Freddie Mercury: Time Waits for Nobody

Freddie Mercury was the iconic lead singer of rock band Queen for more than 20 years. He is regarded as one of the greatest vocalists of all time - and 28 years after his death, his music remains as popular today as it was during his lifetime.

The ultimate artist, Freddie was also a prolific songwriter, having penned 10 of the 17 songs on Queen's Greatest Hits album. His live performances were also breath-taking, as he produced highly-animated shows that drew the audience in and left them spellbound.

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Early life

Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar on 5th September 1946, Freddie was of Indian heritage, as his parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara, were from Bombay. The family had moved to Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) when his father, Bomi, took a job at the British Colonial Office.

Freddie was born a British citizen but spent much of his childhood in India, where he took piano lessons from the age of seven. He attended a British-style boys' boarding school in Panchgani from the age of eight.

By the time he was 12, he had formed a school band, called The Hectics. They played hits by rock and roll singers such as Little Richard and Cliff Richard. His friends at the time marvelled at his uncanny ability to listen to a song on the radio and play it by ear on the piano.

In February 1963, at the age of 16, Freddie returned to Zanzibar to live with his parents, but the family fled in 1964 to escape the revolution, moving to Middlesex in England. Freddie completed his studies in graphic art and design in 1969, graduating from Ealing Art College with a diploma.

Music career

After graduating, Freddie played in various bands but supplemented his income with a second-hand clothes stall on Kensington Market in London. In April 1970, while involved in the local music scene, he became lead singer for a band called Smile, whose other members included drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May.

Freddie chose the name Queen for the band, as he said it sounded "regal and splendid". He also changed his name to Freddie Mercury and used his artistic skills to design the band's famous crest logo just before the release of their first album, called Queen, by Trident Studios in 1973.

With the addition of John Deacon on bass, this was the start of Queen's astonishing career as one of the most legendary bands in history.

Their most famous albums (including Sheer Heart Attack in 1974, A Night at the Opera in 1975 and Flash Gordon in 1980) achieved platinum status in the UK and were hits all over the world.

Hit singles

Their memorable singles included the iconic Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975 (a four-times platinum hit in the UK), Somebody to Love in 1976, We Are the Champions in 1977, Don't Stop Me Now and Crazy Little Thing Called Love in 1979, Another One Bites the Dust in 1980 and Radio Gaga in 1984, to name but a few.

Freddie was a unique performer, his flamboyant stage persona drawing the crowd's attention as he danced and writhed to the music, wearing the most exotic clothes imaginable and captivating the fans. The nation loved him for his flamboyance and eccentricity, his crazy fashion and his energy on stage - combined to create the ultimate performer.

He was also famous for his collaborations with other musicians of the era, such as David Bowie, with whom he recorded the number one hit single, Under Pressure, in 1981. Freddie also recorded a duet called There Must Be More to Life Than This with Michael Jackson in 1981, which was released posthumously in 2014, after both stars' deaths.

Freddie's voice was unique - although he spoke in a baritone range, his singing voice was a tenor. His sense of rhythm was incisive and he glided effortlessly up and down the scale. Roger Daltrey, lead singer of rock band The Who, hailed Freddie as "the best virtuoso rock 'n' roll singer of all time".

Professor Christian Herbst carried out research in 2016 to understand the appeal of Freddie's voice, noting the use of vibrato and subharmonics. He also revealed Freddie could cover three octaves easily - and possibly even four.

Band of brothers

As well as being band-mates, the members of Queen were also friends, who were notorious for holding wild parties. In an interview in 2017, Brian May said he loved the "social side of it" and said they had "a lot of fun".

He described Freddie as an "interesting and complex" character, whose extrovert persona on stage hid the fact that underneath, he was shy, despite being "full of enthusiasm, energy and ideas". The singer was astute at finding the best in himself.

May said he was very close to Freddie as a person due to their song writing together. He said the whole band had quite a complex relationship and that was why it worked so well. He said he had a very close relationship with Roger Taylor, because they had been in bands together for many years - they are "kind of brothers" to this day.

Like any brothers, he added, there were some days they loved and hated each other at the same time, adding, "That was why it worked, really."

Time waits for no-one

Sadly, as time passed, Freddie's health began to fail. His 1986 hit, Time, was a poignant reminder of the fact that time waits for nobody. Written by Dave Clark and Jeff Daniels, the song was recorded as a solo single by Freddie and released on 6th May.

Its lyrics were moving and emotional, including the lines, "Time waits for nobody, we all must plan our hopes together, or we'll have no more future at all."

Rather than being a personal lament, it related more to the future of our planet, as he told listeners, "We've got to build this world together," adding, "You don't need me to tell you what's gone wrong."

The whole theme of the song was that time never stands still and we must plan our future together, before it's too late.

Sadly, Freddie died on 24th November 1991, at the age of 45, from bronchopneumonia, following a short illness. In 1992, he posthumously received a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.

In 2001, Freddie and Queen were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2003, Freddie became an inductee of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame, followed by the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 2018, a film was released in his honour. The biographical film, Bohemian Rhapsody, tells the story of rock band Queen's success and Freddie's life from 1970 until his death. Starring Rami Malek as Freddie, it has been a big hit with the fans and the critics.


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