The name Freddie Mercury is familiar to most, but did you know that Queen’s singer, songwriter and dynamic front man was also a refugee?
Freddie was born in 1946 on the East African island of Zanzibar. His parents had moved to the island from India as Freddie’s father was working as a clerk for the British Government. Freddie spent a lot of his childhood at a boarding school in India, where he demonstrated an interest and skill in music from an early age, beginning piano lessons at seven years old.
The Zanzibar revolution, in which Zanzibar became part of the new nation of Tanzania, saw mounting violence in the country. In particular, people of Arab and South Asian heritage faced persecution after the Sultan of Zanzibar and his Arab government were overthrown. Freddie and his parents fled to the UK in 1964 to escape the violence.
While studying graphic design in the UK, Freddie joined a band called ‘Smile’ that would later become ‘Queen’. Queen released their debut album in 1973, after which time their fame steadily grew. The band produced multiple chart-topping songs throughout the seventies and eighties including the 1975 release Bohemian Rhapsody, which was written by Freddie and topped the UK charts for 9 weeks.
Freddie’s distinctive performance style, musicality of movement and impressive four-octave vocal range enabled him to successfully undertake a range of artistic endeavours. In addition to his manifold achievements in Queen, Freddie made forays into musical theatre, opera and released two solo albums.
In 1987 Freddie was diagnosed with AIDS, however his diagnosis was only made public a day before his death in 1991.
“I always knew I was a star. And now, the rest of the world seems to agree with me.” - Freddie Mercury