Thanks to the new film Bohemian Rhapsody, the world is once again celebrating the amazing life and talent of the legendary Freddie Mercury.
Despite decidedly mixed reviews, the biopic about Freddie and his band Queen has proved to be a hit. It has earned more than $470 million around the world; said to make it the most successful LGBTQ-themed movie ever.
Ahead of its anticipated release in South Africa on 30 November, here are some fascinating facts about the musical and LGBTQ icon that was Freddie Mercury.
1. Freddie was African! He was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) on 5 September 1946.
2. He adopted the name Freddie while at St. Peter’s, the English boarding school he attended in India, before he and his family moved to England
3. Freddie became a table tennis champion at the school.
4. As a child, between the ages of nine and 12, Freddie enjoyed collecting stamps. He was himself posthumously remembered on one of a special series of stamps that Britain’s Royal Mail produced to mark the millennium.
5. Freddie once had a part time job working as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport.
6. He studied graphic design at Ealing College of Art.
7. Freddie had four extra teeth on his upper jaw, which were pushing on the front ones. He never considered ‘fixing’ them because he believed that they contributed to the special sound of his voice – the legendary four-octave range.
8. While the lyrics of Killer Queen mention Moët & Chandon, Freddie’s own favorite champagne was Louis Roederer Cristal. His other favorite drinks were Stolichnaya vodka and Earl Grey tea – with milk and two sugars. His favorite champagne cocktail was a Bellini (Cristal and peach puree).
9. He was one of the most technically accomplished singers to work in pop music. In a list of the greatest English language singers of the 20th century, compiled by BBC Radio, Freddie was ranked No.10. The list included Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole.
Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody
10. Freddie came second in MTV’s list of the 22 greatest singers of the past 25 years – he was beaten by Mariah Carey.
11. Despite not believing in astrology, Freddie designed Queen’s crest using the astrological signs of the four members: two Leos, one Cancer and one Virgo (Freddie himself).
12. Freddie loved cats and owned several – some exotic long haired cats were gifts from friends and others were rescued from a shelter. One of his cats, Delilah, was the inspiration for Queen song of the same name.
13. Queen wasn’t going to release Another One Bites the Dust as a single until Michael Jackson convinced them. It became the most successful American single of their career.
14. Freddie was a big fan of the Spanish operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé and the two recorded the hit song Barcelona in 1987. Though Freddie didn’t live to see it, Barcelona was featured at the Olympic Games in 1992, going on to become the best known song of any Olympics.
15. Freddie never really came out about his sexuality to the public and there is still much debate whether he identified as gay or bisexual.
16. The last six years of Freddie’s life were spent with his partner Jim Hutton. He was with him until the star’s death in 1991 from AIDS-related complications, at the age of 45. Although they weren’t legally married (it wasn’t possible at the time), they both wore wedding rings to show their commitment to one another.
17. In his will, Freddie left his London home and the contents to Mary Austin, his former girlfriend and lifelong friend, and she continues to live there. (Sadly, it’s been reported that Mary threw Jim out the house after Freddie died).
18. Freddie left Jim £500,000 in his will. Jim was also diagnosed with HIV but died from lung cancer at the age of 60 in 2010.
Bohemian Rhapsody is released in South African cinemas on 30 November.