Pride Month Spotlight: Freddie Mercury
Welcome to the 27th article in our 2019 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
Freddie Mercury is regarded as the greatest frontman in rock history for his work with the band Queen. Freddie is primarily known for his fantastic mustache and amazing vocal range, and in recent years, for being bisexual during an era of rampant homophobia.
Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in 1946 on the island of Zanzibar. His parents sent him to a boarding school in India, where he took piano lessons and joined the boxing team. It was here that he formed his first band. Upon leaving school, Freddie returned to Zanzibar for a short time before his family moved to England in order to flee the Zanzibar revolution.
It was in England that Freddie met Brian May and Roger Taylor. He joined their band, Smile, after their lead singer left. The group found John Deacon as bassist and Freddie changed their name to Queen. They went on to have 53 #1 hit singles, 14 studio albums, and an amazing rock legacy. Freddie’s Live Aid performance is said to be the best rock and roll performance in history.
Freddie’s most well known romantic relationships were with Mary Austin from the early to mid 70s, and Jim Hutton from the mid 80s until Freddie’s death in 1991. Freddie kept most of his romantic relationships out of the spotlight because of his private nature, but that didn’t stop the tabloids from speculating about his life incessantly.
While never publicly out of the closet, Freddie is an important figure in LGBT history. Freddie was diagnosed with AIDS in April of 1987. According to his associates, he didn’t like talking about it, but he tried experimental treatments. He knew he wasn’t going to live for long, but he wanted to help people by making sure that treatments would be tested and available. AIDS in the 1980s was a death sentence. Misconceptions were rampant and it was thought that AIDS was a “gay disease.” because it affected mostly homosexual men.
On 23 November, 1991, the following statement was released to the press:
Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.
Freddie Mercury died of bronchial pneumonia caused by AIDS at 7:12 pm GMT on 24 November, 1991. As the first rock star to die of AIDS, he helped put a face to a disease that, by the end of the 80s, had claimed the lives of thousands of people, mostly gay men.
On 20 April, 1992, the remaining members of Queen performed with more than 20 other artists in The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness. This concert benefited the Mercury Phoenix AIDS Trust, which was established by Queen and their manager to raise money for AIDS research.
In 2018, a heavily dramatized Freddie Mercury biopic entitled Bohemian Rhapsody was released. Bohemian Rhapsody brought in $903.7 million, becoming the highest grossing musical biopic and LGBT film of all time.
As a bisexual teenager and a larger-than-life theatre kid during the burgeoning days of household internet connection, Freddie was a comfort to me during some really dark times. To see a flamboyant bisexual man as successful and popular as Freddie gave me hope. I hope that he continues to comfort future generations.
You can donate to the Mercury Phoenix Trust here.
Stay tuned for our next installment in our 2019 Pride Month Series tomorrow, and check out the rest of the articles in the series here.