Exploring Freddie Mercury: The man behind the film Bohemian Rhapsody
Freddie Mercury knew he was destined for something more. Classmate Chris Smith recalled that Mercury sat glumly at a pub one night.
“I’m not going to be a pop star. I’m going to be a legend!”
And become a legend he did.
As the front man of Queen, Mercury quickly shot to super stardom. With hits such as “We Are The Champions”, “I Want To Break Free” and much loved classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” showcasing Mercury’s vocal talent, it’s easy to see why these songs resonated with the people.
That was just Mercury’s vocal talent. In concert, he was able to capture the attention of thousands, with an odd mix of strength, seduction, outrageous outfits as well as regal glamour in the mix.
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It’s been more than 27 years since Mercury died of complications relating to AIDS, but some would argue he’s more popular than ever.
This is due to the new release of Bohemian Rhapsody, the blockbuster film with Rami Malek portraying the late singer. The film is the highest-grossing biopic in history, with old and new fans alike falling in love with Queen.
BBC broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, a longtime friend, told PEOPLE:
“Queen are even bigger than when they originally put the records out, and Freddie would love it,” Gambaccini said.
“He would just flip his hand and say, ‘It’s fabulous, darling!’”
As Mercury desperately tried to fill the yawning void in his soul that came with being sent to boarding school in India, which was thousands of miles away from his parents in Zanzibar, music quickly became the answer. Once the family emigrated to London, Mercury wasted no time in throwing himself into the scene of the Swinging Sixties.
Mercury had his eyes on a trio called Smile, and once their vocalist quit, he wasted no time in showing off what he could do.
It didn’t take long for the band to be renamed to Queen, which of course, was Mercury’s idea. Mercury told PEOPLE in 1977:
“The whole point was to be pompous and provocative, to prompt speculation and controversy.”
Mercury’s fashion choices are known for being equally dramatic and androgynous. Designer Zandra Rhodes, who created some of Mercury’s best-known costumes during Queen’s early period explains:
“I think he’d seen my chiffons with feathers and exotic sleeves and extreme approach to fashion,” she tells PEOPLE.
Rhodes’ most famous look for Mercury was a batwing cape shirt, which initially started off as a wedding dress.
“He and Brian came to my tiny Bayswater attic studio, incognito. I asked Freddie to look along my rail of clothes and he chose an exotic pleated bridal top I had on the rail! He danced around in it in my studio.”
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Despite his outrageous stage presence and incredible vocals, Mercury was known in his close circle to be very shy and private. Brian May told PEOPLE in 2017:
“Freddie was very extrovert onstage, as we all know, but he was very shy in his private life and liked to be private,” May explained.
“He liked those moments of just having a couple of his close friends around. We’d known each other a long time and we were almost like family. We had no airs and graces with each other.”
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