‘Dullness is a disease,’ Freddie Mercury once said — and he wanted to be the cure
- Last Updated: 12:22 AM, July 1, 2012
- Posted: 10:37 PM, June 30, 2012
An Intimate Biography
of Freddie Mercury
by Lesley-Ann Jones
To legendary lyricist Tim Rice, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is more than a rock classic. It was, he tells biographer Lesley-Ann Jones, Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury’s way of admitting what he rarely did to his friends, and never to the general public. He was gay, and he sometimes struggled with his wild side.
“It’s fairly obvious to me,” Rice says. “There is a very clear message contained in it . . . this is Freddie saying, ‘I’m coming out. I’m admitting that I’m gay.’ ”
If true, that’s the only time Mercury would admit this, or much of anything else. He waited until just one day before his November 1991 death to admit to the world that he had AIDS.
Onstage and off, Mercury was rock ’n’ roll’s most uninhibited frontman — bisexual, voracious, a constant, insatiable party in spandex. But he would only hint at the dark side of that abandon, that his fame and appetites had grown out of control.
Mercury, born in Zanzibar as Farrokh Bulsara, inherited his mother’s “full lips and open smile,” the latter of which (he had four extra teeth) would drive a lifetime of insecurity.
He studied music at boarding school and, inspired by the likes of Elvis Presley and Fats Domino, played in a band called The Hectics, where “his lively boogie-woogie piano style . . . was soon the talk of the town.”
Developing his rock-star style in college thanks to his worship of Jimi Hendrix, he was also “prone to fits of giggles,” and would “put his hand right over his mouth to cover up those huge teeth of his” whenever he laughed.
A good friend of his sang for a band called Smile — which also included guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor — and he became a groupie, traveling everywhere to see them, and offering unsolicited advice on every aspect of their style and performance.
He learned guitar and formed bands of his own, and while his singing voice was still raw, his “flamboyant and melodramatic” stage presence was undeniable.
Smile’s singer eventually quit, and May and Taylor noticed that Bulsara was an “eyeball magnet” on stage. The three joined up, and Freddie ditched the surname “Bulsara” for the flashier “Mercury.”
As the band added bassist John Deacon and started playing shows, Mercury began a six-year sexual relationship with a reserved young woman named Mary Austin, and the two moved in together.
Austin was supremely devoted to Mercury. She remained ever-patient with his eccentricities — as when he’d pull a piano next to their bed in the middle of the night whenever inspiration hit — and his coming home later and later at night.Follow @NYPostOpinion