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Freddie Mercury and Queen

Category: Musician or composer

 

Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara; Gujarati: ફારોખ બલસારા, Pharōkh Balsārā‌; 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British singer, songwriter and record producer, known as the lead vocalist and co-principal songwriter of the rock band Queen.

In 1992 Mercury was posthumously awarded the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.  As a member of Queen, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004, and the band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002.

"Living on My Own," a single from the album, Mr. Bad Guy (1985) posthumously reached number one on the UK Singles Charts. The song also garnered Mercury a posthumous Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.  He was described by AllMusic as "one of rock's greatest all-time entertainers," with "one of the greatest voices in all of music."

Queen

Estimates of Queen's total worldwide record sales to date have been set as high as 300 million.  In the UK, Queen has now spent more collective weeks on the UK Album Charts than any other musical act (including The Beatles), and Queen's Greatest Hits is the highest selling album of all time in the UK.  Although this description centres on Freddie, it is important to realise all the band ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’.

Zoroastrianism and the Parsis

 Although the other members of Queen were clearly extraordinarily talented, we have singled Freddie out, not because of his ‘flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range’, but because he was an active Zoroastrian

As there are only about 140,000 Zoroastrians in the world today, this is indeed very special.  It is that much more special once one realises that Zoroastrianism is a magical mystic movement with roots in Iran and the Indo-European peoples, and one of the oldest mystic movements in the world. 

At one time, around 3,000 years ago Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Achaemenid Empire. It became the largest empire of ancient history, spanning at its maximum extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east.  In other words - the Zoroastrian Achaemenid Empire at its greatest extent was the largest ancient empire in recorded history at 8.0 million km2 (480 BCE).

Bomi and Jer

   The spread of Islam ended the religion and many Iranians fled to India as being a safe haven, mostly around Bombay, and Freddie’s parents came from that region, where Zoroastrians are known as Parsis.

Freddie’s parents, Bomi (1908–2003) and Jer Bulsara (1922–), were Parsis from the Gujarat region of the then province of Bombay Presidency in British India.

The family surname is derived from the town of Bulsar (now known as Valsad) in southern Gujarat. The Bulsara family then moved to Zanzibar so that his father could continue his job as a cashier at the British Colonial Office.

And so Freddie was born in the British protectorate of Sultanate of Zanzibar, East Africa (now part of Tanzania).  A British citizen at birth, Freddie remained so for the rest of his life.

Mercury spent most of his childhood in India and began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1954, at the age of eight, Mercury was sent to study at St. Peter's School, a British-style boarding school for boys, in Panchgani near Bombay (now Mumbai).  A friend from the time recalls that he had "an uncanny ability to listen to the radio and replay what he heard on piano." It was also at St. Peter's where he began to call himself "Freddie".  In February 1963 he moved back to Zanzibar, where he joined his parents at their flat.

But at the age of 17, Mercury and his family were forced to flee from Zanzibar due to the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed. The family moved into a small house in Feltham, Middlesex, England.

And this is how the UK managed to gain a mystical magician from a tiny mystic movement, whose numbers are still dwindling.  Freddie died in 1991, at age 45 due to complications from AIDS, reducing their numbers even further.  Mercury's funeral service was conducted by a Zoroastrian priest.

The mask

There is a concept in all mystic systems called the mask.  The mask is the persona one adopts for this life, the one that matches your destiny – or what you believe your destiny to be.  On each reincarnation one gets a new mask.  And Freddie knew all about masks – after all he was a mystic magician.

white gloves - another symbol .... as well of course
as black and white, a fundamental truth from
Zoroastrianism

His stage name was very carefully chosen – Mercury.  A Mercurial person is someone “having qualities of eloquence, and ingenuity, attributed to the god Mercury or to the influence of the planet Mercury”.  They can be excitable and emotional, but also just a little fickle and inconstant, flighty and wayward.  The planet Mercury was also a communicator, a messenger from the gods.

 Although he cultivated a flamboyant stage personality, Freddie was shy and retiring when not performing, particularly around people he did not know well. 

He granted very few interviews. Mercury once said of himself:
 "When I'm performing I'm an extrovert, yet inside I'm a completely different man."

As a young boy in India, Mercury received formal piano training up to the age of nine. Later on, while living in London, he learned guitar. From the early 1980s onward he began extensively using guest keyboardists for both Queen and his solo career.  Mercury played the piano in many of Queen's most popular songs,  He used concert grand pianos and, occasionally, other keyboard instruments such as the harpsichord. From 1980 onward, he also made frequent use of synthesisers in the studio.

