Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara; 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British singer, songwriter, record producer, and lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. Regarded as one of the greatest singers in the history of rock music, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range. Mercury defied the conventions of a rock frontman, with his highly theatrical style influencing the artistic direction of Queen.
Born in 1946 in Zanzibar to Parsi-Indian parents, he attended English-style boarding schools in India from the age of eight and returned to Zanzibar after secondary school. In 1964, his family fled the Zanzibar Revolution, moving to Middlesex, England. Having studied and written music for years, he formed Queen in 1970 with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Mercury wrote numerous hits for Queen, including “Killer Queen”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Somebody to Love”, “We Are the Champions”, “Don’t Stop Me Now”, and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. His charismatic stage performances often saw him interact with the audience, as displayed at the 1985 Live Aid concert. He also led a solo career and served as a producer and guest musician for other artists.
Mercury died in 1991 at age 45 due to complications from AIDS. He confirmed the day before his death that he had contracted the disease, having been diagnosed in 1987. Mercury had continued to record with Queen following his diagnosis, and he was posthumously featured on the band’s final album, Made in Heaven (1995). In 1992, his tribute concert was held at Wembley Stadium. His career with Queen was dramatised in the 2018 biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
As a member of Queen, Mercury was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. In 1990, he and the other Queen members were awarded the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, and one year after his death Mercury was awarded it individually. In 2005, Queen were awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors. In 2002, Mercury ranked number 58 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.
Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1970. Their classic line-up was Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), Roger Taylor (drums, vocals) and John Deacon (bass). Their earliest works were influenced by progressive rock, hard rock and heavy metal, but the band gradually ventured into more conventional and radio-friendly works by incorporating further styles, such as arena rock and pop rock.
Before forming Queen, May and Taylor had played together in the band Smile. Mercury was a fan of Smile and encouraged them to experiment with more elaborate stage and recording techniques. He joined in 1970 and suggested the name “Queen”. Deacon was recruited in February 1971, before the band released their eponymous debut album in 1973. Queen first charted in the UK with their second album, Queen II, in 1974. Sheer Heart Attack later that year and A Night at the Opera in 1975 brought them international success. The latter featured “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which stayed at number one in the UK for nine weeks and helped popularise the music video format.
The band’s 1977 album News of the World contained “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”, which have become anthems at sporting events. By the early 1980s, Queen were one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world. “Another One Bites the Dust” from The Game (1980) became their best-selling single, while their 1981 compilation album Greatest Hits is the best-selling album in the UK and is certified nine times platinum in the US. Their performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert is ranked among the greatest in rock history by various publications. In August 1986, Mercury gave his last performance with Queen at Knebworth, England. In 1991, he died of bronchopneumonia—a complication of AIDS—and Deacon retired in 1997. Since 2004, May and Taylor have toured under the “Queen +” name with vocalists Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert.
Estimates of Queen’s record sales range from 170 million to 300 million records, making them one of the world’s best-selling music artists. In 1990, Queen received the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music from the British Phonographic Industry. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Each member has composed hit singles, and all four were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2005, Queen received the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors. In 2018, they were presented the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.