The frontman of rock band Queen died more than 30 years ago after contracting AIDS. The extravagant singer, who would have been 76 if he had survived, continued to make music right up until his death.
Freddie Mercury would have turned 76 if he had been alive today (Monday September 5). The frontman of rock band Queen died of AIDS in 1991, passing away two months after his 45th birthday.
The We Are The Champions singer only announced the day before he died that he was suffering from the disease, having made a number of public appearances in the 12 month prior looking increasingly ill.
Mercury — whose real name was Farrokh Bulsara — diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, according to his long-term partner Jim Hutton.
Queen continued to make music right up until the extravagant star’s death, with the band agreeing to protect his privacy after he opened up to them about contracting the disease.
Guitarist Brian May, speaking last year to mark what would have been Mercury’s 75th birthday, said Freddie had told his bandmates following his diagnosis: “I want to carry on making music for as long as I f**king can.”
May said they all “agreed to deny it to protect Freddie” if they were ever questioned about his illness.
How Freddie Mercury died
It is not known when exactly Mercury contracted AIDS, but he and Jim lived as a married couple – wearing wedding rings to symbolise their commitment – up until Freddie’s death, with Jim by his side.
While AIDS is now a treatable illness, during the 1980s it was an epidemic that killed thousands, especially those in the gay community.
Queen continued to record during Freddie’s illness but their touring ceased — a decision that sparked rumours about the showman’s health in the media at the time.
The most intimate account of Mercury’s final days comes from his partner Hutton, who died from lung cancer in 2010 aged just 60.
In Hutton’s biography, he said the Barcelona singer had been well enough to holiday in Switzerland a month before his passing but it became clear upon their return to Britain that his condition was deteriorating.
Once back at their home at the Garden Lodge, in London’s Kensington, the Zanzibar-born artist took to his bed where he slept and watched television with a rotation of trusted friends, including Jim and Mercury’s ex-girlfriend, Mary Austin.
According to Jim’s account in his autobiography, Mercury And Me, Freddie decided to stop taking all medication apart from painkillers two weeks before his death.
As he grew weaker, he also stopped eating solid foods, consuming only fruit and fruit juices.
He died on November 24, 1991, with Jim recalling that the suffering had disappeared from his face following his passing.
Jim wrote: “He looked radiant. One minute he was a boy with a gaunt, sad little face and the next he was a picture of ecstasy.
“Freddie’s whole face went back to everything it had been before. He looked finally and totally at peace.”
His last song, appearance and words
May tells a story of how Freddie Mercury was desperate to keep recording with his band, knowing that they might have to finish songs without him.
The song Mother Love was the last song Freddie wrote and recorded in the studio with Queen, with Freddie’s vocals said to have been recorded between May 13 and 16 in 1991.
Discussing their writing process during the final period of Mercury’s life, May recalled: “Freddie at that time said ‘Write me stuff… I know I don’t have very long; keep writing me words, keep giving me things I will sing, then you can do what you like with it afterwards, you know; finish it off’.
“And so I was writing on scraps of paper these lines of Mother Love, and every time I gave him another line he’d sing it, sing it again, and sing it again, so we had three takes for every line, and that was it… and we got the last verse and he said ‘I’m not up to this, and I need to go away and have a rest, I’ll come back and finish it off…’ and he never came back.”
The last part of the track ended up being sung by May due to Freddie becoming too weak.
The final video Freddie recorded was even later, with the promo footage for the poignantly titled Queen song, These Are The Days Of Our Lives, taped that same year.
He has a gaunt appearance in the video, adding to the speculation following his final public appearance at the 1990 Brit Awards that the singer was ill.