So he was a very competent musician.  But Freddie was often self-deprecating about his own skills on both instruments.  The mask.  All that self confidence on stage, all that lack of confidence off.

My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairytales of yesterday will grow but never die

Mysticism, magick and sex

Magicians and even many mystics use sex as a means of gaining inspiration.  They principally use sex magick and sexual stimulation and it can be with any sex of person.  Alisteir Crowley, our very own English magician, had sex with men and women – many of them.

Freddie with one of his many cats

And so did Freddie, but unfortunately he did it at a time when AIDs was just starting to appear, when information on AIDs was low, but its spread was high.  There is also an indication in the lyrics of his songs that he was not entirely cognisant with the subtleties of sex magick, for example.  Perhaps a bit too much sex and because there was no love involved, no real magick.  Or maybe he did know, but simply could not find the right person to get the magick to happen.  There was so much loneliness built into the lyrics of his songs, he was indeed the Great Pretender.

I get so lonely lonely lonely lonely yeah
Got to be some good times ahead

The love of Freddie’s life was a girl he met in the 1960s, Mary Austin. 

 

With Mary he could be himself.  Mary did not want the life of a magician’s wife, but it didn’t mean she stopped caring about him or for him.  She remained his very faithful friend all his life. 

The love he had for Mary can be judged by the fact that after his death and in accordance with his wishes, Mary Austin took possession of his ashes and buried them in an undisclosed location.

In his will, Mercury left the vast majority of his wealth, including his home and recording royalties, to Mary Austin and the remainder to his parents and sister. Mary Austin continues to live at Mercury's former home, Garden Lodge, Kensington, with her family.

Mother Love"

I don't want to sleep with you, I don't need the passion too
I don't want a stormy affair, To make me feel my life is heading somewhere
All I want is the comfort and care,
Just to know that my woman gives me sweet - Mother love
I've walked too long in this lonely lane; I've had enough of this same old game
I'm a man of the world and they say I'm strong; But my heart is heavy and my hope is gone
Out in the city, in the cold world outside; I don't want pity, just a safe place to hide
But you can give me all the love that I crave; I can't take if you see me cry
I long for peace before I die

Destiny and the Great Work

Anyone involved at the level that Freddie was with mysticism and mystic movements, knows all about the Great Work and Destiny.  Everyone has a destiny, work one must contribute to the Great Work – the evolution of the universe.  Furthermore to understand one’s destiny one must ‘know yourself’ which in part involves understanding your horoscope, because your natal chart tells you all about your underlying personality.  Zoroastrianism was a significant contributor to astrology, many of the charts, concepts and basic underlying tenets in astrology came from this mystic movement, as far back as 3000 – 4000 BC.  There is one song that in some ways sums up Freddie’s understanding of this – Made in Heaven:

 

I'm taking my ride with destiny
Willing to play my part…..
Made in heaven, made in heaven
It was all meant to be, yeah
Made in heaven, made in heaven
That's what they say, Can't you see
Oh I know, I know, I know that it's true
Yes it's really meant to be

I think he knew exactly what he was here to do, but it was no easy job he had taken on:

Waiting for possibilities
Don't see too many around…….
I'm playing my role in history
Looking to find my goal
Taking in all this misery
But giving it all my soul

And indeed as we can see from every video and everything we know of him, he did indeed give it his all.  It is very clear that Freddie had and still has a huge impact worldwide, perhaps one he himself did not envisage.

 

The frog genus Mercurana, discovered in 2013 in Kerala, India, was named as a tribute because Mercury's "vibrant music inspires the authors".  And a new species of the genus Heteragrion (Odonata : Zygoptera) from Brazil was named Heteragrion freddiemercuryi in his honour, with the etymology:

"I name this species after Freddie Mercury, artistic name of Farrokh Bulsara (1946–1991), superb and gifted musician and songwriter whose wonderful voice and talent still entertain millions of people around the world."

Elizabeth Taylor
Freddie was an extraordinary rock star who rushed across our cultural landscape like a comet shooting across the sky.

But these tributes, wonderful though they are, are mostly about his music, and I think Freddie’s destiny was in fact to use music to achieve something potentially more difficult.

Freddie as the harlequin - black and
white again - contrast ......

