Monday 22 February 2010

The LGBT History Series (22) - Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara, 1946-1991) was the gay lead singer of rock band sensation, Queen. His death due to AIDs was a national sensation due to his fame, and was used to raise awareness of the virus, helping to diminish the epidemic.

Author: S_Werner, Permission: GFDL
3m high bronze statue of Freddie Mercury, looking over Lake Geneva, unveiled in 1996

He died of bronchopneumonia, brought on by AIDs, one day after publicly admitting that he had the disease in 1991.

From a very young age, Freddie proved himself to be a remarkably talented pianist and a singer with a formidable range (from bottom D to top B-flat, in case you were wondering). At the age of 23 Freddie joined Brian May and Roger Taylor to form the band called 'Queen'. In later interviews Freddie would say that "I was certainly aware of the gay connotations [of the band's name], but that was just one facet of it."

In the 1970s, Freddie had a long term relationship with Mary Austin which ended when Freddie had an affair with a male studio technician in the mid-70s. Austin remained a close friend, 'Love of my Life' is about and dedicated to her. From 1979 onwards, Freddie frequented gay bath-houses and had many short-term relationships with men. By 1985, Freddie was in a long term relationship with a hairdresser called Jim Hutton, who was tested HIV positive in 1990. Freddie was diagnosed with AIDs in 1987, but claimed he'd tested negative to the press.

Freddie's death was very important in the history of AIDs, in 1992 the Mercury Phoenix Trust was set up by the remaining band members, which organised the 'Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDs Awareness' in April 1992, and has since raised millions of pounds for the cause.