Freddie Mercury – A Revolt Against Regulations

"I am a homosexual but my music is for everyone"

David Clout, a famous Christian Evangelist says in his article ‘The Sad Life of Freddie Mercury’: “Events surrounding the funeral of Rock Singer Freddie Mercury of Queen clearly reflect the mindset of the days of Apocalypse. Freddie Mercury was a homosexual. He denigrated the Kingdom of God. He revolted against the laws of the Bible. His songs were like the anthems of Homosexuals. Most of his songs were indecent and evil. He drove his fans off balance with his indecent dance movements in his music events. His music tours were filled with snake charmers, hermaphrodites, nudists and vulgar dancers. Freddie Mercury lived an undisciplined life filled with heresy and sin, banned drugs and total materialism. He had homosexual partners all over the world. Freddie Mercury died of AIDS complications in 1991. He received his just wages from God.”

Father Kenneth Johnston’s take on this was like this: “When Freddie Mercury died in his four million pound mansion, he left properties worth fifteen million pounds to his friends and relatives. He did not carry anything beyond his grave. He was a great singer but he used this boon to serve the Satan. What a pity! Where is Freddie Mercury today? A life of drunken indiscipline and satanic music can end only this way after the Judgement. Neither his wealth nor his fame can save him from the wrath of God. Freddie Mercury followed a false religion called Zoroastrianism instead of Jesus. He spent months planning his final rites, but forgot to prepare his soul to meet the real God. According to reports, Zoroastrian priests in white muslin habits and caps chanted and sang their religious songs in praise of Ahura Mazda and prayed for redemption of his departed soul. Freddie Mercury did not ascend to Heaven! Why? Is it because he was a homosexual? Of course, not! That is because Freddie Mercury did not accept the teachings of the true prophet, the Jesus Christ!”

Tolstoy, in his book ‘About Art’, wrote: “Art reveals the human emotions. The strongest emotions to the softest, the important emotions to the lightest of them, the most beautiful emotions to the dirtiest of them... If those emotions of the artiste could win over the followers of art, then they are the best raw materials of art. When the art lover feels the same emotion as its creator, we call it art. The work of an artiste is to reach an emotional height and to impart it to the admirer through lines, colours, sounds, movements and words and make him feel the same emotional height”. These words of Tolstoy completely describe Freddie Mercury. He had the ability, through the magic of his music and his control over his art, to converse with the hearts of masses.

In 1986, in Germany, he sang the British National Anthem and made his audience of 70,000 Germans to follow the beat and sing along with him. When he sang for 20 minutes for the Music programme ‘Live Aid’, he had an audience of 2 million glued to their TV sets. 70,000 fans sang with him in Wembley Open Air Theatre. Freddie Mercury believed in giving 100% of his artistic abilities on the stage, every time. In 1985, in Rio de Janeiro, when a crowd of three hundred and twenty five thousand made him perform repeated ‘encores’ of his song ‘I Want to Break Free!’, he must have realized that true art grows beyond its creator and transcends him. To those Rio de Janeirians, it was an anthem of proclamation of independence. Freddie Mercury’s fast and resurgent songs like ‘We will, We will Rock You’, ‘We are the Champions’ and ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ are evergreen rock numbers, the world over.

‘Queen’ rock band led by Freddie Mercury released 18 albums from the beginning of seventies. They sold over 80 million copies all over the world. ‘Queen’ released many songs that ruled the taste of the masses and dominated the industry. Freddie Mercury is one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music. He had a great voice with unlimited potential. He has said that he had no voice training, even though he sang difficult numbers with effortless proficiency. Freddie Mercury who had an aggressively dramatic presence on stage, had written, composed and performed many important Rock songs. Most of his creations like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Too Much Love will kill You’, ‘No One But You’, ‘Love My Life’ etc. were all world wide super hits.

