Here Are 24 Things You Never Knew About Freddie Mercury

With the release of the popular biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury has been the talk of the town all over the world. But did you know that the film was heavily criticized for departing too much from the real-life facts? Don’t worry, here are 24 things you didn’t know about the fashion and rock legend himself and his emblematic band.

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#24. A Censored Comeback

Written by bassist John Deacon, the song I Want To Break Free was released in 1984 as one of the singles of their album The Works. People and critics loved it everywhere, but the hit status that the song achieved wasn’t enough to stop the controversy sparked by its edgy video…

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Indeed, even though the video (which showed all band-members dressed as women) received praise in Britain, it was banned in the U.S. Why did this happen? Well, apparently, cross-dressing wasn’t an unusual thing in British comedy, hence the conservative backlash was notably smaller over there than in North America. Besides, the video was also a parody of Coronation Street, a famous British TV show, and Americans didn’t take notice of this.

#23. A Cat Lover

If you consider yourself the world’s greatest cat-lover, then you’re up for some serious competition against Freddie! Yes, this is no exaggeration, as Freddie Mercury was known to have at least 10 cats. What an impressive number, right?

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Allegedly, he was extremely fond of each and one of them, and the cats were treated like family by the iconic frontman. The cat from this picture, which appears to be in a grumpy mood, was Delilah, his favorite one. He even dedicated a song on the album Innuendo to her, what an honor!

#22. Playing A Sold-Out Soccer Stadium In Argentina

A worldwide tour with a couple of dates in South America and Asia is pretty common for an international superstar nowadays. However, when Queen booked some shows in Brazil and Argentina in 1981, this was seen as an audacious move.

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Without Social Media or Internet at all, the band wasn’t completely aware of how crazy their South American fanbase was… but they quickly realized their own popularity when the 50,000 tickets for the show at the River Plate stadium in Buenos Aires sold out in less than a week.

#21. A Legendary Show

The belligerent political context made the night in Buenos Aires even more legendary. At the time, a violent dictatorship was in control of the country, and the army’s General was extremely concerned with the prospect of thousands of people gathering in a confined space.

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Luckily, the military government’s disapproval wasn’t enough to cancel Queen’s concert, and several media outlets even reported that almost 100,000 frenzied rock fans saw the world’s biggest band that night. Freddie’s iconic antics and performance were at their best during what would be remembered as one the band’s wildest gigs ever.

#20. A Worldwide Fanbase

After that South American tour, Queen started to realize that they were, in fact, the world greatest band at the moment. That’s right, the first half of the 80s saw the band dominate the charts with some of the most critically acclaimed singles and albums.

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This period of global popularity and top-notch musical level started, to be precise, with the release of A Night At The Opera, an album full of memorable tunes like Love Of My Life, Bohemian Rhapsody, You’re My Best Friend and other less-known but equally great songs like Brian May’s 39.

#19. A Prosperous Life

You’ve probably read a ton of headlines about how much the movie Bohemian Rhapsody grossed, the box office records it shattered, and how much Queen’s current members earned with the biopic’s success. But the truth is that the musicians already enjoyed financial prosperity due to the band’s popularity during the 80s.

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This was especially true regarding Freddie, who loved to expand his notable art collection and constantly hosted extravagant Gatsby-Esque parties (just imagine getting invited to one of these, I’d still be telling the story to my children!).

#18. We Are The Champions

Queen’s unstoppable pace during the end of the 70s helped pave the way to the top of the charts. Undoubtedly, their extremely prolific musical output was unachievable by other bands: A Night At The Opera in 1975, A Day At The Races (which included Somebody To Love) the following year, and News of the World in 1977.

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News Of The World was a crucial point in their career since it was the band’s response to the punk movement’s rise and the Sex Pistols’ criticism towards “progressive” bands like Queen. Therefore, this album included more straightforward singles which would end up being massive anthems, like We Are The Champions and We Will Rock You.

#17. An Inspiration For Many

We’ve already talked about Freddie and the rest of his bandmate’s ability to adapt to the changing landscape of the music industry and maintain relevance throughout their best years. If you bear this fact in mind and add the band’s unique style and aesthetic, it’s no surprise that Queen has inspired an astonishing amount of other musical acts.

