10 Things You Might Not Know About Freddie Mercury
On September 5, 1946, the man who would become known as Freddie Mercury was born. In honor of what would have been his 72nd birthday—and just ahead of the November release of Bohemian Rhapsody, Bryan Singer's long-awaited biopic—here are 10 things you might not have known about the Queen frontman.
1. HIS BIRTH NAME WAS FARROKH BULSARA.
Farrokh Bulsara started going by Freddie when he was at St. Peter's, a boarding school for boys near Mumbai. He legally changed his name to Freddie Mercury around 1970, when Queen was formed.
2. HE WAS BORN IN ZANZIBAR.
Mercury was born in Stone Town, Zanzibar (now Tanzania). His family moved there so that his dad could continue his career at the British Colonial Office. He grew up between Zanzibar and India before moving to Middlesex, England when he was a teenager.
3. HE AND HIS FAMILY PRACTICED ZOROASTRIANISM.
Mercury and family were Parsis and practiced Zoroastrian, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. Even though he hadn't practiced in years, his funeral was performed by a Zoroastrian priest.
4. HE HAD A RECORDED RANGE OF ALMOST FOUR OCTAVES.
Mariah Carey claims five, for some perspective. When he spoke he was more of a baritone, but majority of his singing fell in the tenor range. In 2016, a team of scientists decided to study Mercury's voice. Among the many facts they concluded was that Mercury's vocal cords moved faster than the average person's. "While a typical vibrato will fluctuate between 5.4 Hz and 6.9 Hz, Mercury’s was 7.04 Hz," Consequence of Sound reported.
5. HE DESIGNED THE QUEEN EMBLEM, A.K.A. THE QUEEN CREST.
Thanks to a degree in art and graphic design from Ealing Art College, Mercury was able to just more than be the face of the band—he also helped to brand them. The crest he designed for the band is made of the zodiac signs of the whole band—two Leo lions for John Deacon and Roger Taylor, a Cancer crab for Brian May, and two fairies to represent Freddie's Virgo sign. The "Q" and the crown represent the band name, of course, and a phoenix protects the whole thing.
6. HE WAS REPORTEDLY VERY SHY.
Although he known for his wild, outgoing antics on stage, most people who knew Mercury personally said he was very shy in his personal life, which is one of the reasons he very rarely granted interviews. "In real life nobody knew Freddie," bandmate Roger Taylor once said. "He was shy, gentle and kind. He was never the one, he was on the stage.”
7. HE REVEALED THAT HE HAD AIDS JUST ONE DAY BEFORE HE DIED.
Mercury and his manager issued a statement confirming that he had AIDS the very day before he died. It had been widely speculated for a couple of years due to his gaunt appearance and Queen's sudden lack of touring. Some people were very upset by this delayed statement, saying that an earlier announcement could have raised a vast amount of money for the cause.
8. HE WAS A DEVOTED CAT LOVER.
He loved cats and had as many as 10 at one point. He even had an album and a song dedicated to his cats (Mr. Bad Guy). He wrote a song about his favorite cat, Delilah. Here's a bit of it:
Delilah, Delilah, oh my, oh my, oh my - you're irresistible
You make me smile when I'm just about to cry
You bring me hope, you make me laugh - you like it
You get away with murder, so innocent
But when you throw a moody you're all claws and you bite -
That's alright !
Delilah, Delilah, oh my, oh my, oh my - you're unpredictable
You make me so very happy
When you cuddle up and go to sleep beside me
And then you make me slightly mad
When you pee all over my Chippendale Suite
9. THE "BOTTOMLESS MIC" WAS AMONG HIS MANY TRADEMARKS.
Here's how that happened: early in Queen's career, he was apparently mid-show when his mic stand snapped in half. Instead of having it replaced, Freddie just used it as-is. He must have liked it, because he used the mic "stick" from then on.
10. HE WORKED AS A BAG HANDLER AT HEATHROW.
Long before he became one of the most celebrated singes in music history, Mercury held a slightly less glamorous position: baggage handler at Heathrow Airport. To celebrate Mercury's 72nd birthday, several of British Airways's Heathrow baggage handlers took time out of their day on September 5, 2018 to entertain travelers with a choreographed tribute to their former co-worker.
An earlier version of this article ran in 2009.