Zanzibar is an African island in the Indian Ocean, 2 miles offshore from Tanzanian mainland. It is famous for its beaches and beautiful corals. It is home to Stone Town, the only ancient town the still extant in East Africa. On 6th September of 1946, Farookh Balsara was born there to Indian Parsi parents. Zanzibar was, then a British colony. Balsara’s father, due to the exigencies of his employment as a lower division clerk, had to live in the island. In spite of poor financial conditions, his was highly musically inclined family. Balsara, in his younger days, grew up on a staple diet of Hindi film music of the likes of Lata Mangeshkar.

Bulsara was sent to Bombay for education on the strength of a sponsorship from a better-off relative there. At the age of eight, he traveled alone to India by ship in a two-month journey and was admitted to the British Educational Institution at Panchgani near Pune, The St. Peter’s Residential School. As a boy low on looks and with protruding teeth he was very reserved and badly affected by an inferiority complex. Therefore, his school days were markedly sad. But he showed special interest in painting and Music. He was given piano lessons on the recommendation of his Head Master. At the age of twelve, he became the Piano Musician of ‘Hectics’, the school music band.

It was at these times that he changed his name to Freddie and even his parents and relatives took to addressing him by that name. In 1962, he stopped his studies having failed his 10th std. exams. And he went back to Zanzibar. His family emigrated to England consequent on Zanzibar’s Independence in 1964 and the military rebellion that followed it and the resultant political churn. The Bulsara family kept shifting as refugees for a few years in that strange land. After the unhappy bouts of staying as exiles in the houses of relatives, they at last settled in a small house in Middlesex County.

Though he had spent most of his boyhood days in Pune Hostel and in Bombay with his grandmother and maternal aunt, Freddie Mercury kept his Indian connection a secret. He carefully kept his traditions out of interviews and conversations. He used to describe himself a Persian based on the background of his Parsi religion. His friends remarked that he was ashamed of his Indian identity and that due to racist discrimination and suppression long prevalent in England against Indian immigrants he feared isolation. However, Roger Taylor, Freddie’s friend and a fellow Music artiste, opined that he concealed his Indian identity as it did not jell with his identity as a most modern Rock Music cult figure.

In England, Freddie Mercury trained in Painting and Graphic Arts and passed with a First Class. (Later he used this training to design the costumes for his band and the look of his stages). He met his expenses by doing odd jobs. Roger Taylor recalls that “He used to look like a super star even when he was penniless.”

Around this time, Freddie Mercury developed keen interest in music. He became an ardent fan of Jimi Hendrix, Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Let Zeppelin and others. In 1969, Freddie Mercury started a small textile shop in Kensington. In the same year responding to an advertisement by a music group he applied to be a singer. But he got rejected for poor looks and ‘insufficient musical competence’. In 1970 Freddie Mercury with his friends started the band, Queen. He formally changed his name to Freddie Mercury.

Their first album named ‘Queen’ was released in 1973. One of the songs in the album ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ was noticed and achieved some popularity over radio. But music critics were lukewarm. This lack of enthusiasm of rock critics dogged him to the end of his life.

His second album Queen 2 was released in 1974. It was better noticed. ‘Seven Seas of Rhyme’, the solo song in the album, was listed in the UK Top Ten. But his third album ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ released in 1975 was his first mega hit. ‘Killer Queen’, the song in the album, was a consistent no.2 in British song sales and what is more, it secured him fans in America too. The same year his all-time super hit ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was released. Queen acquired fame as a very big rock act. His shows created millions of fans all over the world. Continuous tours, stage shows and recordings started a non-stop race to the top.

Rock Star David Bowie commented: “Of all Rock performers on stage, Freddie Mercury went the farthest. He took Rock events to their zenith. Watching his performance, I thought, he had the mass of Rock lovers eating out of his hands. He could turn simple practices into big attractions. During his music events he used to reach the very frontiers of entertainment. Whether in rough and ready leather outfit or in the briefest of women’s attire, he drove the narcissist world of Rock music wild with excitement and ecstasy.

