Had Freddie Mercury lived, he’d have been 71 years of age today. Like all who died before their time, he’s forever young in image, but I for one feel robbed of what he would have achieved in the past 26 years. For example, there were rumours before he died that he was considering the titular role in a film version of Phantom Of The Opera, and wouldn’t he have been perfect?
We’d certainly have had more Queen albums. That band were never going to break up, because like all great groups, regardless of personal egos, they knew they were much stronger together. There’d have been more Queen tours too. Freddie always said he’d look ridiculous on stage at 50, but I’d imagine the cockatoo in him wouldn’t have been caged for too long, and he would’ve been persuaded to return to his natural home in the live arena.
Shy off-stage, he was, nonetheless, a hilarious interviewee, and was possessed of a wicked sense of humour. He once joked that he, Rod Stewart, and Elton John were going to form a supergroup called ‘Teeth Nose and Hair’, and had nicknames on all his best friends – in case you’re wondering, the other members of Queen, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon were ‘Maggie’, ‘Liz’ and ‘Belisha’, respectively (you can look that last one up).
Of course, he wrote some of the greatest songs in the popular music canon: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘We Are The Champions’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’, ‘Living On My Own’, and ‘Somebody To Love’. Once describing his songs as ‘disposable’, like a Bic razor, you’d have to hope he was joking.
But The Voice. Jesus Christ, The Voice. Freddie Mercury has taken up residence in the Top 5 of most ‘Greatest Frontmen Ever’ lists, but this is largely down to his ability to work an audience. What doesn’t get spoken about nearly enough is the power, emotion, and range of his singing voice. This is a man who, in his final days, crippled with the HIV virus, downed a couple of vodkas and recorded ‘The Show Must Go On’ in ONE FUCKING TAKE. Even in live performance, and I’ve listened to enough bootlegs to know this, he rarely sang a bum note.
When Freddie died, Elton John described the predicament of the other band members as ‘having a Ferrari in the garage waiting for a driver’. What a perfect summation that is. May, Taylor and Deacon did eventually regroup, adding new instrumentation to the vocal tracks Freddie left them to work with, and released the album ‘Made In Heaven’ in 1995. Deacon bowed out of Queen work in 1998, the word being that he’s never gotten over the death of his friend, while May and Taylor continue to tour as Queen – firstly with blues-rocker Paul Rodgers on vocals, and currently with American Adam Lambert.
So today, to doff our cap to Freddie on what would’ve – no, should’ve – been his 71st birthday, we’ve compiled a playlist in his honour. It’s largely a Deep Tracks collection, the criteria being to highlight some of his greatest vocal performances and lesser-known gems, both with Queen and solo. Just don’t listen to ‘Guide Me Home’ if you’re feeling a bit fragile, it’ll likely send you over the edge.
Happy Birthday, Freddie, it’s not the same without you.