One possible role for Freddie, may have been to break down the barriers of sexuality and repression so that sex and love could again be used as the fuel for creativity and spiritual experience. 

By showing what was possible via his music by being very very sexually active, it might encourage those who had been damaged and repressed by religion or their relatives and taught to believe that sex was ‘dirty’, to come out of their shell and feel the sun. 

Some may say his death from AIDs is hardly an advertisement to do this, but he was a sort of martyr to the cause, a pioneer or prophet destined to die to raise awareness.  It gave the message that sex is the most wonderful thing in the world as long as it is accompanied by love.  Promiscuity simply kills you. 

Yeah, everybody, everybody, everybody tells me so
Yes it was plain to see, yes it was meant to be
Written in the stars...
Written in the stars...

the mystic marriage as shown on the Tarot card

Eros

Love is a very strong theme in all Freddie’s songs.  There is also very frequent reference to the apparently destructive nature of love – Love kills, for example, or Too much love will kill you

Love as Eros is part of mysticism.  The mystic marriage first of all requires that the masculine and feminine in a person conjoin to create an androgynous united self that is balanced. 

Freddie’s clothes were largely symbolic.  He was a mystic magician on the spiritual path aiming for the mystic marriage and this is celebrated using the idea of androgyny – a sort of AC/DC persona.  The union takes place under the banner of Eros. 

But if one is a very dedicated spiritual traveller one continues and the self is totally sacrificed, ‘you’ if ever there was a you except for this temporary personality you think of as you, cease to exist and consciousness is transferred to the Higher spirit. 

aaah so the crown chakra was open .....

It is called Annihilation, takes place via Eros and is given to very very few.  If given, the person is classified as a ‘god’.

Hey love can play with your emotions
Open invitation to your heart
Hey love kills
Play with your emotions
Open invitation to your heart (to your heart)
Love kills (love kills), hey hey, love kills (love kills)
Love kills kills kills kills

The Personality is also supposed to reside figuratively speaking in your heart. 

Death

Fame can be an albatross round the neck.  There are always unscrupulous journalists unable to put two sensible words together, with a command of English equal to a castrated flea, who are always looking for something  sensational to write about.  And they can be unbelievably cruel.

In October 1986, the British press reported that Freddie had had his blood tested for HIV/AIDS at a Harley Street clinic. According to his then partner Jim Hutton, Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS shortly after Easter of 1987.  Towards the end of his life, Freddie was routinely stalked by photographers, while The Sun featured a series of articles claiming that he was ill.  Freddie and his genuine colleagues and friends, those he could trust, continually denied the stories, so that he could get some peace as he was dying.

A visibly frail Freddie made his final public appearance on stage when he joined the rest of Queen to collect the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music in 1990.

In May 1991, the music video for "These Are the Days of Our Lives" features a very thin Mercury, in what are his final scenes in front of the camera.  So ill was he that he could only come into the studio, for an hour or two at a time. May says of Mercury: “He just kept saying. 'Write me more. Write me stuff. I want to just sing this and do it and when I am gone you can finish it off.’ He had no fear, really.”  After the conclusion of his work with Queen in June 1991, Mercury retired to his home in Kensington, west London. His former partner, Mary Austin, had been a particular comfort in his final years, and in the last few weeks of his life made regular visits to his home to look after him. Near the end of his life Mercury was starting to lose his sight, and he deteriorated to the point where he could not get out of bed. Due to his worsening condition, Freddie decided to hasten his death by refusing to take his medication and continued taking only pain killers.

On the evening of 24 November 1991, Mercury died at the age of 45 at his home in Kensington. The official cause of death was bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS. Mercury's close friend, Dave Clark of The Dave Clark Five, had taken over the bedside vigil when he died.

 

"Is This The World We Created?"

Just think of all those hungry mouths we have to feed
Take a look at all the suffering we breed
So many lonely faces scattered all around
Searching for what they need.

Is this the world we created
What did we do it for
Is this the world we invaded
Against the law
So it seems in the end
Is this what we're all living for today
The world that we created.

You know that everyday a helpless child is born
Who needs some loving care inside a happy home
Somewhere a wealthy man is sitting on his throne
Waiting for life to go by.

Is this the world we created, we made it on our own
Is this the world we devastated, right to the bone
If there's a God in the sky looking down
What can he think of what we've done
To the world that He created.

 

Observations

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