll by Blender and MTV2 ranked him #18 on their list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. In 2006, Time Asia named him one of the most influential Asian heroes of the past 60 years (Fitzpatrick 2006). In 2009, a poll by Classic Rock rated Mercury the greatest rock singer of all time. And “Allmusic has characterized Mercury as “one of rock’s greatest all-time entertainers” who possessed “one of the greatest voices in all of music.” (Greg, Prato. "Freddie Mercury biography". AllMusic 2011)
According to wikipedia.org:
Mercury was born in the British protectorate of Zanzibar, East Africa (now part of Tanzania). His parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara, were Parsis from the Gujarat region of the then province of Bombay Presidency in British India. The family surname is derived from the town of Bulsar (also known as Valsad) in southern Gujarat. As Parsis, Mercury and his family practised the Zoroastrian religion. The Bulsara family had moved to Zanzibar so that his father could continue his job as a cashier at the British Colonial Office. He had a younger sister, Kashmira.
Mercury spent the bulk of his childhood in India and began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1954, at the age of eight, Mercury was sent to study at St. Peter's School, a British-style boarding school for boys in Panchgani near Bombay (now Mumbai), India. One of his formative musical influences at the time was Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar. Aged 12, he formed a school band, The Hectics, and covered rock and roll artists such as Cliff Richard and Little Richard. A friend from the time recalls that he had "an uncanny ability to listen to the radio and replay what he heard on piano". It was also at St. Peter's where he began to call himself "Freddie". Mercury remained in India, living with his grandmother and aunt until he completed his education at St. Mary's School, Bombay.
At the age of 17, Mercury and his family fled from Zanzibar for safety reasons due to the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed. The family moved into a small house in Feltham, Middlesex, England. Mercury enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic (now West Thames College) in West London where he studied art. He ultimately earned a Diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College, later using these skills to design the Queen crest. A British citizen at birth, Mercury remained so for the rest of his life.
Following graduation, Mercury joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in the Kensington Market in London with girlfriend Mary Austin. He also held a job at Heathrow Airport. Friends from the time remember him as a quiet and shy young man who showed a great deal of interest in music. In 1969 he joined the band Ibex, later renamed Wreckage. When this band failed to take off, he joined a second band called Sour Milk Sea. However, by early 1970 this group had broken up as well.
In April 1970, Mercury joined guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor who had previously been in a band called Smile. Despite reservations from the other members and their initial management, Mercury chose the name "Queen" for the new band. He later said about the band's name, "I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it". At about the same time, he changed his surname, Bulsara, to Mercury.
Although Mercury's speaking voice naturally fell in the baritone range, he delivered most songs in the tenor range. His vocal range extended from bass low F (F2) to soprano high F (F6). He could belt up to tenor high F (F5). Biographer David Bret described his voice as "escalating within a few bars from a deep, throaty rock-growl to tender, vibrant tenor, then on to a high-pitched, perfect coloratura, pure and crystalline in the upper reaches". Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé, with whom Mercury recorded an album, expressed her opinion that "the difference between Freddie and almost all the other rock stars was that he was selling the voice". She adds, "His technique was astonishing. No problem of tempo, he sung with an incisive sense of rhythm, his vocal placement was very good and he was able to glide effortlessly from a register to another. He also had a great musicality. His phrasing was subtle, delicate and sweet or energetic and slamming. He was able to find the right colouring or expressive nuance for each word." As Queen's career progressed, he would increasingly alter the highest notes of their songs when live, often harmonizing with seconds, thirds or fifths instead. Mercury was said to have "the rawest vocal fold nodules" and claimed never to have had any formal vocal training.
Mercury wrote 10 of the 17 songs on Queen's Greatest Hits album: "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Seven Seas of Rhye", "Killer Queen", "Somebody to Love", "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy", "We Are the Champions", "Bicycle Race", "Don't Stop Me Now", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "Play the Game".
The most notable aspect of his songwriting involved the wide range of genres that he used, which included, among other styles, rockabilly, progressive rock, heavy metal, gospel and disco. As he explained in a 1986 interview, "I hate doing the same thing again and again and again. I like to see what's happening now in music, film and theatre and incorporate all of those things." Compared to many popular songwriters, Mercury also tended to write musically complex material. For example, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is acyclic in structure and comprises dozens of chords. He also wrote six songs from Queen II which deal with multiple key changes and complex material. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", on the other hand, contains only a few chords. Despite the fact that Mercury often wrote very intricate harmonies, he also claimed that he could barely read music. He wrote most of his songs on the piano and used a wide variety of different key signatures.
Mercury was noted for his live performances, which were often delivered to stadium audiences around the world. He displayed a highly theatrical style that often evoked a great deal of participation from the crowd. A writer for The Spectator described him as "a performer out to tease, shock and ultimately charm his audience with various extravagant versions of himself". David Bowie, who performed at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and recorded the song "Under Pressure" with Queen, praised Mercury's performance style, saying: "Of all the more theatrical rock performers, Freddie took it further than the rest... he took it over the edge. And of course, I always admired a man who wears tights. I only saw him in concert once and as they say, he was definitely a man who could hold an audience in the palm of his hand." Queen 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."
One of Mercury's most notable performances with Queen took place at Live Aid in 1985, during which the entire stadium audience of 72,000 people clapped, sang and swayed in unison. Queen's performance at the event has since been voted by a group of music executives as the greatest live performance in the history of rock music. The results were aired on a television program called "The World's Greatest Gigs". In reviewing Live Aid in 2005, one critic wrote, "Those who compile lists of Great Rock Frontmen and award the top spots to Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, etc all are guilty of a terrible oversight. Freddie, as evidenced by his Dionysian Live Aid performance, was easily the most godlike of them all."
