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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Freddie Mercury Tribute

Freddie Mercury statue in Montreux
overlooking Lake Geneva.
   Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara, 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British musician, best known as the lead vocalist and a songwriter of the rock band Queen. As a performer, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and powerful vocals over a four-octave range. As a songwriter, Mercury composed many hits for Queen, including "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Killer Queen", "Somebody to Love", "Don't Stop Me Now", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "We Are the Champions". In addition to his work with Queen, he led a solo career, penning hits such as "Barcelona", "I Was Born to Love You" and "Living on My Own". Mercury also occasionally served as a producer and guest musician (piano or vocals) for other artists. He died of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS on 24 November 1991, only one day after publicly acknowledging he had the disease.
   Mercury, who was a Parsi born in Zanzibar and grew up there and in India until his mid-teens, has been referred to as "Britain's first Asian rock star". In 2006, Time Asia named him as one of the most influential Asian heroes of the past 60 years, and he continues to be voted one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music. In 2005, a poll organised by Blender and MTV2 saw Mercury voted the greatest male singer of all time. In 2009, a Classic Rock poll saw him voted the greatest rock singer of all time. In 2008, Rolling Stone editors ranked him number 18 on their list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. Allmusic has characterised Mercury as "one of the most dynamic and charismatic frontmen in rock history."

   Mercury was an acknowledged bisexual. While some critics claimed he hid his sexual orientation from the public, others claimed he was "openly gay".
   He would often distance himself from his partner, Jim Hutton, during public events in the 1980s. When asked directly "So how about being bent? " by NME in December 1974, Mercury replied "You're a crafty cow. Let's put it this way, there were times when I was young and green. It's a thing schoolboys go through. I've had my share of schoolboy pranks. I'm not going to elaborate further." A writer for a gay online newspaper felt that audiences may have been overly naive about the matter: "While in many respects he was overtly queer his whole career ("I am as gay as a daffodil, my dear" being one of his most famous quotes), his sexual orientation seemed to pass over the heads of scrutinising audiences and pundits (both gay and straight) for decades". John Marshall of Gay Times expressed the following opinion in 1992: "[Mercury] was a 'scene-queen', not afraid to publicly express his gayness but unwilling to analyse or justify his 'lifestyle' ... It was as if Freddie Mercury was saying to the world, "I am what I am. So what?" And that in itself for some was a statement."
    Mercury hid his HIV status from the public for several years, and it has been suggested that he could have raised a great deal of money and awareness earlier by speaking truthfully about his situation and his fight against the disease.
   As the first major rock star to die from AIDS, Mercury's death represented a very important event in the disease's history. In April 1992, the remaining members of Queen founded The Mercury Phoenix Trust and organised The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness to celebrate the life and legacy of Mercury and raise money for AIDS research, which took place on Easter Monday, 20 April 1992. The Mercury Phoenix Trust has since raised millions of pounds for various AIDS charities. The tribute concert, which took place at Wembley Stadium for an audience of 72,000, featured a wide variety of guests including; Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin), Roger Daltrey (of The Who), Extreme, Elton John, Metallica, David Bowie, Annie Lennox, Tony Iommi (of Black Sabbath), Guns N' Roses, Elizabeth Taylor, George Michael, Def Leppard, Seal, Liza Minnelli (and also U2 via Satellite). The concert was broadcast live to 76 countries and had an estimated viewing audience of 1 billion people.


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