Rock singer Freddie Mercury of Queen died at age 45 of pneumonia brought on by AIDS.
Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara (5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the rock band Queen. As a performer, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and powerful vocals over a four-octave range. As a songwriter, Mercury composed many hits for Queen, including “Bohemian Rhapsody“, “Killer Queen“, “Somebody to Love“, “Don’t Stop Me Now“, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “We Are the Champions“. In addition to his work with Queen, he led a solo career, and also occasionally served as a producer and guest musician (piano or vocals) for other artists. He died of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS on 24 November 1991, only one day after publicly acknowledging he had the disease.
Mercury was a Parsi born in Zanzibar and grew up there and in India until his mid-teens. He has been referred to as “Britain’s first Asian rock star”. In 2002, Mercury was placed at number 58 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, in 2006, Time Asia named him one of the most influential Asian heroes of the past 60 years, and he continues to be voted one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music. In 2005, a poll organised by Blender and MTV2 saw Mercury voted the greatest male singer of all time. In 2008, Rolling Stone editors ranked him number 18 on their list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. In 2009, a Classic Rock poll saw him voted the greatest rock singer of all time. Allmusic has characterized Mercury as “one of rock’s greatest all-time entertainers”, who possessed “one of the greatest voices in all of music”.
Mercury wrote 10 of the 17 songs on Queen’s Greatest Hits album: “Bohemian Rhapsody“, “Seven Seas of Rhye“, “Killer Queen“, “Somebody to Love“, “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy“, “We Are the Champions“, “Bicycle Race“, “Don’t Stop Me Now“, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Play the Game“.
The most notable aspect of his songwriting involved the wide range of genres that he used, which included, among other styles, rockabilly, progressive rock, heavy metal, gospel and disco. As he explained in a 1986 interview, “I hate doing the same thing again and again and again. I like to see what’s happening now in music, film and theater and incorporate all of those things.” Compared to many popular songwriters, Mercury also tended to write musically complex material. For example, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is acyclic in structure and comprises dozens of chords. He also wrote six songs from Queen II which deal with multiple key changes and complex material. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, on the other hand, contains only a few chords. Despite the fact that Mercury often wrote very intricate harmonies, he also claimed that he could barely read music. He wrote most of his songs on the piano and used a wide variety of different key signatures.
Queen consisted of vocalist Freddie Mercury (d.1991), guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor. Their discography consists of fifteen studio albums (one of which is a soundtrack album), six live albums, twelve compilation albums, 62 singles and a number of other appearances. Founded in 1970, Queen released their self-titled debut album in 1973. Despite not being an immediate success, Queen gained popularity in Britain with their second self-titled album in 1974. Their 1975 single, “Bohemian Rhapsody“, was number 1 for nine weeks (and a further five weeks in 1991) and is the third biggest selling single of all time in the UK. The band’s 1981 Greatest Hits album is the biggest selling album in UK history with 5.8 million copies sold by 2012. The band’s 1991 compilation Greatest Hits II is also one of the UK’s top ten biggest sellers of all time, with 3.8 million copies sold by 2012.
In 1972, Queen signed a production deal with Trident Studios. Later in their career, Queen signed a record contract with EMI, and Elektra in the United States. The band would remain with EMI for the rest of their career, though, in 1983, they terminated their contract with Elektra and signed with Capitol Records. In 1990, they once again terminated their U.S. record contract and signed with Hollywood Records. In 1991, Queen’s entire catalogue was remastered and released on compact disc in the United States, and thirteen albums (all studio albums up to ‘The Works’ as well as ‘Live Killers’ and ‘Greatest Hits’) were remastered at Abbey Road Studios and released on CD and cassette in the United Kingdom between July 1993 and March 1994. Queen’s entire album back catalogue was remastered and re-released in the UK and rest of the world (excluding the US) through 2011 to commemorate their 40th anniversary (as well as being the 20th anniversary of Mercury’s death). The 2011 remasters were released on Universal’s Island label as the band’s contract with EMI ended in 2010. The 2011 remasters were released on SACD by Universal Music Japan, between November 2011 and April 2012.