Freddie Mercury & his fight against AIDS / with Influences on
the American Gay and Lesbian sub-culture
In memory of Freddie Mercury
September 5, 1946 –November 24, 1991
Sexual orientation and influence
Awareness / Discrimination
Growing up as a boy, Freddie attended an all boys school
in St. Peter’s India. There, he formed a small school band
called The Hectics, he played piano. A friend of his from
the time stated that he had “an uncanny ability to listen
to the radio and replay what he heard on piano"
The school has a mythical bird, the Phoenix as their mascot, which rises
out of fire below and holds the olive branch of peace
The Phoenix is the symbol of hope and rebirth.
The gods vowed that as long as the Phoenix lives, there is hope for mankind.
The Phoenix in the image is holding an olive branch in its beak to signify that
each student of St. Peter's School is a peace-maker and cherishes peace.
Although he was born in the British protectorate of
Zanzibar, which is in East Africa, Mercury was able to
remain a British citizen for the remainder of his life.
Because of the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964, Freddie had
to move to England for safety. He was able to attend two
schools, and studied Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art
In England, He was able to study at college and earn a
Diploma in Art and Graphic Design.
Freddie's House before he moved to England.
Freddie’s career influenced a large amount of
people. He showed true talent to millions and
obtained the reviews of thousands of people.
Freddie’s voice was described as "escalating
within a few bars from a deep, throaty rock-
growl to tender, vibrant tenor, then on to a high-
pitched, perfect coloratura, pure and crystalline
in the upper reaches". - David Bret
“The difference between Freddie and almost all
the other rock stars was that he was selling the
voice“ - Montserrat Caballé
Songs that Freddie Wrote
Seven Seas of Rhye
Somebody to Love
Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy
We Are the Champions
Don't Stop Me Now
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Play the Game
David Bowie preformed with Freddie recording the song “Under Pressure”.
Bowie said “of all the more theatrical rock
performers, Freddie took it further than the rest… he
took it over the edge. And of course, I always admired
a man who wears tights.”
"The World's Greatest Gigs“
In 1985, during a show, the audience of 72,000
people sang and swayed in unison voted by a
group of music executives as the greatest live
performance in the history of rock music.
Mercury has performed an estimated 700 concerts all over
the world during his career.
In 1980, he made frequent use of synthesizers. Queen guitarist Brian May
states that Freddie was not impressed with his skills on the piano and used
the instrument less over time.
Freddie focused more on the guitar and vocals instead of playing piano.
But even still, Freddie only had rudimentary skills while playing guitar
and exceed in vocals.
"There Must Be More to Life Than This"
It is interesting to know that during 1981–1983, Freddie recorded several
tracks with Michael Jackson. Both were only demo songs.
• Freddie had a long-term relationship with Mary Austin in
the early 1970’s.
• By the mid-1970’s, he had an affair with a male American
record executive who worked for Elektra Records.
• In the early 1980’s, he became involved with Barbra
Valentin, an Austrian actress.
• By mid-1980’s, again he became involved with a male
hairdresser named Jim Hutton.
• Freddie said “All my lovers asked me why they
couldn't replace Mary, but it's simply impossible. The
only friend I've got is Mary and I don't want anybody
else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it
was a marriage.”
• “We believe in each other, that's enough for me.”
– On Mary Austin, a long time companion, and the inheritor of most of his
estate, as quoted in "For A Song : The Mercury that's rising in rock is
Freddie the satiny seductor of Queen" by Fred Hauptfuhrer, in People
magazine (5 December 1977)
Jim Hutton, who was Freddie’s partner at the
time, stats that he was diagnosed with
HIV/AIDS in 1987.
This image, which is the worst that was found
at the time, claimed to show how “sick”
At first, Freddie denied the claims about him
having AIDS, for fear of how the public might
Freddie wanted to keep things in his life
private, yet the media forced him to
announce his story.
Freddie hid the status of his HIV for several years, but the awareness of AIDS
could have helped him fight against the disease sooner.
• He was the first major rock star to die from AIDS.
• His death represented a very important event in
the disease's history.
• In April 1992, the remaining members of Queen
founded The Mercury Phoenix Trust
• The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS
Awareness was founded to celebrate the life and
legacy of Freddie and raise money for AIDS
• 'Bohemian Rhapsody' was re-issued to raise money
for AIDS research projects.
• It soared to the top of the charts.
• The song also climbed to The U.S. Top #2 in March
1992, after being featured in the movie "Wayne's
• It had originally reached number 9 in January 1976.
• A memorial concert for Mercury took place at
London's Wembley Stadium on May 20 1992,
featuring an array of stars including Liza Minnelli,
Elton John, Guns N'Roses, George Michael, David
Bowie and Annie Lennox.
In November of 1991, Freddie called up the Queen's manager Jim Beach.
He Invited him over to his home to discuss a public statement regarding
his situation he had with AIDS. The very next day, on the 23rd of
November, the following announcement presented by Mercury
Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I
wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt
it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of
those around me.
However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the
world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my
doctors, and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.
My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my
lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.
Only 24 hours had passed since issuing the statement.
Freddie died that evening at the age of 45.
The official cause of death was bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS
• Mercury's funeral was conducted by a
• Only family, and a small group of friends were
among the few people there.
• The remaining members of Queen were there.
• Elton John and David Bowie were also there.
