Remembering the legacy of LGBTQ+ icon Freddie Mercury

The legacy of Freddie Mercury is more than just a catalogue of incredible music. He changed the face of how the world saw the AIDS crisis.

The image shows part of the legacy of Freddie Mercury. It is a photograph of him performing at a concert. He is holding a microphone in one hand and looking down to the audience with other arm outstretched. He is wearing white jeans and a yellow singlet over a navy coloured tshirt.
Image: @freddiemercury via Instagram

Best known as the frontman of the band Queen, Freddie Mercury remains one of the most iconic names in rock music, but his legacy goes far beyond. On what would have been his 77th birthday, we look back at how he changed the world.

Born on September 5, 1946, in Zanzibar, Mercury (formerly Farrokh Bulsara) was the son of Parsi-Indian parents. In 1964, he and his family fled to England during the Zanzibar Revolution. 

Having studied piano since the age of seven, Mercury proved to be a natural musician. He met Brian May in 1970 and, along with his friend Roger Taylor, the three formed the band Smile. The following year they were joined by bassist John Deacon and changed the name to Queen. Mercury remained the lead singer of the band until his death in 1991.

As well as writing numerous hits for the band, such as, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘We Are the Champions’, and ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, Mercury also released two successful solo albums.

Throughout his years as a vocalist, songwriter and producer, Freddie Mercury redefined the status quo of what was acceptable in pop culture. He had incredible creativity and undeniable talent. 

In a time before drag was in mainstream music culture, the band released the video for their 1984 hit ‘I Want to Break Free’, in which Mercury appeared in a black leather miniskirt with a pink singlet, fake breasts and bobbed wig. 

Whilst other artists like David Bowie and Boy George were playing with feminising their male presentation, Mercury’s performance in full drag took this to a whole new level, granting permission to others to truly express themselves.



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A post shared by Freddie Mercury (@freddiemercury)

Although Freddie Mercury remained guarded about his personal life throughout his career, his most abiding legacy has to be that of his decision to publicly come about his HIV status. 

Before his death, Mercury shocked the world once more by revealing he was dying due to AIDS-related complications. He shared in a prepared statement, “I want to confirm that I have tested positive for the HIV virus and that I have contracted AIDS. I have found it appropriate to keep this information confidential until now in order to protect the privacy of those around me.”

He continued, “However, the time has come for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope everyone will join me, the doctors who follow me and those around the world in the fight against this terrible disease.”

He died the following day, November 24, 1991, aged 45, from AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia.

As the first major rock star to die of AIDS-related complications, Mercury’s death and his public statement represented a monumental event in the history of the illness.



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A post shared by Freddie Mercury (@freddiemercury)

The following year, Roger Taylor, Brian May, and their manager Jim Beach launched The Mercury Phoenix Trust in Mercury’s memory. The charity was established to support the fight against HIV/AIDS. 

As well as hosting a massive tribute concert in April 1992 to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, the organisation continues to run an annual ‘Freddie For A Day’ initiative, where people are invited to dress up as the iconic singer in an epic fundraising campaign. 

Highlighting the importance of Mercury’s legacy, ACT UP activist Jeremy Goldstein described, “Freddie ‘Killer Queen’ Mercury was a migrant who died from AIDS and today HIV+ migrants are some of the most oppressed in the HIV/AIDS community. We are here today to highlight the ongoing crisis.”

He continued, “We demand that all HIV+ migrants are treated with utmost dignity, that HIV services stop being closed down and an end to all illegal detention of HIV+ migrants.”

© 2023 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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