Take a peek at Freddie’s life in 10 pictures
Saturday:Freddie Mercury: A Life in Ten Pictures; (BBC Two, 9pm)
Who wants to live forever?
A few of us would probably like to give it a go. After all, it’s horrible to think of all the things we might miss out on in the future, and it’s also rather difficult to imagine not being around.
Freddie Mercury, who sang a moving song asking that very question and which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Highlander, has managed to achieve a kind of immortality.
Yes, he passed away in 1991 at the age of 45, but his name and image live on in the hearts of his fans, and he remains as popular as ever.
Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in what is now Tanzania, the eldest of two children of a British Colonial Office worker and his wife. Music was important to him from an early age; he began piano lessons at seven and five years later formed his first band, The Hectics, with school friends. Their repertoire involved pop songs by the likes of Cliff Richard and Little Richard.
When he was 17, Mercury and his family fled their homeland during an uprising, and moved to Middlesex.
After studying art (a skill he put to good use to design Queen’s famous heraldic logo), he fronted various bands, but was regarded as shy and retiring.
In 1970, he met drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May, who had both been playing in a group called Smile; with bass player Brian Deacon they formed Queen. The name was Mercury’s idea, although their management weren’t keen on it.
“It’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid,” he would later remark. “It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.”
Queen went on to become one of the most successful acts of the 1970s and 1980s, racking up hit after hit, including Bohemian Rhapsody, Don’t Stop Me Now, Somebody to Love and We Are the Champions – all of which were written by Mercury himself.
He was at the forefront of it all, a flamboyant figure worshipped and adored by millions across the globe – that shy teenager who first arrived in England was seemingly long gone.
When he died following a battle with Aids, it came as a shock, despite rumours about his failing health hitting the headlines for some time.
Now, 30 almost years on, this documentary takes a look at the man behind the public persona – the great pretender who continues to bewitch and bedazzle.
It focuses on 10 pictures taken at key moments – from babyhood to shortly before his death – and reveals the stories behind them. Those who knew him best, and in some cases were present when the shots were taken, offer their insightful and often moving opinions.
The programme is followed at 10pm by Queen: The Legendary 1975 Concert. Plus, at 11.30pm, there’s a chance to see The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody, in which Brian May and Roger Taylor are among those recalling the recording of the iconic song; Mercury appears in rarely seen footage captured in the studio.
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