Few rock frontmen can match the moxie of the iconic Freddie Mercury.
The lead singer of the legendary rock band Queen possessed – or perhaps was possessed by – an extraordinary voice that spanned and astounding four octaves. He had the capacity to belt out notes that bounced off the furthest reaches of the stadium, and yet he could turn on a dime and deliver lyrics with tender, tremulous intensity.
His performances were legendary for their theatricality, energy and skill. From choreography to composition to costumes, there wasn’t a thing about a Queen show that wasn’t, well, majestic, with Freddie out in front.
Off stage, Freddie’s life was just as mercurial. He pursued sex, drugs and drink with gusto, often to the alarm of those around him. Plunging headlong into debauchery is never a good idea, and it was a particularly bad idea in an era where HIV/AIDS was emerging as a threat.
But even as he caroused his way through the world, parts of his life were steadfastly anchored in friendship and loyalty. He maintained a life-long relationship with his former girlfriend Mary Austin, even referring to her as his “common law wife.” She became his personal assistant and most trusted confidant.
He adored his collection of cats, even calling to talk to them from the road. Upon his death, he left the bulk of his fortune to Austin and the cats.
Freddie was coy publicly about his sexuality, despite years of public speculation that he was gay. Some faulted him for not coming out publicly. It’s difficult to know exactly what drove his decision to keep his sexuality private. Perhaps he was uncomfortable with the possible public backlash – Queen was at its height while LGBTQ people were still deep in the struggle for public and legal acceptance – or simply because he wanted to keep his private life private.
When his health began to deteriorate due to complications from AIDS, Freddie again chose to keep his diagnosis private as long as possible. When he finally shared the news with his Queen bandmates, they closed ranks around him.
His response to his condition? He doubled down on the central passion of his life, music, with even more moxie. He continued writing and recording with Queen until the final days of his life. He sang his own eulogy.
Freddie’s moxie was clear on the stage and in the studio. He held nothing back in his performances. But his moxie can be found also in his steadfast loyalty to his closest friends, and his devotion to his craft.
If you had the chance to ask Freddie Mercury a question, what would you ask? If you could interview Freddie at any stage of his life, which stage would you choose?
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