The Eyes of MSMS

The Vision

The Eyes of MSMS

The Vision

The Eyes of MSMS

The Vision

Gaines: A celebration of rock’s greatest singer: Freddie Mercury

Carl Lender, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Freddie Mercury, shown here performing in 1977, is still remembered for his dramatic performances and timeless messages. Even 32 years after his passing, Mercury continues to influence modern music and culture.

On Sept. 5, 1949, Farrokh Bulsara, the man who would grow to become Freddie Mercury, lead vocalist and pianist of the rock band Queen, was born. 32 years after his death, the rock star is still remembered for his flamboyant performances and timeless lyrics.

Queen’s popularity partially depended on its effects and stage presence, but its actual music made Queen a respected group by many. By mixing in guitar solos and overdubbing vocals, Mercury and fellow band members transformed the classical sound of rock into a fresh, newer one. With his passionate lyricism and four-octave range vocals, Mercury introduced new ways to compose music, setting Queen’s signature style in stone and allowing listeners to enjoy artistic masterpieces including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “In the Lap of the Gods” and “Sheer Heart Attack.”

When asked about the making of the song “I’m In Love With My Car,” Queen’s producer Roy Thomas Baker said what was important to him was for people to hear one of their songs and instantly recognize it was Queen’s. This was very important in show business, and Queen perfected this. By overdubbing Brian May, Roger Taylor and Mercury’s voice, they created harmonies sounding like organs. This, combined with the classic rock and roll guitar, bass and drums, was the sound which separated Queen as one of the greats.

As Queen developed its style and sound, the band’s popularity skyrocketed. Mercury experienced an abundance of newfound fame, followed by a surplus of homophobia. People shouted slurs at him in the middle of the band’s performances, but this did not shake him. He became the classic rock star, indulging in sex, drugs and parties. In the midst of this, Mercury contracted AIDS in 1982. Though AIDS is how Mercury is remembered, it’s not how he lived. He spent the rest of his life sick, but all he was concerned about was continuing to write and perform music. 

Even though Mercury’s symptoms continued to grow, he still gave life-changing performances. Queen’s charity set at Live Aid in 1985 is recognized to be one of the best live performances of all time. Live Aid, a benefit concert to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia, featured famous musicians including The Who, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, yet Queen outshone them all. With 1.9 billion people watching, Mercury had the whole world in the palm of his hands. His stage presence and powerful vocals took control over the entire arena, and Queen’s set further cemented their place as a legendary band and raised more funds than any other performer.

Mercury’s legacy extends beyond rock music decades ago: Countless artists have taken inspiration from Queen’s performances and music style. Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the band Nirvana, even mentioned Mercury in his suicide note. Cobain wrote Mercury’s passion for performing was something he was jealous of because he did not feel the same way.

Queen’s music videos also influenced many modern bands and artists including the Foo Fighters, One Direction and Taylor Swift. Mercury’s appearance as a drag character in the Queen’s video “I Want to Break Free” was very controversial in the eyes of MTV, which claimed it promoted cross-dressing. However, it became one of its most famous, even with Mercury sporting bright pink lipstick with his classic mustache. Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl released another music video, “Learn to Fly,” 15 years later in which band members were in drag. One Direction and Taylor Swift each have a cross-dressing video, “Best Song Ever” and “The Man,” respectively. These videos would no doubt be different without the influence of Mercury.

Queen’s use of overdubbing in songs is still a common practice in the music industry today. Billie Eilish and Jacob Collier are two artists who incorporate this technique to create an angelic, operatic sound to their voices. Mercury spent a lot of time in the recording booth singing the same part over and over again to add new tracks of vocals. This is exactly what Eilish and Collier do. 

Mercury gave the world more than just rock and roll. He’s given inspiration to his fans and countless artists. With an openly bisexual Parsi-Indian lead singer, Queen not only beat numerous records but also managed to shatter preconceptions of what a traditional rock band should look like.

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