This may seem completely random… but I’ve decided today to dedicate an entire blog entry to Freddie Mercury. Maybe it’s a belated birthday present to him… but whatever the reason, I figure now is as good of a time as any to share my thoughts on this epic bard whose legend lives on today.
My first clear memory of Freddie Mercury comes through the song “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I’m not sure whether I was first enthralled by it before or after seeing Wayne’s World, but either way, it was one of the first songs that I gravitated to.
For me, Queen became a quest. The first audio tape I remember owning was a Queen “single” that I think I literally played until it wore out. I’m not sure which songs were on it, but I think it may have been Bohemian Rhapsody and The Show Must Go On. Luckily, that tape lasted me through to the first CD I remember, which was also Queen — specifically, the Queen’s Greatest Hits album with the red cover, which was essentially the same as the first disc of the main 3-disc Greatest Hits set.
It’s hard to put into words what that CD meant to me. At the time, I couldn’t explain it at all except to say that I liked it. But in retrospect, I can definitely say that it helped me through a prolonged period of extreme depression.
As the dawn of adolescence brought on raging hormones and expanding self-awareness, I found myself feeling extremely anxious, depressed, and trapped by my banal suburban circumstances. My family was good to me, and this was actually a point where my family life was becoming more stable than it had been in the past. But this was also the precise age where I really started looking beyond my family for a social life — and somehow, the petty tyranny of suburban junior high and high school seemed like a soulless wasteland where I could never be free.
If you had asked me, I wouldn’t even have been able to put into words what it was exactly that was being denied me. But I knew that there was more to life than this, and I felt a tremendous urge to discover that life, whatever it may be.
Enter Freddy Mercury.
Now of course, I don’t want to diminish the contributions of the other members of Queen when I talk about Freddie Mercury. They all had songs that I like, and none of the songs would have been the same without the full set of artists. And yet, there was always something that made Freddie stand apart. He had a certain manic energy, a certain irresistible charm, a certain powerful magic…
My life was so boring in those days that I couldn’t even imagine what it must be like to cut loose from all of my social inhibitions and have a real party. It would be years before I could even recognize and throw off the chains that were holding me back from experiencing the full power of human emotion. But when I listened to that music, and that voice soaring and diving through the heights and depths of human passion and ecstasy, I could feel something stirring in my heart that I’d never felt before.
It was a taste of pure freedom! Yes, the joy was often mingled with pain and sorrow, but the sheer power of the unchained human heart was what always shined through most brightly for me. It was the music of a heart longing to break free… a heart falling in love… a heart that would not rest until its epic passion for the beauty and magic of life had been fulfilled, bringing the power of eternity into the presence of a single moment.
So much rock music carries some of these same themes… but when they were at their finest, Freddie Mercury and Queen breathed an incredible life and love and beauty into the drama. People who know me should know that I believe in magic as a real spiritual force… and I believe that Freddie Mercury came to us with a magic powerful enough to open people’s minds and set our hearts free.
In other words, he rocked our world.
Of course, there was a great deal of controversy among some people over the fact that he never officially acknowledged his bisexuality to the public, and that he didn’t acknowledge his HIV diagnosis publicly until the day before he died. But really, I think that both criticisms are rather petty, though certainly well-intentioned.
Sure, it would have been very helpful if Freddie Mercury had joined some political campaign to speak up on behalf of the GLBTQ movement. But really, I think that his music spoke for itself. It was music of liberation… and even though he didn’t officially contribute to the queer liberation movement, he helped make those of us who were feeling trapped by our sexually repressed society feel more free. He was also the first role model I ever had who was bisexual, which lead me to learn more about bisexuality and ultimately myself.
It would have also been very helpful if Freddie Mercury had held some sort of AIDS benefit concert while he was still with us. I’m sure it would have raised awareness tremendously and raised a good chunk of change for the cause, too. But really, he was ultimately able to accomplish in death what his desire for privacy did not allow him to accomplish in life. He was the first role model I ever had who died of AIDS, and his death and subsequent tribute concert probably raised even more awareness than anything he could have done in life.
So, both in life and in death, Freddie Mercury had a lasting influence on my life, and on the lives of millions of others who still celebrate his music today. Whether you’re a die-hard Queen fan or someone who barely knows anything about them, I encourage you to take the time to listen to a few songs, check out a few of the music videos, and let yourself be inspired by the beauty and power of this epic bard’s talent. He will always be with us in spirit…