Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara; 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British singer, songwriter, record producer, and lead vocalist of Queen.
Born in 1946 in Zanzibar to Parsi-Indian parents, he attended English-style boarding schools in India from the age of eight and returned to Zanzibar after secondary school. In 1964 his family fled the Zanzibar Revolution, moving to Middlesex, England. Having studied and written music for years, he formed Queen in 1970 with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor.
Mercury wrote numerous hits for Queen, including Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody to Love, We Are the Champions, Don't Stop Me Now, and Crazy Little Thing Called Love. His charismatic stage performances often saw him interact with the audience, as displayed at Queen's performance in Live Aid. He also led a successful solo career and served as a producer and guest musician for other artists.
Mercury died in 1991 at age 45 due to complications from AIDS. He confirmed the day before his death that he had contracted the disease, having been diagnosed in 1987. Mercury had continued to record with Queen following his diagnosis, and he was posthumously featured on the band's 1995 album Made in Heaven. In 1992, his tribute concert was held at Wembley Stadium. His career with Queen was dramatised in the 2018 biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Noted for his wide vocal range, flamboyent stage persona, and songwriting talents, Mercury is remembered as one of the greatest singers in the history of rock music.
Farrokh Bomi Bulsara was born on 5 September 1946 in the small town of Stone Town, Zanzibar. His parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara, were of Parsee descent. His father, Bomi, was a civil servant, working as a High Court cashier for the British Colonial Office. His younger sister, Kashmira Bulsara (now Kashmira Cooke), was born in 1952.
In 1954, Bulsara was shipped to St Peter's English boarding school in Panchgani, about fifty miles outside Bombay.
Bulsara attended St. Peter's School (Boarding school) in the city of Panchgani, near Bombay, India. While attending, he excelled at many subjects and sports, including boxing and running, he disliked sports such as hockey, and he won a championship for table tennis. He later joined up with several friends to form The Hectics, for which he played the piano.
It was around this time that his friends began to call him 'Freddie', a name that the family would soon adopt. His schooling remained in Zanzibar for most of his childhood. He later completed his education at St. Mary's School in Mazagon, and returned officially to Zanzibar.
In 1964, the Zanzibar Revolution began with the overthrow of the Sultan. Freddie was 17 years old at the time, and his family quickly fled to Feltham, London, England. He enrolled at West Thames College to study studied art theory. He later attended Ealing Art College, and earned a degree in art and graphic design.
After graduation, Bulsara worked selling clothing in Kensington Market in London, and also worked part-time at Heathrow Airport. In 1969, he formed a band called Ibex. Sometime between 9 September and the end of October 1969, the band would rename to Wreckage at the band's request. The name-change went hand-in-hand with the departure of drummer Mike 'Miffer' Smith. He was replaced by Richard Thompson, the former drummer in Brian May's 1984. Despite flashes of true potential, the end of the 1960s also marked the end of Wreckage. Gigs were few and far between, and while John Taylor, Richard Thompson and Freddie remained in London, Mike Bersin was committed to his college course in Liverpool, as he promised to his parents. Inevitably, the band petered out.
Freddie started to search for another band for himself. He found Sour Milk Sea after seeing a "Vocalist Wanted" advert in the 'Melody Maker'. The pomp and ceremony were impressive, and the band he was auditioning for knew he was the right man, especially when he got around to singing. Freddie had a great voice, with terrific range. But there was not only his voice that made his performances so attractive to people. "He knew how to front a show," - Ken Testi recalls. "It was his way of expressing that side of his personality. Everything he did on stage later in Queen, he was doing with Ibex at his first gig." It wasn't anything that could be developed. It was his charisma, his pure natural gift that was in perfect harmony with his voice, his appearance, his delicate taste and his musicianship in the wide sense of the word.
Freddie Mercury died on 24 November 1991 from AIDS, a disease which he had been diagnosed with in 1987. He was 45 years old.