On the occasion of the release of Queen’s album ‘Jazz’, he had organised a massive Rock festival in New Orleans. Freddie Mercury personally supervised every minute part of its arrangement. This demonstration was dedicated to the cast-outs and the detested. It turned out to be a grand feast of ‘sinfully wild dance’. Midgets, homosexuals, snake charmers, nude dancers were all had a blast in it. Champagne flowed and narcotic drugs were available in plenty.

The Queen released two singles titled ‘Bicycle Race’ and ‘Fat Bottomed Girl’ in a most shocking manner. It conducted a bicycle race with 65 nude women participating in it on the Wimbledon courts. The video shots of these scenes were used in the music video and the stills of these shots were used on the album cover and publicity posters. Many music stores refused to put up the posters of the nude women on the bicycles. The firm that hired out the 65 bicycles for the race refused to take them back. But in 1978 when the Queen organised a music event in Madison Square, they staged the bicycle race again with girls wearing briefest of brief dresses!

In 1981 Queen organised grand open air rock events in Argentina and Brazil. That was first time when such famous Rock band to have held big live shows there. Live Aid, a massive joint music event held in 1985 for African famine relief, was Freddie’s greatest achievement at that time. In that event the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Madonna and Led Zeppelin participated. But the best musical moments were Freddie Mercury’s. He had created a 15 minute medley with his top super hit songs. In that event Freddie Mercury took Modern Rock music to its next stage of progress. The fans present were not Freddie Mercury’s alone, yet he took them all with him.

At its height, Queen Fan Club had 20,000 official members. It entered Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest Rock Music Fan Club. 1979 onwards Queen was the number one Rock act in America. But the moment Freddie Mercury changed his appearance, Queen’s downslide started there. He cropped his hair short and started sporting a moustache. His fans ‘feared’ that he may be a homosexual. When he was on stage shaving blades started flying towards the stage. The booing reached its high in 1984. Freddie Mercury dressing like a big-breasted housewife sporting a moustache and singing and acting in his video ‘I Want to Break Free’ can be cited as the major cause. Countering the opposition Freddie said: “Yes, I tried that on purpose. Now people can yawn. Oh God! Now Freddie Mercury has started saying he is a homosexual. It seems the fashion to say so now.” His friend Bryan May commented “When we released the song in England, they said it was funny. In America, they took the song as an insult.”

Later, when Freddie Mercury admitted to being a homosexual, many thought he was only joking. The reason was that he had such a manly looks. It was also a fact that he lived surrounded by beautiful women. There were suspicions, but fans took his words to be a joke. Besides, in Seventies admitting to be a homosexual was not the done thing.

Today, most researchers consider that sexual tendencies are not the deliberate choice of the individuals. There was a time when homosexuality was considered a mental disorder requiring treatment. Today most of the doctors do not try to ‘treat’ homosexuality. They think it is not a disease, but a natural inclination of sex and it is wrong to consider it like the addiction to drugs. The consensus is that sexual inclination is decided by the nature of one’s emotions, environment, hormones and other biological factors.

In 1985, Freddie Mercury’s only solo full length album ‘Mr. Bad Guy’ was released. Music critic, Davich Bratto, described it as the very best of Freddie Mercury’s music albums which was great from beginning to end and that he had done particularly well to extend the frontiers of his musical reach. But it was not considered a commercial success.

In 1993, he remixed and released his famous song ‘Living Own My Own’. His next album ‘A Kind of Magic’ made Queen even more popular. This album was made mostly using synthesizer. Till the end eighties it was rare to find the use of synthesizers in the albums of Queen.

Piano was Freddie Mercury’s favourite instrument. He was extremely devoted to classical forms of Music like Opera and Ballet. His album ‘Barcelona’ had expertly combined popular music with Opera music. It was sung by the famous Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballe, a singer Freddie Mercury worshipped. For Caballe, it was the greatest success of her singing career. Freddie Mercury has written and composed tracks like ‘There Must Be More to Life Than This’ and ‘State Of Shock’ and sang them with Michael Jackson, but they were not properly released.