I like people to go away from a Queen show feeling fully entertained, having had a
good time. I think Queen songs are pure escapism, like going to see a good film - after
that, they can go away and say that was great, and go back to their problems. I don't
want to change the world with our music. There are no hidden messages in our
songs, except for some of Brian's.
- "The Man Who Would Be Queen" in Melody Maker (2 May 1981)
I'm possessed by love — but isn't everybody? Most of my songs are love ballads and
things to do with sadness and torture and pain.
In terms of love, you're not in control and I hate that feeling. I seem to write a lot of
sad songs because I'm a very tragic person. But there's always an element of humour
at the end. – Freddie Mercury - 1985
I fall in love far too quickly and end up getting hurt all the time. I've got scars all
over. But I can't help myself because basically I'm a softie I have this hard, macho
shell — which I project on stage but there's a much softer side. too, which melts
like butter. "Rock On Freddie" (1985)
Sexual orientation and influence
• While Freddie Mercury was an acknowledged
bisexual by the public, some critics claimed he
hid his sexual orientation. Others made claims
that he was simply gay.
• He had prior relationships with females, and
his love for Austin was unconditional.
• He also had an unconditional love for Jim
"I am as gay as a daffodil, my dear“
One of his most famous quotes
• Although he would distance himself from his
partner, Jim Hutton. During any events set in
• He was shy in general, and along with his
sexual orientation, seemed to be ignored by
the audiences and pundits of both gay and
straight for years to come.
• Despite the fact that he had been criticized by gay activists for hiding his HIV
status, author Paul Russell included Mercury in his book "The Gay 100: A Ranking
of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present.
• The discovery of HIV in the US in 1981 has been accompanied by a widespread
• Myths about HIV being spread by casual contact such as kissing or touching.
"one of the most dynamic and
charismatic frontmen in rock
history.“ - Rolling Stone
"There's definitely something missing
in today's music scene," he says. "We
don't have a lot of men on stage doing
flamboyant or theatrical. We have a
lot of female pop stars doing it, but
where are the guys? Where's the
classic pop-rock showman?“ - Adam
There never will be a rock and
roll showman who will compare
to Freddie Mercury.
• Freddie writes “Jimi Hendrix is very
important. He's my idol.”
• “He sort of epitomizes, from his presentation on stage, the
whole works of a rock star. There's no way you can compare
him. You either have the magic or you don't. There's no way
you can work up to it. There's nobody who can take his place.”
– As quoted in "Queen's Freddie Mercury Shopping For An Image In London" by
Scott Cohen in Circus Magazine (April 1975)
“…openly gay rock stars”
• It may also be safe to say that nobody had a greater influence
on rock music than Freddie Mercury.
• True, there were other openly gay rock stars in the like Elton
John and David Bowie, but Mercury, despite his sexual
orientation, was different.
• Even the most homophobic, conservative music lovers
listened to the band Queen.
• Freddie Mercury can also be credited for helping to create the
foundation of much of today’s rock music.
• Contemporary artists, such as Adam Lambert, Foo Fighters
and Pearl Jam and many other “Gay and Lesbian bands” all
can credit Mercury as one of their greatest musical
Awareness / Discrimination
• The word queen used towards a gay male in the pejorative sense is often meant to
describe someone who is particularly effeminate or flamboyant.
• “They don’t think it’s ridiculous to call me a queen because of my sexuality, but
they think it’s ridiculous that I would run for queen because I’m a guy,” said
Bell. “That’s a bit of a double standard.”
• But, discrimination still exists, and with an increase in cases of HIV among
heterosexual people, it is often linked to people being Gay and or Lesbians.
• Internationally, 40 million people live with HIV worldwide.
• With only 8% of people with the virus in developing countries having access to
treatment there were 3 million deaths in 2005.
Awareness / Discrimination
• "Hold onto the hope"
• Before Freddie Mercury died, he asked us all to
help the fight against AIDS.
• The Mercury Phoenix Trust was founded in
response to his request.
• The Trust's aim is to raise AIDS awareness and
funds to help charities all over the world to
support those affected by this dreadful
• Aside from the figures, there is the human picture. People
have been influenced by musical talents, but Freddie
Mercury has helped ‘open up’ the Gay and Lesbian
Community by sharing his story to the world.
• “It's one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about
it. I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and
then make up their own minds as to what it says to them...
"Bohemian Rhapsody" didn't just come out of thin air. I did
a bit of research although it was tongue-in-cheek and mock
opera. Why not?
• —Freddie Mercury
• "Freddie Mercury Biography“ Inout Star. http://www.inoutstar.com/news/Freddie-Mercury-real-name-
Farrokh-Bulsara-1876.html. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
• "Tribute to King of “Queen” Freddie Mercury | NowPublic News Coverage". Nowpublic.com.
http://www.nowpublic.com/culture/tribute-king-queen-freddie-mercury. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
• Hutton, Jim (22 October 1994), "Freddie and Jim" A Love Story", The Guardian, "Weekend magazine",
• National AIDS Trust (2006), 25 years of HIV – London: National AIDS Trust press office, 22 December 2006.
• Listen: Adam Lambert on the Influence and Legacy of Freddie Mercury
http://www.afterelton.com/people/2010/08/adam-freddie - August 31, 2010
• “Male student beats the odds and wins homecoming queen” 12 October 2010, by Andy Badii
• Freddie Mercury Phoenix Trust - Queen - Royal legend 1997 http://queen.musichall.cz/en/misc/freddie-
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