Rock and Roll Royalty
Some of my favorite music growing up was classic rock.
There was so much diversity among the more progressive rock bands in particular. Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Rush, and other artists crossed boundaries, recording albums (and even individual songs) that incorporated elements of the blues, jazz, orchestral music, and even English folk into their rock.
One group took this meshing of styles to a whole new level: Queen.
Sadly, many people around the world today know Queen less for its music than for Freddie Mercury’s flamboyance—and his death from AIDS in 1991. His lifestyle choice and dramatic death ten years ago this November continue to have effects even now.
Take, for example, what just happened in Zanzibar.
Last week, Islamist protests on this Tanzanian island where Mercury was born 60 years ago (as Farrokh Bulsara) led organizers to cancel a proposed birthday bash. The opponents argued that the late singer’s lifestyle offends most of Zanzibar’s Muslim majority and threatened to demonstrate en masse if planners held the party.
Never mind that Zanzibar is home to a popular Mercury-themed restaurant anyway. Never mind that the celebration sought to raise money for HIV/AIDS victims on the island, regardless of their views of the singer’s music or the way he behaved.
To restore some sense of balance to the universe, I offer these tidbits that you may not have known about Queen’s frontman:
- Freddie Mercury may have been the world’s first Persian and Indian rock star, having been born to Parsi parents—Zoroastrians of Persian descent in India.
- His voice spanned four octaves despite his lack of formal vocal training.
- Mercury designed the heraldic Queen logo, using the artistic skill he mastered while gaining a degree in art and graphic design.
- He wrote most of the band’s biggest hits—ranging from simple tunes like “We Are the Champions” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” to complex songs like “Bicycle Race” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Whatever you think of his lifestyle, Freddie Mercury was one of the greatest. He inspired many of the best acts of the 80s, 90s, and today. He was a talented and amazing artist.
Sadly, in much of the world, it’s not always about the music.