Memorial Star for Freddie Mercury
by Elizabeth Menon
November 24 is always a sad day for all music lovers, especially for those who love Freddie Mercury and Queen -- Freddie Mercury was the first ‘Rock-Star’ from India. But I like to celebrate this day as his 'Remembrance Day'. In 2009, a small town in London celebrated the musical brilliance of the inimitable Freddie Mercury by unveiling the 'The Mercury Memorial Star' on Feltham High Street in London -- a 'Hollywood Walk of Fame-style' celebration, attended by his mother, Jer Bulsara; his sister, Kashmira and Brian May.
Feltham in London was home for Freddie and his family for many years, since their arrival to UK in 1964 – Freddie, after finishing his ‘O-levels’ at St Peter’s, a Public School in Poona in India, moved to Feltham in England with his parents. Therefore, it is highly commendable that this town where he spent his early years is chosen to have the honour of unveiling the ‘Mercury Memorial Star’ on its High Street -- without doubt, this will be a shrine for all those who love his music, though I am rather surprised that it took this long!
Bomi and Jer, Freddie’s parents, were living in Zanzibar, in the United Republic of Tanzania, as his father Bomi Bulsara was working in the Civil Service there. Farokh Bulsaara was born in Zanzibar and later the family moved to Bombay, and then to Feltham in England. Young Farokh, 'Freddie' to his friends and family, spent his childhood in Zanzibar and Bombay, and studied at St. Peter's, a public school in Panchgani, a beautiful hill station near Poona. He started playing the piano encouraged by his mother at a very early age.
His first exposure to classics and opera was in a city that was a musical melting pot. His family encouraged him to excel in music and art and he received the 'All Rounder' award at St. Peter’s for his achievements. Indian Music and the legendary Kishore Kumar and Latha Mangeshkar had great influence on the young Freddie -- not to forget the vivid colours of Zanzibar -- which were crucial to the wonderful, inimitable style, associated with Freddie, and of course, 'Queen'. Freddie's wide artistic horizons drew him to classical music, opera and the ballet, and therefore, the operatic 'Barcelona' that Freddie did with the famous Soprano Montserrat Caballe and Bohemian Rhapsody came as no surprise. Of course, his first moment of fame came at the age of one, when his smiling photograph captured the first prize!
I still remember the first time I heard ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and I find it still an enigma – and it’s creator too! Freddie and Queen have given us many more inimitable songs, each one better than the previous, or vice versa. The Live-Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in1985 provided the world stage for Freddie, and he had the whole world in the palm of his hands by the sheer power of his music and personality -- it was twenty minutes of pure magic from the King of Rock that became legendary! It’s a known fact that the tribute concert for Freddie at Wembley Stadium in April 1992 turned out to be more than just a tribute -- it proved beyond any doubt that his music was inimitable.
Freddie was the driving force behind the formation of the group 'Queen', with the three other quite distinct individuals, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. Of course, it was not the first time Freddie was part of a band -- 'The Hectics' was the name of the band he and his friends formed at his old public school in Poona. While waiting for Queen's debut single, 'Under pressure', Freddie released 'I can hear music' under the pseudonym Larry Lurex, which is a collector's item now!
The fantastic voyage started with ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’ and 'Keep yourself Alive' in 1973, spanning over 20 years to record 'Days of Our Lives' in 1991. And 'Bohemian Rhapsody' happened to the music world in 1975! This operatic rock explosion bombarded the airwaves for weeks, which brought stardom to Queen: 'The King of Rockdom' was born! 'Bo Rhap' was the first ever single to be re-released and get to number one again. ‘Crazy Little thing called Love, Who Wants to Live forever, radio Ga Ga, Another One Bites the Dust, A Kind of magic, Innuendo, Pain is Close to Pleasure, and These are the Days of Our Lives' are few of the songs, which will never lose their magic.
The word 'Super Stardom' becomes a matter of fact when used for 'Queen': but then, Freddie Mercury is 'Queen'. The three very talented artists, Brian, Roger and John continue separately without Freddie; but there is no 'Queen' without Freddie. His music transcended barriers of language, race, religion and politics, appealing to all, rich and poor, young and old. He was a writer, musician and above all, a wonderful performer. The light has gone but his music and memories will live forever, just as vibrant.
Freddie said good-bye to us in that heart-wrenching song, “These are the days of our lives…” with these words, “I still love you”! I join all those who love his music, to say, “ We love you too, and thank you for your beautiful music”! Our thoughts are with his mother, Jer Bulsara and his sister, Kashmira, and of course, Brian, Roger and John(Sadly his father Bomi passed away in 2003)