- 24 Nov 20
29 years ago today, Freddie Mercury died, aged 45. To mark his anniversary, we're revisiting the top 10 ingredients that made him so unique – and one of the finest frontmen of all time.
1. THE SONGS
While Freddie’s impressive showmanship and outrageous costumes may have set him apart, the main reason why his visage will always be included in a Mount Rushmore of rock comes down to all those incredible, brilliantly radio-friendly songs. Powerful (‘Get Down Make Love’), playful (‘Bicycle Race’) or simply poptastic (‘You’re My Best Friend’), they consistently hit the motherlode.
2. THE SHOWMANSHIP
A frontman of almost supernatural showmanship, Freddie’s performances were a fantastic fusion of “man of the people” and “absolute rock god”. There were two defining live moments where Freddie’s showmanship created unforgettable magic: Live Aid in 1985 and Knebworth in 1986. Freddie Mercury and Queen set the benchmark for stadium rock.
3. THE FLAMBOYANCE
During the ’70s, glam rock firmly gripped the world and no one was more flamboyant than the Queen legend. “It’s not a concert you’re seeing, it’s a fashion show,” Mercury once quipped and his stage-wear, largely designed by Zandra Rhodes, was out of this world. Partial to a catsuit and an exposed chest, some of his costumes have become absolutely iconic.
4. THE VOICE
According to rock lore, Mercury’s voice spanned four full octaves and that unmistakable croon is one of the many reasons why Queen’s place in rock’s pantheon is forever guaranteed. His primal performance on ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and game-changing vocals on iconic rock opera ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ could put goosebumps on your goosebumps.
5. ANDROGYNOUS APPEAL
Throughout his career, particularly during the ’80s, the singer helped redefine masculinity. Loved by all genders, his penchant for peacocking made him a sex symbol, and he revelled in the role. The drag-based video for ‘I Want To Break Free’ saw Freddie take it to new heights and, yes, we remain extremely jealous of his pins.
6. THE VERSATILITY
Arguably one of the most eclectic rock bands ever, even the pickiest critic will find tracks to float their boat. A huge part of Queen’s versatility was thanks to Mercury’s miraculous pipes. Check out his vocals on the tongue-in-cheek hoe-down ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, or his effortless delivery on stadium-rattler ‘Radio Ga Ga’ for proof.
7. THE MYSTERY
Where was Freddie Mercury from? His sultry looks and exotic appearance hinted at a fascinating back-story which captured fans’ imaginations. He was born of Parsi descent in Zanzibar, before moving to India and then England. His exotic looks meant that always looked like a star. And he was.
8. THE EXTRAVAGANCE
On Freddie’s headstone, bandmate Brian May had the simple epitaph “Lover of life, singer of songs” inscribed. In truth, Mercury lived 45 wonderful and often reckless years. A hedonist and hell-raiser, he didn’t know the meaning of “half-measures”, and his extravagant lifestyle yielded a library worth of yarns. Our favourite is when he dressed the former Princess of Wales up in drag and snuck her into a gay club.
9. THE MUSICIANSHIP
He may have been the ultimate showman, but Freddie was also a brilliant musician. Mercury had many sleepless nights over his piano playing and – such were his high standards – he ended up abandoning the instrument for live performances, in order to concentrate solely on his singing. But his musicianship was central to the greatness of Queen.
10. THAT MOUSTACHE
No examination of the man, the myth and the legend that is Freddie Mercury would be complete without mentioning his magnificent moustache. Slash has his top hat, The Beatles had their mop tops and the Queen frontman had his terrific tea strainer, which, if the band were around nowadays, would probably have its own Twitter account. Now there’s an idea...