Freddie Mercury, former lead singer of the band “Queen” would have turned 71 today. His voice and his persona were unique and unforgettable. He was the voice behind the ballads and anthems we all knew by heart that became the soundtrack to our childhoods. You have probably been at a ballgame when the entire place was singing, “We Will Rock You”, you smile every time you see the “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene in “Wayne’s World”, to this day you might get a little misty thinking about an old buddy when you hear, “You’re My Best Friend.” You’ve clinched your fist and held your mean game face while “Another One Bites the Dust” blared from your speakers. If you grew up in the 70’s or 80’s, there is a really good chance that you screamed along, tapped your feet, and swayed to Mercury’s voice. Heck, when Donald Trump took the stage to accept the Republican nomination for President, he walked out to “We Are the Champions.” Queen songs led by the powerful, unique voice of Freddie Mercury have been part of the fabric of our culture for over four decades.
When I see people standing proudly, pumping their fists, and screaming along with Freddie loudly, I wonder to myself, “How would these people have treated Freddie Mercury if they had known him before he was famous?”
Freddie Mercury has a complicated and incredible back story. Learning it offers us an opportunity to evaluate perhaps our most important quality: our compassion.
Mercury’s real name was Farrokh Bulsara. He was born on the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania. His father was a Persian who had previously fled from Iran to India to escape persecution. When revolution broke out in Zanzibar in 1964, there were massacres everywhere. Freddie’s parents decided to evacuate. They went to London, and were taken in. Freddie studied art, and eventually met his future bandmates of “Queen.”
Freddie Mercury was born to a man who was a refugee, and became a refugee himself.
So many great songs, and so much inspiration ultimately lived because he and his family were saved. Would you have been compassionate to him and his family? Would you have helped save him? If it was up to you, would those songs ever have had the chance to be sung?
Freddie Mercury was a bisexual.
Times have changed when it comes to the treatment of non heterosexual people. In the 20th century and before, there was ample judgement and bigotry of members of the LGBTQ community. Typically, they were not accepted and had to live lives that included secrecy and/or mistreatment by others. To put it simply, we were not very kind.
Mark Langthorne, author of the Mercury biography, “Somebody to Love” believes that Mercury contracted H.I.V. sometime in mid 1982. This was a time when people knew very little about the virus, and were petrified by it. In the 1980’s, while thousands suffered and died because of A.I.D.S., the government of the United States, and many other countries did nothing. The prevailing attitude held by many was that it was a disease that was killing the “homosexuals and druggies,” and was met with a collective shrug of the shoulders. The 1980’s were a scary time for all members of the LGBTQ community.
If you knew a flamboyant bisexual in the 1980’s with A.I.D.S., would you have been compassionate? Especially if they were not a rock star?
26 years after his death, thought of the Freddie Mercury should provoke thoughts about ourselves and our world. In a time when we battle over health care, LGBTQ rights, and what to do about refugees, his life and death raise issues that are as relevant as ever.
Would you be compassionate to a refugee, a bisexual, or a man dying of A.I.D.S.? Would you pressure your government to fund research and care for deadly diseases, no matter who their victims were?
I am sad to report that I personally would have failed all of these tests for most of my life. I was very typical of the schools of thought that led to the neglect and cruelty to people like Freddie Mercury. Looking back on things I believed, said, and even did……I am embarrassed.
Thankfully I learned, I grew, and I changed. I owe a lot of others credit for helping me along that path.
Happy birthday Freddy Mercury. Thank you for the beautiful music you contributed to my life. I’m sorry you died too young. I’m sorry your life was filled with so much trouble that it didn’t have to be. I’m sorry I never met you, but that is okay because I wouldn’t have been ready.
Remember the importance of compassion. It, and lack of it can change the world.
Always be working to cultivate more of it, in yourself and others.
The last picture ever taken of Freddy Mercury: 1991