Freddie's obituary

Source: Rolling Stone January 1992

Submitted by: egret

Queen singer is rock's first major AIDS casualty
By Jeffrey Ressner

FREDDIE MERCURY, THE OUTLANDISH frontman for Queen, whose worldwide hits like ``Bohemian Rhapsody'' and ``We Are the Champions'' combined gaudy theatrical pomp with heavy-metal bluster, became the first major rock star to die of AIDS when he succumbed to complications from the disease on November 24th at his London home. He was forty-five years old.

Mercury, whose real name was Frederick Bulsara, had not performed with Queen in concert since 1986. He had become a virtual recluse over the past two years, yet he repeatedly denied reports that he had contracted AIDS until the day before his death.

``The time has now come for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth,'' he said in his statement, explaining that he had waited so long to make the announcement because ``my privacy has always been very special to me.''

Although Mercury's condition was long rumored in the tabloid press and virtually an open secret in the music industry, his death still startled many fans and colleagues. Bouquets from Elton John, David Bowie, U2, Ringo Starr and the Scorpions adorned the West London Crematorium, where a brief funeral service in the Zoroastrian faith was held for his family and a few close friends, including the surviving Queen members, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.

``Of all the more theatrical rock performers, Freddie took it further than the rest,'' says Bowie, who collaborated with Mercury and Queen on their 1981 hit ``Under Pressure.'' ``He took it over the edge. And of course, I always admired a man who wears tights. I only saw him in concert once, and as they say, he was definitely a man who could hold an audience in the palm of his hand. He could always turn a cliche to his advantage.''

Beginning in the early Seventies, the flamboyant Mercury - who cited Jimi Hendrix and Liza Minnelli as his main influences - led Queen through eighteen albums that sold 80 million copies worldwide, amassing almost a dozen U.S. hit singles, including his campy ``Killer Queen,'' the Elvis spoof ``Crazy Little Thing Called Love'' and the bass-heavy anthem ``Another One Bites the Dust.'' Queen's popularity nose-dived in the United States during the Eighties, but the group remained popular in England and around the world.

Queen laced British glam pop with swooping arias, corny vaudeville themes and heavy-rock bombast, but it was Mercury's wicked taste for wretched excess that set the band apart. ``Freddie was clearly out in left field someplace, outrageous onstage and offstage,'' says Capitol-EMI president and CEO Joe Smith, who headed Queen's American label, Elektra Records, at the peak of the group's success. ``He was the band's driving force, a tremendously creative man.''

Elektra's release of Mercury's overwrought, six-minute mock opera ``Bohemian Rhapsody'' - complete with a goofy choir chirping ``Mama mia, Mama mia'' - was only one example of his musical extravagance. He was even more extreme when it came to his concert performances, appearing in leather storm-trooper outfits or women's clothes and taking an arch, gay-macho stance that both challenged and poked fun at the decidedly homophobic hard-rock world.

Offstage, Mercury was known for his wild antics and the lavish gifts he bestowed upon friends. To celebrate his forty-first birthday, for instance, he flew eighty pals to an exclusive hotel on the resort isle of Ibiza, where they were treated to fireworks displays, flamenco dancers and a twenty-foot-long cake carried by waiters dressed in gold and white costumes. ``All I can remember about the whole time we were making records and hanging out was that it was like one continuous party,'' says producer Roy Thomas Baker, who worked on five Queen albums.

Excess also defined Mercury's sexual