Today marks the 25th anniversary of the death a musical superstar. What may have been his physical death, definitely didn’t mean the death of his influence. After dying from complications due to the AIDS/HIV virus in 1991, his music has held a steady grasp on the music industry. As the singer for Queen, he made an impression with his serious vocal chord ranges and wild on stage antics. His songs, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘We are the Champions’ have made it into the Guinness World Records and the Grammy Hall of Fame in the early 2000s as the greatest songs of all time. He has also been ranked #18 on Rolling Stone’s list of ‘100 Greatest Singers of All Time’. But Freddie Mercury was far more than a beautiful voice. He was also a major part of the journey towards the acceptance of the LBGTIQ community, and a huge part of the continuous struggle against HIV.
Freddie Mercury came out as being a bisexual in 1974, which was a time much different than now. The LBGTIQ community was more of an underground community as many were still ostracized for their sexuality. Mercury knew how coming out to the media could destroy his career, though he wanted to live a free life like most in the community do. This form of confident and controversial outburst that seemed to be so second nature to Mercury showed him as a mental mentor.
His promiscuous rock star lifestyle of spending enormous amounts of money suggested that he was certainly not the best role model. Many are sceptical of how mentally stable Mercury was throughout his career, even before he contracted the HIV virus. Many are simply seeking answers to his extravagant lifestyle, which could be explained as outrageous sanity or simple insanity. His confidence with his sexuality didn’t correspond to his diagnosis with HIV. At the time, there was no cure or much treatment options available. In which case, the diagnosis meant that Mercury had a death sentence. He seemed to take this rather well, as he had always stated that his lifestyle was one that not many could keep living for very long.
However, Mercury didn’t reveal until the day before his death that he had contracted the HIV virus. Many people believe that his lack of admittance in the early stages stopped a lot of funding and further recognition for the disease. As history now suggests, Mercury knew exactly what he was doing. He knew how much his death would affect the lives of his fans. And with that, he left this note before his death;
“Following enormous conjecture in the press, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have Aids. I felt it correct to keep this information private in order to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has now come for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth, and I hope everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.”
To this day, Mercury’s death has majorly attributed to the funding, knowledge and acceptance of HIV. By keeping his disease a secret without media slandering him during his life, he made sure that he died a martyr for the HIV cause. As he did, he is the motivation for many currently living with HIV. Medications for HIV have come a long way since Mercury’s death, no longer dictating a instant death sentence.
Mercury managed to separate the image that he wanted to be remembered by, as a musician, not a musician with HIV. Though his lifestyle, his sexuality and his disease, were all things that could be hated by the public at the time. His music and personality broke through all of the negatives he faced and provided him with millions of continuously growing fans worldwide.
One of those fans happens to be my own aunt, who is a die hard Queen fan. After attending one of his concerts, which she’s stated as “life changing”, she is truly a life long fan. I’ve heard Queen nearly every time I’ve been around her, whether in her house or in her car. Though Queen might mean a lot to a lot of different people and communities, to me, Queen reminds me of my kind natured, dog loving Aunt. She moved up to the Sunshine Coast a couple of years ago, no longer living in the next suburb over from mine as she had done my whole life. I will forever remember the first Christmas we spent at their new house, to which my mother and her enthusiastically sung ‘We Are the Champions’. The lack of their presence was a vast contrast that I struggled to adapt with, but with the help with singing along with some Queen, I felt a little closer to those memories.
Though no one from my generation will be able to have the ‘life changing’ live experience that my aunt once had. Freddie will always hold a significant place in all ages of society. Not only has Freddie’s talent inspired and comforted me throughout my life. He has also been the one person that has shown in his mortality, that life is a difficult and an unforgiving place. But within all of his suffering, his artistry and beauty managed to escape. It has inspired a distinct reaction from those who have heard his music. Freddie’s music especially should strongly impact those fighting for LGBTIQ rights, those suffering from mental illness and those affected by HIV. He was a martyr. He was a performer. He is an inspiration. He is, forever, a legend.
Written by Naomi V (25/11/16)