And so today, had he have remained with us, Freddie Mercury would’ve been celebrating his sixty-sixth birthday. Not as old as McCartney but he left us with a body of work just as vital.
I don’t want to regurgitate what gets said so often about Freddie Mercury and the legacy that he left behind. I think when a musician that means so much to you goes, yet stays with you too, you have your own feelings about it and no amount of magazines and journalists will alter your opinion of what that person meant to you. Fortunately in Freddie’s case, he still has legions upon legions of people that absolutely adore him as if it were like the first time they saw him in 1973 performing Keep Yourself Alive.
Let’s put things into perspective slightly. I wasn’t around in 1973. I came along eight years afterwards in between Flash Gordon and Hot Space (not the greatest two of Queen’s albums… ah, the early 80s were a cruel mistress). My earliest memory is years afterwards through my Dad constantly playing Radio Ga Ga in the car on one of his mix tapes. Suffice to say the rest is history in my fandom of Queen, but the most important thing to think about it how much Freddie meant to people, and what kind of a performer he was. When I think about him, I think about this huge larger-than-the-cosmos-person who was some kind of bastard child of Led Zeppelin and Oscar Wilde. (I can’t take credit for this, this is how Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor described their Number 1 hit Innuendo from 1991, and it just fits Freddie perfectly too). I think about this character who when onstage, performed such bombastic, theatrical, romantic and enormous rock songs but when offstage, was often the quietest and shyest person in the room.
One of the things I will always remember about Freddie was his unbelievable strength, will and determination to never give up, right up until the last few weeks before he passed away. To me, he is a true inspiration when it comes to the phrase the show must go on, and he made sure it did until the very day when it just couldn’t any more. He never complained or moaned about what he was going through despite constant harassment and pressure from the press, and as much as he could, continued to remain positive right up until the end. When I look at pictures of him I think to myself that there were many great showmen in the world, but none whatsoever have compared to the flamboyance and showmanship of Freddie Mercury. His vocal range, his stage presence, onstage personas, sense of humour and beautiful Persian features were all parts of his sum and one doesn’t have to look far to see his and Queen’s legacy and influences still burning very brightly in some of today’s artists. Just the scale of what goes on today, for example the stellar success of Queen’s musical We Will Rock You, is testament to this.
If he has left us with anything other than one of the greatest back catalogues in the history of the recorded song, it is the truth that life is not over until it’s over. He reminds us that it is a very precious gift and in his forty-five short years on the planet he made the most of absolutely everything he had and was able to create.
Arguably the greatest show Queen ever put on apart from their Rio shows in 1985 was when they were part of a small concert called Live Aid they did the same year. Undoubtedly Freddie held the entire 72,000 populace of Wembley Stadium in the palm of hand with the sheer euphoria coming through during their performance of Radio GaGa. You don’t need a reason to watch it again, just watch it again now and remember him as the greatest showman there ever was.
Freddie Mercury – 05.09.46-24.11.91.