Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was a prolific writer, an introverted empath, and an iconic musician. His band stands as among the world’s most successful of all time, with record sales topping 300 million worldwide. Queen’s two-night run at London’s Wembley Stadium in ’86 is still universally perceived as standing among the most unforgettable live rock events in history.
To celebrate Mercury’s outsized life, Stacker compiled a list of 25 elements from his biography that many fans don’t know. From working as a baggage handler at Heathrow airport to hiding his HIV diagnosis from the public until just before his death, Mercury’s life was filled with adventure, publicity, and perhaps above all a clear duality. He was both flamboyant and shy; outspoken and intensely private. He had two remarkable relationships, one with Mary Austin and one with Jim Hutton, both complicated and both long-term. Hutton was with Mercury for seven years before the star’s death; Austin, Mercury’s first serious relationship, was told by the musician where to bury his ashes.
Ten of the 17 songs on Queen’s 1981 “Greatest Hits'' collection—the band’s bestselling album—were written by Mercury. He began writing Queen’s most famous song, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” while he was still in college, calling it “The Cowboy Song” at the time the few lyrics he’d come up with: “Mama, just killed a man…” His favorite artists were Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix.
Today, a giant statue of Mercury overlooks a lake in Montreux, Switzerland, where Mercury moved after buying Mountain Recording Studio. Queen’s last album was also recorded there.
Mercury’s voice was said to have had a four-octave vocal range and was the subject of a 2016 study that sought to better understand it. He refused to get his teeth fixed, despite having four extra molars in the back of his mouth, for fear that doing so would alter his singing voice. Still, Mercury was clearly self-conscious about his teeth, frequently covering his top row with his upper lip or hand while on camera.
He co-wrote “The Show Must Go On,” off 1991’s “Innuendo,” with bandmate Brian May. The song is about Mercury’s commitment to continue performing and singing right up until the final moment even as he was dying of AIDS.
Keep reading to discover 25 surprising, tragic, and heartwarming stories about Mercury’s life.
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