There are fewer rockstars that embody rockstar-ness more than Freddie Friggin’ Mercury. The dude was larger than life. His voice, to this day, is one of the most insanely versatile, distinct, and powerful in any genre of music.
If you’re a metalhead, you give Freddie props. Love country? Mercury. R&B? Heck yeah Freddie’s got your respect. The dude’s an absolute legend, and he even managed to make the mustache/unitard combo work for him, which is probably his biggest accomplishment.
And now that Mr. Robot star Rami Malek is taking on the role of a lifetime by bringing Freddie to life on the big screen in the upcoming Bohemian Rhapsody film, interest in the singer is at an all-time high.
Like every great individual who’s captured the collective social consciousness of multiple generations, Freddie’s off-stage persona and life were just as big as his concert performances. Here are some facts about the timeless musician you might not know.
1. First, his real name’s not Freddie.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but tons of musicians don stage names (you didn’t think someone with the last name “Gaga” named their daughter “Lady”, did you?), but Freddie’s real name probably wouldn’t be as appealing to record labels: Farroukh Bulsara. Like anyone with a name that’s “difficult” for people to say/understand, the singer started going by Freddie when he was in St. Peter’s boarding school as a child, in Mumbai. He legally changed his name in the ’70s, around the time he formed Queen.
2. His voice was a scientific anomaly.
Based on his recordings, many have concluded Freddie’s range spanned four octaves. His speaking voice was a baritone, but while singing he was mostly a tenor. Since so many people loved Freddie’s voice, in 2016, scientists decided to study the man’s pipes, and they had some surprising finds.
In addition to his almost inhumanly large vocal range, few individuals’ vocal cords move as quickly as Freddie’s did: his vibrato reverberated at a speed of 7.04 Hz, while other people’s ranged from 5.4 Hz to 6.9 Hz. Wild.
3. He once worked as a bag handler.
Before he was the megastar who rocked the pants off of everyone in the world, Freddie worked at London’s Heathrow airport moving people’s baggage around. If you’re wondering why a bunch of handlers performed a choreographed dance in honor of Freddie for his 72nd birthday, that’s why.
4. He obsessively loved cats.
The kitty cat might be the internet’s mascot, but Freddie was well ahead on that trend. You might be thinking to yourself, “well I like cats, a lot.” Really, how many do you have? Well, Freddie housed 10 of them at one point, and that’s not all.
The man dedicated an entire album to his cats and even wrote the song Delilah about his favorite cat. He loved that kitty even though it peed all over his hotel room:
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
Now that’s cat love.
5. He was a heck of a designer.
…At least when it came to the creation of his band’s, logo. One of the most iconic designs in rock history was created by Freddie and there’s a lot more to the Queen logo than meets the eye: it’s based on the band members’ zodiac signs. The two lions are for John Deacon and Roger Taylor (Leos), the crab (Cancer) is Brian May. The two fairies in the logo represent Freddie’s Virgo sign, and a giant red, regal ribbon in the middle forms a “Q” for the band. Oh, and a badass phoenix sits on top just because. Maybe his degree in art and graphic design from Ealing Art College had something to do with it?
6. He was born in Zanzibar.
If you played a lot of Metal Gear Solid, then you’ve probably heard the name of that place tossed around a lot. But if you looked for it on a map today, you wouldn’t find it. Not because it was swallowed by a volcano or anything, but because it’s called Tanzania now. The specific town he was born in proves he was meant to rock from the second he came into this world: Stone Town. His father worked in a British Colonial Office and Freddie grew up in Zanzibar and India before relocating to Middlesex, England as a teen.
7. He rarely gave interviews.
Even though Freddie was an absolute rocketship of feelings and emotions onstage, he was extremely shy and private when he wasn’t performing. Queen’s drummer and Freddie’s close friend Roger Taylor said, “In real life nobody knew Freddie. He was shy, gentle and kind. He was never the one he was on the stage.”
8. His trademark concert “bottomless mic” didn’t start as a choice.
In an early concert performance, probably because he was getting super into it, Freddie accidentally snapped off the bottom part of a mic stand. Instead of just holding the microphone and discarding the stand, he paraded around the stage singing with the bottomless stand like he was the leader of a marching band. The look soon became his trademark and you could see him rocking a “bottomless mic” in many of his live performances.
9. He was a philatelist.
All right, so it’s the first time I’m hearing of the word too, but it means that he was an avid stamp collector. That’s right, Freddie — rock god extraordinaire with the craziest voice known to mankind who sang songs like “Don’t Stop me Now” — loved collecting stamps.
10. He wrote “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” in a bathtub.
Freddie was hanging out in a bath at a hotel when the inspiration genie hit. Not wanting to lose the song, he called for a piano to be brought to his tub where he composed the song. Elvis would be proud.
11. The recording of “Under Pressure” was absolutely wild.
It’s arguably one of the greatest rock songs ever written and certainly the top music collaboration. David Bowie and Queen were at the top of their respective careers when “Under Pressure” was released, and the track’s title gives a little bit of insight to what the recording process for the song was.
Bowie and Queen recorded the song while they were recording their respective music in Montreuz, Switzerland. Their busy schedules didn’t allow them to set aside any other time so, in a 24-hour span fueled by wine and cocaine, the masterful musicians laid down the iconic track. They argued constantly during the process but, eventually, Bowie won out on certain elements of the song. Queen guitarist Brian May admits Bowie’s influence was a huge reason for the song’s success.
Freaking legendary, man. But then again, pretty much everything Freddie did was.