Freddie Mercury

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Born Farrokh Bulsara in the now-defunct Sultanate of Zanzibar, Mercury grew up covering Bollywood and rock singers on the piano with his high school band. His family emigrated to Britain during the Zanzibar Revolution, where he studied art and cycled through a series of bands before helping launch Queen. He would go on to sing the lead vocals, play piano and a spot of guitar (and piano-like instruments such as the harpsichord), and compose both lyrics and instrumentals for much of the band’s music. Mercury’s legendary stagecraft was on full display during Queen’s 1985 Live Aid concert, available for viewing here, in which he cavorts around the stage and coaxes his audience of thousands to clap along in unison.

During his lifetime Mercury had relationships with both men and women, including Mary Austin and Jim Hutton. The former was the subject of Mercury’s song “Love of My Life“; the latter, his partner of six years. Soon after learning that he had contracted HIV he threw (in the opinion of the linked article) the most decadent party the isle of Ibiza had ever seen. He hid the truth of his illness from the public until the day before he passed away from AIDS-related complications.

 

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