Freddie Mercury was a person with undisciplined habits. In his personal life, he was noted for his rough conduct and costly gifts he lavished on his friends. He sailed with a reliant of 80 friends to the great entertainment resort in the island of Ibiza to celebrate his 41st birthday. There, they were welcomed with a display of pyrotechnics. Flamingo dancers were on hand to entertain them. Freddie had cut a 20 feet long birthday cake. A Queen producer, Roy Baker says: “My memory of the days spent on recording and traveling with Queen can mostly be recalled as endless celebration of festivities.”

Freddie spent most of his early Queen days with his lover Mary Austin. But he claimed countless liaisons even then. He said: “I have more lovers than Elizabeth Taylor.” Later, when the contagion of AIDS spread, Freddie Mercury was frightened. Once, when he was invited to America he refused to go in fear of AIDS.

In February of 1991 a grand gala dinner was organised in Southern California on board the ocean luxury liner named Queen Mary to celebrate the release of Freddie Mercury’s album ‘Innuendo’. 2000 bigwigs of music industry were entertained. It was an event where legs of roasted lambs, varieties of crabs and a wide range of desserts were heaped and all sorts of choice wines and liquors overflowed. Magicians, mimicry artistes and actors were on hand to entertain the invitees. A pyrotechnic display was organised to the music of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. But all eyes looked for the main Host, Freddie Mercury, in vain. Members of Queen like Bryan May and Roger Taylor evaded all questions on Freddie Mercury. Their friend, who wanted to live his life in a frenzy of ecstasy, was slowly dying of AIDS.

Freddie Mercury was diagnosed to have AIDS in 1987. In an interview given that year, he claimed that doctors had pronounced him clear of the disease. But magazines were doing their own investigations and reporting on it that Freddie Mercury was nearing his end.

Freddie Mercury spent his last years confined to his mansion in London. This three storey Edwardian mansion, built of red sandstone, was dilapidated when he bought it. He renovated and furnished it at a great cost and named it the ‘Dream House’. He outfitted it with costly woodwork and filled it with costly works of art. All the 28 rooms of the Mansion resonated through stereophonic systems the voice of Aretha Franklin, Freddie’s favourite singer. Debilitated by his disease, he spent his last days in the company of his pet Persian cats. To the last he did not give up on music. From his bed he composed the songs of his ‘Farewell Album’ released later.

“In response to the enquiries from the press, I would like to make this clarification. My blood tests indicate the presence of AIDS. I had kept this secret to this date to protect the privacy of my near and dear ones. But time has come for my friends and fans all over the world to know the truth. Let us work together with my physicians and all those who are fighting this dreaded disease all over the world. My privacy had always been precious to me. It is quite well-known that I do not give interviews. Please understand when I say that this policy will continue.” This announcement appeared on 22nd November 1991. Freddie Mercury was no more within 24 hours of this announcement. He was then, all of forty five years old.

Mary Austin said: “Freddie was aware of the approaching death. He faced it bravely.” Dave Clark, who was with him during his last days, remarked: “He was kind and generous to a fault. He was a dear person with nothing of the wildness he displayed on the stage. It was not just his friends and relations who benefited from his generosity. There were countless unknown persons who benefited from it. He loved simple people of humble origin.”

Freddie Mercury’s death by AIDS continues to blemish his name to this day. All his artistic creations are sought to be portrayed as symbol of everything wrong. People conveniently forget the biological truth that homosexuality and heterosexuality are not a person’s own choice. What does it matter if Freddie Mercury was a homosexual or a heterosexual person? There is no other Rock Singer with his force and reach is the simple truth!

Freddie Mercury’s last music video ‘Days of Our Lives’ was released after his death. In those pale black and white visuals Freddie Mercury appears without any made up expressions, thinned down by the disease, hand in hand with Death. Head held high, without regret or bitterness he bids good bye as his image slowly fades away.