*Post written by Jake Knecht, student assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.
Today we are going to discuss one of the most influential rock stars of all time, Freddie Mercury. Frederick Bulsara was born on September 5, 1946 on the east African island of Zanzibar. The young Frederick spent the majority of his youth in India, where he began cultivating his musical talent at the age of seven by taking piano lessons.
When Frederick’s family moved to Middlesex, England in 1964, he began singing with local bands as he attended Ealing College of Art to study graphic design. Two members of a local group called Smile named Roger Taylor and Brian May, as well as a local bassist by the name of John Deacon would come together to form a band with Frederick, who now adopted the name Freddie Mercury. This band was called Queen, and it would go on to become one of the most famous rock bands ever.
Over the course of twenty years, Queen would go on to release hits such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. The group would also become innovators in various phenomena that would come to define rock, such as the idea of “stadium rock”, where a band performs music in front of thousands of fans in enormous stadiums. They would also popularize pop videos, which were the precursor to modern music videos.
Tragedy would strike the group when Freddie Mercury passed away on November 24, 1991. He died due to AIDS, the most severe phase of HIV infection. In this phase, an individual’s immune system is so thoroughly damaged that they become extremely susceptible to many different illnesses. What is interesting about his death is that it came just over 24 hours after he announced that he had AIDS to the media.
Freddie Mercury’s legacy lives on in the music that he made and the lives that he affected. Queen’s songs continue to be enjoyed by many people throughout the world today. Freddie’s death gave birth to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity for AIDS awareness dedicated to his memory.
If you are interested in material on Freddie Mercury and Queen, the University Archives and Special Collections has collections that include Queen and many other performers.
Freddie Mercury – Biography. Mercury Songs Limited, http://www.freddiemercury.com/en/biography. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.
What Are HIV and AIDS?. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/what-are-hiv-and-aids. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.