Today marks the day that 21 years ago the front man of the British rock group Queen, the irrepressibly colorful Freddie Mercury, succumbed to complications of AIDS. The band had carried on after the death of their singer, but it was never the same; the band had matched the intensity and sonic wallop to the eardrums its singer vocally postulated, and was one of those lighting in a bottle, one of a kind situations, ala a Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Who, and The Beatles (many of those bands acting as an influence to Queen). Mercury’s death created a void in rock/pop music for all time and also set a standard for singing excellence for all time as well.
Mercury was gifted with a vocal range that reached untold galaxies; he had perfected the term bombast, as Queen’s self-indulgent musical posturing never sunk them, largely in part to A) the ferocity and flowery he/she kind of style manifested by Mercury, with his boldness on stage, and his flamboyance somewhere in the middle of Marc Bolan and Elton John and B) the fact that they were mainly the only band engaging in a kind of theater rock/cabaret progressive (in the early days of the band’s career) style, which ultimately became their instant trademark.
Mercury, however, was the golden ticket for the band, as great as the taut sonic musings of Brian May’s guitar, John Deacon’s nimble and soulfully assured bass, and the rat-at-at back beats from Roger Taylor was, it was the operatic, soaring, attitudinal, guttural vocal attack of Mercury which hit most memorably; he could be at moment’s notice tender and reaching, aching and pained, upbeat and confident, the voluminous discography of the bands 20-year career (1971-1991) has elements of each of those aforementioned adjectives in them: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “You’re My Best Friend,” “Spread Your Wings,” “Dragon Attack,” “Under Pressure,” “Who Wants To Live Forever,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Another One Bites The Dust,” “Bicycle Race,” “One Vision,” “I’m Going Slightly Mad,” the list goes on and on, a lot of these songs play out like American classics, which in a way they rightfully are, even though the band members are England natives. It’s more like world classics actually, as the band was revered and loved from continent to continent, again largely because of Freddie Mercury, who was a larger than life figure to most of the fans.
Although in later years as he got sick and began to look frail and emaciated in his physical being, his musical force still burned in the flue as brightly and strongly as ever. The last album he did with the band, Innuendo, released in 1991, contains some of the most personal and incredibly adventurous music of the bands entire career. The album was barely released in the record stores when Mercury succumbed to his illnesses at the young age of 45.
When Freddie passed 21 years ago, it ended an era that was Queen. His style is timeless, however, and Queen songs live on as vivid and alive as if the man himself was still here with us, that alone shows the essence and power and influence of Freddie Mercury, who is still dearly missed by music fans everywhere. “Don’t Stop Me Now” he intones on a great track from Queen’s Jazz album. There was no stopping the enigmatic force that was Freddie Mercury, then, now, and in all of time. He was a shooting star, like Lady Godiva, don’t stop him now, indeed.
A 20-song collection of some of Queen’s greatest tunes, titled Greatest Hits – We Will Rock You Edition, is on sale in MP3 format for only $3.99 right now, and contains stand-outs like “Killer Queen,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “Another One Bites The Dust,” “Bicycle Race,” “We Will Rock You Good,” and “We Are The Champions,” and of course, their most memorable song “Bohemian Rhapsody.”