The Killer Queen

While watching the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, Jer Bulsara suddenly cried out loud, “Oh my dear boy, where are you?” Her son’s image had appeared on the big screen at the ceremony. “I miss him so much. They showed John Lennon, too, but there was much more applause for my boy,” she added rather cheekily.

Her boy had made a name for himself as Freddie Mercury, the charismatic frontman of legendary rock band, Queen. Jer passed away on November 13, 2016, aged 94, just days before her son’s 25th death anniversary on November 24.

Jer, like all parents, wanted her only son to have a safe job like that of a lawyer or an accountant. “But Freddie insisted he wasn’t clever enough and wanted to play music and sing,” she once recollected. But brilliant he was, with his impressive four-octave vocal range. He wrote and composed iconic hits like Killer Queen, Somebody To Love, Bicycle Race, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Don’t Stop Me Now, Living On My Own and We Are The Champions.

Consistently voted one of the greatest singers of popular music, he was known as much for his flamboyant stage persona and bohemian lifestyle. His Bohemian Rhapsody initially met with scepticism because of its length at over six minutes but “forget it, it’s going to be number one for centuries,” enthused RJ Kenny Everett after hearing it. On one occasion, Everett aired it 36 times in a day! 

“He was the best virtuoso rock ‘n’ roll singer of all time. He could change his style from line to line and, God, that’s an art,” remarked Roger Daltrey of The Who. Although Freddie’s speaking voice naturally fell in the baritone range, he delivered most songs in the tenor range. His notably faster and irregular vibrato and use of subharmonics probably resulted in his famous “growl.”

“The difference between Freddie and almost all the other rock stars was that he was selling the voice,” said Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe with whom Freddie recorded Barcelona which was one of the two musical themes for the 1992 Olympics. His voice has been described as “a force of nature with the velocity of a hurricane.”

“Those who compile lists of great rock frontmen and award top spots to Mick Jagger, Robert Plant etc. are all guilty of a terrible oversight. Freddie, as evidenced by his Dionysian Live Aid performance, was easily the most godlike of them all,” a critic wrote while reviewing Live Aid in 2005. “Lots of people are changing the keys to his songs because they cannot do a Freddie,” Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin had once observed.

“No mother wants to see her son die, but he has done more in his short life than many people could do in 100 years,” Jer Bulsara said of “her boy.” In Freddie’s own words, “I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend.” And legend, he sure is.
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