By Amelia Green
Freddie Mercury was a pillar of my childhood. My parents spoke of him like a long-lost friend. I now understand why.
A genius who used his unparalleled voice to do so much more than sing. An unrivalled stage presence. A man who to people worldwide felt they could relate to.
I grew up in South Wales, U.K., home to the Rockfield recording studio. Queen buffs will know this is where the iconic foursome recorded Bohemian Rhapsody. My mother was eight-years-old when the smash-hit was released, growing up in the 70s and 80s to the sound of Queen.
In this age of Spotify and Apple Music, new music is just a finger-tap away. My mother used to take two buses to the nearest record store and two buses back to add the latest singles to her collection.
She has described many times the sadness she felt when it was announced that Mercury had become ill. She can remember crying at hearing These are the Days of our Lives for the first time, and how deeply she missed his voice.
My parents reminisce of 1992. The year after Freddie passed away. The year that Queen’s Barcelona became the anthem for the Olympic games in the city. The year that they sat on their bed, on their knees and watched the entire Freddie Mercury AIDS tribute concert.
(Johnny Dewe Mathews/FLICKR)
I was born in 1998, seven years after Mercury passed away. A fact I didn’t learn until I was near ten-years-old, as to me Freddie was always alive.
When someone is ageless, they will always be relevant. “Bohemian Rhapsody” continues to play full length on the radio, the standout bassline in Another One Bites the Dust is still echoing in city clubs and only last week, I bought Jazz on vinyl for my record-loving housemate. Freddie Mercury continues to inspire and engage with generations even almost 30 years after his passing.
Box office hit Bohemian Rhapsody has just been nominated for five Academy Awards including Rami Malek for Best Leading Actor and the biggest award of the night, Best Picture.
The film focuses in on Mercury’s early life, the beginning of the band, his personal relationships and the iconic 1985 Live Aid performance that changed the way people remember Queen. I have been told by my relatives that they’ll always remember where they were when they watched over 70,000 people in Wembley Stadium clapping in unison to “Radio Ga Ga.”
I watch vidoes of this performance when I need a pick-me-up. This might sound ridiculous to anyone who hasn’t watched the set but I dare you to watch Mercury’s performance and not feel uplifted. The first thing I did after watching Bohemian Rhapsody in the theatre was watch the Live Aid set in full. The set list in question, with crowd-pleasers like “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “We Are The Champions,” has the power to make you feel as though you’re part of the audience. It might be because Mercury was as good live as he is on the tracks but when we listen to Queen; doesn’t it feel like we’re there with him?
In addition to his inimitable voice and being as one of the greatest frontmen of all time, Mercury was a fashion icon. You can bet every Halloween you’ll see someone in either Mercury’s Live Aid getup or his military-style yellow jacket worn on Queen’s 1986 ‘Magic’ European tour. At the 2012 London Olympics, footage of Mercury wearing the jacket was used as a homage to his renowned stage presence during the opening ceremony. I remember watching with my family and the warmth brought up from seeing his familiar face in front of the crowd.
Mercury died from AIDS in 1991, putting out a press release just one day before he died confirming his illness. Queen reached peak stardom during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, when homophobia was rife and no treatments were available for HIV.
Mercury was always doing things to stand out and pushing back against social norms. In 1984, the music video for “I Want to Break Free” received backlash as all four band members dressed up as bored housewives. This is touched upon in the Queen biopic and highlights how Mercury was blamed for the video, due to his suspected sexuality.
While he came under scrutiny for rumours about his personal life and choices, Mercury was an example of a successful, widely supported, gay man in a time where gay youth were fearing for their lives. He was there through one of the worst periods for the western LGBT community in modern times.
Lead guitarist for Queen, Brian May shared an image of Mercury on his birthday this year, with the caption: “Happy birthday dear Freddie. Feels like you’re close by”.
May highlights exactly what it was like growing up in the generation after Freddie.
While he is gone, his music and impact are immortal. Generation after generation will find their way to Freddie when they want to break free.