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From Nirvana and Iron Maiden to Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and many hip hop artists, numerous musicians have publicly expressed their admiration for Queen and Freddie. Amongst the band’s most distinguished fans is Radiohead’s singer Thom Yorke, who stated that he tried to imitate Brian May’s guitar technique as a child.

#16. Elton Disapproved Bohemian Rhapsody

Perhaps it’s not much of a surprise that the record label owner to which Queen was signed disliked Bohemian Rhapsody’s release as a single. Usually, a song is considered to have more radio and charting potential if it’s short and catchy, and Bohemian Rhapsody was a wild rock-opera with a length of 6 minutes.

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However, due to its remarkable ambition and stunning performances by all 4 of Queen’s members, one would think that every other skilled artist was fascinated with the song. Well… this was actually far from being true with Elton John, who was also concerned with the decision of releasing a 6-minute-long single. Freddie couldn’t care less of these reprovals, however.

#15. Their First American Break

Like in many other cases, Freddie’s instinct was correct. That’s right, to Elton John’s surprise, Bohemian Rhapsody was a sensation and rocketed straight to number one in Britain, maintaining the first place for the stunning amount of 9 weeks!

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However, it wasn’t always like this for Queen. Before the fame and their number one singles, the band had to tour the U.S. as a supporting band to make themselves known and to improve their live performance. Their first shows in North America were as the opening act for Mott the Hoople, bet you didn’t know this!

#14. The Debut Didn’t Attract Much Attention

Before A Night At The Opera‘s explosion, Queen had already achieved a bit of success with the song Killer Queen, from their third album from 1974. Retracing the band’s steps, we have Queen II, their second LP, which has an iconic shot of the 4 musicians by photographer Mick Ronson in the album’s cover.

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However, their debut is usually ignored. Indeed, their self-titled debut studio album, which was equally influenced by progressive rock and heavy metal, was a commercial failure. Queen was still struggling to find their identity as a band, but their search for a unique style would bring positive results sooner than later.

#13. Multitalented Rockstars

Even the few haters of Queen (for real though, how can you dislike this band?!) tend to agree that the members’ talent with their instruments was amazing. Though Brian May’s guitar solos and Freddie’s insane vocals steal the show, Deacon’s bass playing and Roger Taylor’s drumming and backing vocals are also amongst the best in the game.

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However, did you know that Queen’s stars also displayed their talent when off the stage? And these had little or nothing to do with music: Brian has a Ph.D. in astronomy and physics, Roger is a dentist, Freddie studied graphic design and art, and John Deacon is a doctor in electronics. Impressive!

#12. New Sound, New Look

After finding their own unique musical style with catchy pop-rock tunes and more complex songs, Queen also developed a particular aesthetic that became inseparable from the band’s music. With Freddie as the key figure, their clothes and stage antics often expressed flamboyance and confidence.

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Queen’s style would later influence glam rock artists like David Bowie (who would later collaborate with them on the brilliant Under Pressure) and current pop stars like Lady Gaga. Freddie’s extravagant outfits and his ideas for some of the music videos were also innovative for their gender-bending characteristics. Slide on to learn more about this legend!

#11. His Name Wasn’t Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Frank Ocean… Many people wonder why so many famous artists have such cool names as if they were born to be legends. Well, sorry to spill the beans for you, but these are not their real names!

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Yeah, that’s right! Usually, some stars adopt a pseudonym that looks good on a magazine or album covers, and sometimes they even change their official name legally. As a matter of fact, Freddie was born Farrokh Bulsara, but that wouldn’t be his official name for much longer…

#10. He Wouldn’t Fix His Teeth

Relying on plastic surgery in order to change some of our physical traits has become, sadly, pretty common nowadays. The other’s judgy glare can be especially harsh if you’re an up and coming star in the showbiz, where record labels can reject you for not adjusting to the beauty standards.

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This constantly happened to Freddie Mercury during Queen’s rise, since he had a particularly large set of bent teeth. Freddie couldn’t care less though, and he taught his audience a valuable lesson when he rejected the suggestion of having them fixed: learn to accept your body with pride!

#9. He Did Change His Name

The beloved singer and songwriter proudly kept his flawed teeth, but there’s one important thing which he was born with that he did modify: his name. He didn’t change Farrokh Bulsara because he disliked it, though. In fact, his high school friends already called him Freddie, and so did some of his family members.