Over the course of his career, Mercury performed an estimated 700 concerts in countries around the world with Queen. A notable aspect of Queen concerts was the large scale involved. He once explained, "We're the Cecil B. DeMille of rock and roll, always wanting to do things bigger and better." The band was the first ever to play in South American stadiums, breaking worldwide records for concert attendance in the Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo in 1981. In 1986, Queen also played behind the Iron Curtain when they performed to a crowd of 80,000 in Budapest, in what was one of the biggest rock concerts ever held in Eastern Europe. Mercury's final live performance with Queen took place on 9 August 1986 at Knebworth Park in England and drew an attendance estimated as high as 300,000.
In addition to his work with Queen, Mercury put out two solo albums and several singles. Although his solo work was not as commercially successful as most Queen albums, the two off-Queen albums and several of the singles debuted in the top 10 of the UK Album Charts. His first solo effort involved his contribution to the Richard "Wolfie" Wolf mix of Love Kills on the 1984 album (the song also used as the end title theme for National Lampoon's "Loaded Weapon") and new soundtrack to the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis. The song, produced by Giorgio Moroder, debuted at the number 10 position in the UK charts.
Mercury's two full albums outside the band were Mr. Bad Guy (1985) and Barcelona (1988). The former is a pop-oriented album that emphasises disco and dance music. "Barcelona" was recorded and performed with the opera singer Montserrat Caballé, whom he had long admired. Mr. Bad Guy debuted in the top ten of the UK Album Charts. In 1993, a remix of "Living on My Own", a single from the album, reached the No.1 position on the UK Singles Charts. The song also garnered Mercury a posthumous Ivor Novello Award. Allmusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia describes Mr. Bad Guy as "outstanding from start to finish" and expressed his view that Mercury "did a commendable job of stretching into uncharted territory". In particular, the album is heavily synthesiser-driven in a way that is not characteristic of previous Queen albums.
His second album, Barcelona, recorded with Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé, combines elements of popular music and opera. Many critics were uncertain what to make of the album; one referred to it as "the most bizarre CD of the year". The album was a commercial success, and the album's title track debuted at the No.8 position in the UK charts and was a hit in Spain. The title track received massive air play as the official anthem of the 1992 Summer Olympics (held in Barcelona one year after Mercury's death). Caballé sang it live at the opening of the Olympics with Mercury's part played on a screen, and again prior to the start of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final in Barcelona.
In addition to the two solo albums, Mercury released several singles, including his own version of the hit The Great Pretender by The Platters, which debuted at number five in the UK in 1987. In September 2006, a compilation album featuring Mercury's solo work was released in the UK in honour of what would have been his 60th birthday. The album debuted in the top 10 of the UK Album Charts.
In 1981–1983, Mercury recorded several tracks with Michael Jackson, including a demo of "State of Shock", "Victory" and "There Must Be More to Life Than This". None of these collaborations were officially released, although bootleg recordings exist. Jackson went on to record the single "State of Shock" with Mick Jagger for The Jacksons' album Victory. Mercury included the solo version of "There Must Be More To Life Than This" on his Mr. Bad Guy album. In November 2011, Brian May announced that a series of duets that Mercury recorded with Jackson are to be released in 2012.
In the early 1970s Mercury had a long-term relationship with Mary Austin, whom he had met through guitarist Brian May. He lived with Austin for several years in West Kensington. By the mid-1970s, however, the singer had begun an affair with a male American record executive at Elektra Records, which ultimately resulted in the end of his relationship with Austin. Mercury and Austin nevertheless remained close friends through the years, with Mercury often referring to her as his only true friend. In a 1985 interview, Mercury said of Austin, "All my lovers asked me why they couldn't replace Mary [Austin], 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." He also wrote several songs about Austin, the most notable of which is "Love of My Life". In his will, Mercury left his London home to Austin, rather than his then partner Jim Hutton, saying, "You would have been my wife and it would have been yours anyway". Mercury was also the godfather of Mary's oldest son, Richard.
During the early to mid '80s, he was romantically involved with Barbara Valentin, an Austrian actress, who is featured in the video for "It's a Hard Life". By 1985, he began another long-term relationship with hairdresser Jim Hutton (1949–2010). Hutton, who was tested HIV-positive in 1990, lived with Mercury for the last six years of his life, nursed him during his illness, and was present at his bedside when he died. Hutton claimed that Mercury died wearing a wedding band that Hutton had given him. Hutton died from cancer on 1 January 2010.
Although he cultivated a flamboyant stage personality, Mercury was shy and retiring when not performing, particularly around people he did not know well, and granted very few interviews. Mercury once said of himself: "When I'm performing I'm an extrovert, yet inside I'm a completely different man." While on stage, Mercury basked in the love from the audience. This was famously mentioned in Kurt Cobain's suicide note, Cobain writing of how he both admired and envied Mercury's ability to be so strongly affected by his audience before a performance.
In his will, Mercury left the vast majority of his wealth, including his home and recording royalties, to Mary Austin, and the remainder to his parents and sister. He further left £500,000 to his chef Joe Fanelli, £500,000 to his personal assistant Peter Freestone, £100,000 to his driver Terry Giddings, and £500,000 to Jim Hutton. Mary Austin continues to live at Mercury's home, Garden Lodge, Kensington, with her family. Hutton was involved in a 2000 biography of Mercury, Freddie Mercury, the Untold Story, and also gave an interview for The Times for what would have been Mercury's 60th birthday.