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Freddie Mercury

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Freddie Mercury

Biography

Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara; 5 September 1946, Sultanate of Zanzibar – 24 November 1991, Kensington, UK) was a British singer, songwriter and record producer, known as the lead vocalist and co-principal songwriter of the rock band Queen.

Mercury was born of Parsi descent in the Sultanate of Zanzibar and grew up there and in India until his mid-teens, before moving with his family to Middlesex, England — ultimately forming the band Queen in 1970 with Brian May and Roger Taylor. Mercury died in 1991 at age 45 due to complications from AIDS.

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). One of his formative musical influences at the time was Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar. At the age of 12, he formed a school band, The Hectics, and covered rock and roll artists such as Cliff Richard and Little Richard. 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", and in February 1963 he moved back to Zanzibar where he joined his parents at their flat.

At the age of 17, Mercury and his family fled from Zanzibar, for safety reasons due to the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution to, Feltham, Middlesex, England. Mercury enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic (now West Thames College) in West London where he studied art. He ultimately earned a diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College (now the Ealing campus of University of West London), later using these skills to design the Queen heraldic arms.

Following graduation, Mercury joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in the Kensington Market in London. He also held a job at Heathrow Airport. Friends from the time remember him as a quiet and shy young man who showed a great deal of interest in music. In 1969 he joined the Liverpool-based band Ibex, later renamed Wreckage. When this band failed to take off, he joined a second band called Sour Milk Sea. However, by early 1970 this group had broken up as well.

In April 1970 Mercury joined guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor who had previously been in a band called Smile. Despite reservations of the other members and Trident Studios, the band's initial management, Mercury chose the name "Queen" for the new band. He later said, "I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it." At about the same time, he changed his surname, Bulsara, to Mercury.

He also became known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range. Mercury wrote and composed numerous hits for Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, Somebody to Love, Don't Stop Me Now, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and We Are the Champions.); occasionally served as a producer and guest musician (piano or vocals) for other artists; and concurrently led a solo career while performing with Queen.

In 1992 Mercury was posthumously awarded the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, with a tribute concert held at Wembley Stadium, London. 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. In 2002, he was placed at number 58 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Consistently voted one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music, Mercury was voted best male singer of all time in a 2005 poll organised by Blender and MTV2; was ranked at 18 on the 2008 Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest singers ever; was elected in 2009 as the best rock singer of all time by Classic Rock; — and was described by AllMusic as "one of rock's greatest all-time entertainers," with "one of the greatest voices in all of music."


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