This article was published on October 28th, 2019
November 24 marks the 28th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury, the first major rock star to die of AIDS, in 1991. At the time, Mercury, considered by many to be the best rock singer of all time and the subject of the recent biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, would not admit to having the deadly disease until a day before he died and the medical establishment had no cure. Considered by many to be the most significant single death of the AIDS crisis, Freddie Mercury obtained a global icon status that still lives on today.
Born Farrokh Bulsara in the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Africa, on September 5, 1946, Freddie Mercury would later move with his Parsi parents from India to Middlesex, England when he was 18. During his time in boarding schools in Zanzibar and India, Freddie developed a talent for practicing and creating music.
In 1970, with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, Freddie formed the band, Queen. It was with Queen and his own solo career that Freddie Mercury became regarded as one of the best rock singers in history. With his 4-octave voice range, flamboyant costumes, androgynous stage persona, and overall outrageousness, Freddie Mercury reigned in the 1970s and 1980s as a rock god for the ages.
Queen saw massive global success. With hits penned by Mercury, including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Somebody to Love,” “We are the Champions,” “Killer Queen,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” the band topped the charts repeatedly, selling millions of albums worldwide.
As Queen’s headliner, Mercury’s out-of-this-world stage persona saw him wear extravagant costumes that often teased his queerness in plain sight to his adoring audience. Freddie Mercury was the true personification of the term diva: theatrical, cocky, extra, and extremely talented. Mercury saw some success with a solo career as a singer/songwriter, but also as guest musician and producer for other artists. Although he never officially confirmed his sexuality to the public, he never denied having relations with both men and women.
In April 1987, Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS, although he never confirmed he had the disease until one day before his death in 1991. He has since been posthumously awarded numerous titles and honors, including a tribute concert for him in 1992 at Wembley Stadium, admittance to the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the UK Music Hall of Fame.
Freddie Mercury is currently ranked in a BBC poll as the 58th most influential British people of all time. He was recently portrayed in the hit film Bohemian Rhapsody in 2018. The band Queen was awarded the 2018 Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, where they donated the award to Freddie Mercury.
In the following 28 years since his passing, much progress has been made to improve the lives of AIDS positive patients, but unfortunately, Mercury contracted the disease before these advances had become known to medical professionals.
Today, we honor Freddie Mercury, a truly devastating loss the HIV/AIDS crisis, for his contributions to art, music, culture, literature, fashion, and the fight against HIV/AIDS. Singer, songwriter, record producer, and lead vocalist of the rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury redefined what it meant to be a queer performer and legend.