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When we think about the greatest voices, we all have a personal favourite. For me that voice belonged the one and only Freddie Mercury, the master of them all.
Born Farrokh Bulsara in September 1946 on the spice island of Zanzibar and growing up in India, a life of Rock and Roll and world success seemed more than unlikely for him. I visited Stone Town, Zanzibar in 2009, a small plaque adorns his birthplace amongst rocky streets on what is now a gift shop. Small children play in the streets in blistering heat with no shoes on their feet. It is hard to imagine one of those little boys packing out stadiums in the western world and having the impact that Freddie did.
Freddie attended Boarding School in India and began playing piano at the age of seven. Although he was living in India, his love was for Western pop music. His family fled Zanzibar and moved to Middlesex, England when Freddie was 17. He studied Art at college and designed the crest which was to later become the iconic Queen emblem. Freddie's earliest bands did not bring him the success he craved, until he struck gold with the band that was to shoot him to stardom, to Mercury and beyond, Queen.
And who knew that behind the shy and gentle man his friends and family described, was the most incredible, powerful, and earth moving performer, who just needed his moment to shine. And boy did he shine.
In the early days with his velvet jackets and black fingernails, Freddie could easily have been perceived as just a gimmick, a young lad with a desire to be someone he wasn't, who was trying to showcase a love of vintage clothes as a distraction. He didn't need any of it of course, not with that voice, charisma, and stage prescence.
Behind closed doors he was shy and reserved, yet as soon as he stood on stage he became someone else. He was destined to entertain and showcase his phenomenal talent. Some people, I believe, are just born to do it. Freddie had that in his DNA. When he walked out on to the stage at Live Aid, he had the entire audience in the palm of his hand. He commanded the stage like a proud peacock, spreading his feathers in all of his prowess. The limelight was his for the taking, and he took it, lapped it up and then taught the world to sing.
Freddie didn't care what anybody thought about him. He was flamboyant, bold, one of a kind. He stayed true to himself and to those he loved. He didn't want to fix his teeth which protruded, and thank goodness he didn't. If he wanted to wear a leotard and let it all hang out, he was damn well going to, darling. He was theatrical, energetic, enigmatic and awe inspiring to watch. He would belt out "Bohemian Rhapsody" like it was a song we were all meant to understand, the work of a genius showing off his masterpiece.
Freddie was fun, he was tongue in cheek, he was enjoying himself. He wrote "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in the bath. He would chain smoke and hide behind his moustache in interviews, when glimpses of the private, reserved gentle soul would reappear. Freddie just wanted to entertain, to create, and push the boundaries.
Freddie had the most incredible gift of songwriting and he sure knew how to tease and tantalise our eardrums with his voice. His stunning vocal was delivered in all registers, with a range of over four octaves. From the lower rock growls to a silky smooth tenor and onto a high pitched vibrato falsetto in an instant. He could switch between them as quick as the lines from a song. It was so effortless, it was so natural, it was so crystal clear. Every note pitch perfect, raw and yet so polished. And you felt every word, Gaga, Fandango and Ey-Oh. He could have sung anything and we wouldn't have minded, his tone was mesmerising. He delivered every note with such power and tenacity which warranted a Queen's curtsey at all times.
Freddie did sing most styles, Pop, Rock, Jazz, Rockabilly, Heavy Metal, Funk and, of course, his beloved Opera. Why should he stick to one genre when he could sing them all? That would be boring, darling.
Freddie passed away in 1991 and his legacy lives on. My love affair with Queen began at that time, when I was 8-years-old. The love affair is still in the Honeymoon phase all these years later. Freddie will alway be my greatest. He was the greatest.
As Freddie sang, "The Show Must Go On" and his incredible show will go on for generations to come, just the way he wanted when he aspired for greatness on the streets of Stone Town.