If he had not passed away in 1991 from bronchial pneumonia resulting from Aids, Freddie Mercury would be 72 years old today. As befits a global icon, music stations locally and abroad have been pumping out Queen classics celebrating the late star – even baggage handlers at Heathrow have paid tribute.
But while the music will always remain special, it’s worth taking stock that beyond being a great vocal talent and musician, Freddie Mercury was also a fantastic showman. We look back at some of the man’s signature moments.
When Bohemian Rhapsody landed (1975)
Is it a ballad? Is it a pop stab at prog rock? Is it an epic? Is it all of those at once? One of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’s’ charms is that it’s undefinable and instantly recognisable the moment the band sing its opening vocals in unison.
Written by Mercury for Queen’s fourth album, ‘A Night At The Opera’, the single was both a mission statement and a flamboyant signature tune that announced Queen as a force to be reckoned with.
Oh, and incidentally, at the time of its release ‘Bohemian Rhapsody was reportedly the most expensive single ever made. It was well worth it.
When Queen played Live Aid (1986)
Queen were considered a group of political pariahs in the early 1980s for performing at Sun City during the apartheid years. Many fans and fellow artists lambasted them for it and the band’s apology statement did nothing to mollify them.
Live Aid saw the band rehabilitated. Shortly after stepping onstage at the charity event to end famine in Ethiopia, Queen played what many believe to be not only the band’s greatest live performances, but one of the best live performances period – and much of the credit for that is undoubtedly down to Mercury. It was a show in which is vocal talent, formidable showmanship and gargantuan stage presence gelled into something approaching godlike.
Don’t take our word for it – click on the video above.
When Freddie sang ‘Barcelona!’ (1988)
While Queen were on something of a hiatus in 1988, Freddie worked on various solo projects and the unquestionable high point of this body of work is the single he released with Montserrat Caballé, ‘Barcelona’.
Showing off his love of opera – which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise – and backed by a full orchestra, Barcelona proves that fronting a rock band wasn’t the only avenue Mercury could’ve taken if he’d chose a career in singing.
Fun fact: when the song was first demoed, Freddie sang both his parts and those of Caballé.
When Queen won the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution To Music (1990)
One of the more heartrending moments for Queen fans was the moment that the band stepped on stage at the Brit Awards for a lifetime achievement gong. At the time, Freddie Mercury, the band and close friends were fending off questions about the singer’s health, but the band’s lack of touring and the odd tabloid shot fed rumours that his body was deteriorating rapidly.
Fans had their worst fears confirmed at the Brits. While Brian May was as charming and funny as ever in his thanks to the Brits, Freddie looked frail and gaunt. He only managed a brief ‘thank you, good night’ and then he disappeared off the stage. It was Freddie’s last ever public appearance.
When Freddie wowed the Olympics (2012)
On the closing night of the London Olympics in 2012, viewers around the globe were treated to a reprise performance from the late Freddie Mercury. Footage from Freddie at the Live Aid concert beamed out at the crowd as Freddie performed his call and response stage trick.
Even though, it was just a hologram, the crowd responded to it as though it was the man in the flesh. It was proof, if any further was needed, that Freddie Mercury really was one of the greatest showmen of all time.