Search This Blog

Sunday, November 29, 2015

These Were The Last Days Of Freddie Mercury's Life...

All right, so last week I was planning on doing a Tuesday Timeline entry for November 24, but had to cut it short on account of illness.

The gastrointestinal flu bug absolutely sucks, by the way.  Don't ever get it.

So, as a result, I thought that I would talk about the subject that I had intended to talk about on that Tuesday Timeline today, just to tie up any loose ends.

Okay, so the date that I had initially wanted to talk about was November 24, 1991.  And it was a date in which a rock music legend passed away. 

I'm sure by now most of you have heard of the late Freddie Mercury.  If you haven't, you were either just born, or listened mostly to country or gangster rap.  But Freddie Mercury was essentially one of the most influential artists to ever grace a rock and roll stage.

Having been the lead singer for the British rock band Queen for twenty-one years, Freddie's powerful vocals certainly added a much needed flavour to the rock charts.  Whether he was singing light hearted pop fare like "You're My Best Friend" or "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" to epic rock ballads like "Innuendo" to iconic songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" to playful songs like "I Want To Break Free", Freddie Mercury certainly could emote any possible emotion necessary to sell the song.

(And he often had a ball poking fun at other pop culture references in the meantime.  In the "I Want To Break Free" video, I had absolutely no idea that he and the rest of the band were spoofing characters from "Coronation Street"!)

Yes, Freddie Mercury was a huge star, respected by all in both the United Kingdom and America (and presumably every nation in between).  And it seemed as though nothing could stop him.

But the beginning of the end for Mercury came sometime around the mid-1980s when he received a very terrible diagnosis from his doctor.  One that he would inevitably keep a secret for at least four years.

Although it's really unknown as to when exactly Freddie Mercury was first diagnosed, the British press began issuing articles as early as October 1986 that claimed that Mercury had been infected with the AIDS virus.

And keep in mind that back in the 1980s, AIDS was a very touchy subject.

I was born in 1981 - the same year that AIDS was first discovered in the world.  So, it's a scary and sobering fact that I have never known a world without AIDS in it.  Of course, in 2015, AIDS is no longer the death sentence that it used to be.  Research and improvements in treating the disease means that people who contract HIV now may very well live the rest of their lives without having it develop into full blown AIDS.  And to those who have contracted AIDS, medical research has extended their lives almost two decades or more since first being diagnosed.  We've also come a long way in figuring out how the disease is spread, and we all know that it can only be spread by tainted blood transfusions (all blood donations since 1990 have been tested before being approved for donation), having unprotected sex with someone infected with the virus, or by sharing needles with someone who has the virus.

That being said, prior to Freddie Mercury publicly revealing that he had the disease, only two other high profile stars had revealed their HIV positive status - Magic Johnson revealed his HIV status in November 1991, and actor Rock Hudson came forward with his own admission six years earlier, in 1985.

It actually makes me angry seeing how people were treated back in those days.  Mind you, I was too young to understand what AIDS really was as a child, but even back then I knew that AIDS was not an airborne virus.  If it were, more people would have gotten sick with it.  Plus, when I was around eleven or twelve, I watched a documentary on Ryan White, a young man who was bullied out of his school because he had contracted AIDS via blood transfusion - one of many that he received as a result of his hemophilia.  That documentary informed me a lot about how AIDS really was contracted, and I learned that you couldn't get it from hugging someone, or sharing lunch with someone, or drinking out of the same glass as someone who had AIDS. 

On one hand, it makes me angry that so many people were harassed and bullied because they had an incurable disease...but on the other hand, AIDS was still fairly new back in the 1980s and not a lot of people understood how it worked.  By that view, I can understand why some were afraid.

I suppose that paranoia and fear of AIDS could explain why Freddie was so reluctant to admit that he had the virus.  It is estimated that Mercury had known that he had AIDS since 1987.  It certainly makes sense.  After all, his 41st birthday party that year was one of the most extravagant and expensive parties that a rock star had ever thrown at the time - held at the Pikes Hotel in the popular island vacation spot of Ibiza.  I guess looking back on it, Mercury had thrown the party as one last hurrah, not knowing exactly how much time he had left. 

But in 1987 - the year that Mercury had reportedly discovered that he had AIDS - Mercury still flat out denied that he had the virus, even telling the press that he had in fact tested negative for the virus.  It's not known why, but Freddie was certainly the antithesis of his larger than life persona in his private life, so maybe he kept quiet to keep the press away.

However, by 1990, it was becoming harder and harder for Mercury to deny the rumours, particularly after he made his final public appearance on stage at the 1990 BRIT Awards looking gaunt and frail.  Despite this, Mercury continued to work with Queen (the members of the band had found out about his illness sometime between his official diagnosis around 1987 and the 1990 BRIT Awards), and Mercury's final album with the band - "Innuendo" was released in February 1991.

And in September 1991, the music video for the album's fourth single, "These Are the Days of Our Lives" was released.  Have a look at the music video.  It was the last video featuring Freddie Mercury - filmed in May 1991 when Mercury was in the final stages of his battle with AIDS.

The original video was supposed to have been filmed in colour, but was later changed to black and white because the band felt that using black and white film would not make Mercury's appearance look as sickly.  When colour footage of the video shoot was later released, it became clear why the band made the decision that they did.

In the UK, the single reached #1.  It failed to chart in the USA, but the release date was September 5, 1991 - Mercury's 45th birthday.

Little did anybody know that it would be the last birthday that Freddie Mercury would ever see.

Just two months later, on November 23, 1991, Mercury made the announcement that many had long suspected was the truth.

Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.

Less than twenty-four hours later, on the evening of November 24, 1991, Freddie Mercury lost his battle with AIDS, at the age of just 45 years old. 

And with that, a rock legend was silenced forever.  But if anything, he did provide a face to the disease known as AIDS.  He showed all of us just how deadly it could be.  In a way, he also showed us that there could still be humanity and compassion in people, and that there could still be joy found, even if the person is in pain.  Because even though Freddie knew that his time was coming to an end...he was also content.

And really, isn't that the way we all should leave this planet?

No comments:

Post a Comment