Forty-eighth installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.
Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.
Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.
As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.
There are a few people in this world that, God knows why, are born with a confidence and self-assuredness that they are going to be huge and legendary. They just know. It’s like they had received some information about their future yet in the womb and that stuck to their brain. When they become conscious of life; that information just pops up right in front of them.
Case in point, our inductee today, who is said to be sure he was a Rockstar, until one day he was at his college cafeteria seemingly depressed and his friend came to him and asked: “Why are you sad?” He said: “I’m not gonna be a Rockstar.” After a brief pause he said: “I’m gonna be a legend”. That’s Freddie Mercury.
Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in the Sultanate of Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania), on 5 September, 1946. His father was a cashier at a British Colonial Office.
He started taking piano lessons at seven and went to a boarding school near Bombay (now Mumbai), India when he was eight. It was there at the age of twelve that he formed his first band called The Hectics. At this early stage his main influences were Cliff Richard and Little Richard.
In 1964, Farrokh returned to his parents home in Zanzibar, but the family had to fled to London due to security reasons. In London, he changed his name to the more British sounding Freddie.
Freddie jumped from band to band and liked very much a band he was always watching called Smile. This band featured drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May and when their singer, Tim Staffel, left, they decided to give Freddie a chance and the rest is Popular Music history. With bassist John Deacon they formed Queen.
Their first ever recording was a request from Trident Studios to test their equipment. As they didn’t want to record anything before their first album, they did it under the name of Larry Lurex a double single with two covers: Beach Boys’ “I Can Hear Music” and Carole King’s “Goin’ Back”. And in the latter you can already feel how Freddie was unique. His interpretation is flawless, his voice unmatched, sounding like a young boy at 27.
Taking a cue from a lyric he wrote for “My Fairy King” in the first album: “Mother Mercury, what have you done to me?” he started adopting Mercury as his last name.
As much as his musical talent for songwriting and arrangements, Freddie’s flamboyant performance live made him, in my humble opinion, the greatest frontman ever; on stage he was invincible, a walking charisma. It seemed that nothing could touch him and the audience always ate from his hands. And it says a lot about the brilliant artist that he was, that everybody who had met him states that he was extremely shy out of the limelight.
It’s impossible to list all the times Freddie proved to be a genius, but it would be criminal to ignore “Bohemian Rhapsody”. A three-part epic with an opera section in the middle that became as iconic as its author and his legendary band. And here is an observation worth making: the voices in the intro, before the piano part, are all Freddie’s.
Freddie’s drive and confidence seems to emerge from his interpretations. Personally, Queen is one of the very few bands that I listen to that gives me confidence. And with no disrespect to the enormous talents of Brian May and Roger Taylor, it was all due to Freddie’s voice and interpretation.
If you have any doubt about how Freddie was unique, just listen to the Queen album “Cosmos Rocks” with Paul Rodgers (one of the greatest singers ever). It’s good, but it sounds like another band and not only because of the voice (Paul’s voice is rather wonderful) but because of songwriting. Freddie’s songwriting is as unique as his voice, genius as his persona.
It would take about four posts to talk about and honor everything Freddie did, but as much as it hurts my heart, I can’t do that.
Therefore, Mr. Mercury, open your eyes, look up to the skies and see: you’re into the Hall of Idols.
Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.
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