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But the choice of Mercury tends to cause more intrigue… why did he pick this strange surname? For several reasons, but mainly because in Roman mythology, Mercury means messenger of the gods. So yeah, it’s correct to say that Freddie was the singer of the gods!

#8. A Unique Voice

Freddie Mercury had an impressive vocal range. I know this seems like a pretty obvious fact, especially if you’ve only listened to Bohemian Rhapsody. However, specialists and vocal coaches do highlight that Freddie Mercury’s range was almost inimitable.

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To be precise, the Queen frontman could reach 4 octaves, a notable feat for any singer! But there’s more, he could also easily change his style from one line to the next with little effort. His combination of natural talent and charisma was extraordinary when contemplated at a concert!

#7. The First Frontman’s Departure Left An Open Spot

Before Queen could really be Queen and start their road to stardom, the band was called Smile, and Freddie was yet to turn into the lead singer. Sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it? But greatness often needs time and a strike of fortune in order to occur.

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And that’s exactly what happened to Smile. Freddie had been closely following the band, when suddenly Chris Smith, their first frontman, left the band. The spot was now available for Freddie; the band’s name was quickly changed into Queen, and the rest is history!

#6. A Legend’s Conviction

Freddie definitely had the talent required to leave a mark in history. We also learned that fate left him an open spot for him in what would end up being Queen. But there’s more to talent and good luck since Freddie was also driven by his unbreakable conviction.

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Indeed, not only did Mercury have impressive self-belief and innate confidence in himself, but he actually knew and affirmed that he was going to be a legend! These attributes were key for the band’s neverending ambition, Freddie always dreamed of achieving an album more astonishing than the last one.

#5. He Was An Employee At An Airport

As a young adult, before his musical career had taken off, Freddie had to work hard to afford his artistic aspirations. When his family settled in Britain, he began to study art and graphic design, but he also needed a job to support himself economically.

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And that’s when he started to work at Heathrow, one the world’s biggest and busiest airports. Just imagine realizing a couple of years later that you were once assisted by no other than Freddie Mercury in the airport, that’s crazy!

#4. His Death Cause

Freddie passed away in 1991 from bronchopneumonia. The illness resulted from AIDS, which had been weakening him for several months. As in numerous other cases, the icon’s unfortunate death sparked a gigantic rise in his popularity, with an unprecedented boost in Queen’s albums sales.

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The fact that he was the first great rockstar to die from AIDS was also significant. After he passed away, the rest of Queen organized a Freddie Tribute Concert for AIDS awareness, and they also formed The Mercury Phoenix Trust, which would later raise millions for AIDS research and other organizations.

#3. He Was Born In Zanzibar

If you’re not familiar with the origins of the Bulsara family, Freddie’s original name might have made you ask the following question: was Freddie Mercury born in England? Well, the answer is no! He was actually born in Zanzibar.

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Zanzibar is now part of Tanzania, but it was a British protectorate until 1963, so Freddie was already a British citizen. However, his memories of the early days in Zanzibar were probably few, since Mercury spent most of his childhood attending a boarding school in India, before moving to London.

#2. The Aftermath Of Live Aid

Live Aid was a legendary benefit concert held on two different stadiums, one in the U.S. and one in England, in 1985. Though many argue that the goal of helping Ethiopia’s delicate situation was unsuccessful, Live Aid was an extremely important cultural event across the globe when it happened.

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The live broadcast was watched by 2 billion people across 150 countries, and some of the performances left an unerasable mark in history. This was especially true regarding Queen’s dazzling comeback, which was voted the best show of the event. They only played a couple of songs across 21 minutes; however, this gig was enough to reinforce the idea of Queen as the best live band in the world.

#1. An Incredible Legacy

Heralded as the best singer in rock and roll history and having fronted a band with a unique style that sold about 300 million records worldwide, Freddie died after turning 45, having already become one of those beloved legends that everybody misses.

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He left most of his fortune to his family, his chef, his driver, his boyfriend, and Mary Austin, who had been his first love and always his best friend. What’s absolutely clear, almost 3 decades after his death, is that Freddie’s music and legacy continue to shine!

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