American Pop 33

AmericanPop33: FREDDIE MERCURY Bohemian White / Rhapsody Black

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He was a human being blessed with the kind of transcendent ‘4-Octave’ voice talent that was bold enough to insist, and rare enough to dare the future ghosts of history to duplicate it. Much more than simply a man gifted with a golden voice, Freddy Mercury was a human being of remarkable character, imbued with a special brand of magnetic charisma, that he expressed with jovial flamboyance. Indeed, almost indistinguishable from the man, Freddy Mercury the performer enchanted audiences with the gravity of his talent. His musical legacy insists that the world will not soon forget, while his legend insists that we always remember. Indeed, the legacy of British super group Queen’ is inextricably linked to their musical impresario, Freddy Mercury … 


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There is an exceedingly high probability that QUEEN’ legendary lead vocalist and flamboyant frontman, Freddy Mercury is the only Rock and Roll Superstar in history, whose biography lists the now defunct African territory of  ‘Sultanate of Zanzibar‘, as their nation of origin. Indeed, this strange but true circumstance is equal parts impressive trivia answer, and Sunday brunch anecdote. As a matter of factoid, the ‘Zanzibar Archipelago’ is located on Africa’s eastern coastline, as part of the Swahili Coast’, which bordered the nation we identify today as Kenya.

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In Studio Recording Session circa  1980

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The winding road trip history ofRock and Roll’ is brimming with notable examples of era defining sounds, cultural influences, and cutting edge innovations. However, perhaps the most notable have been the voices, transcendent voices. Enter the incomparable Freddie Mercury, he of the incredible voice which was arguably the greatest individual voice of them all.  The power, versatility and command of his four octave vocal range, is something the world had not witnessed before, and certainly hasn’t witnessed in the four decades since his death. 

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To suggest that Freddie Mercury’s vocal stylings were analogous to ‘magic’ would not stretch the bounds of reality and/or imagination.  

As evidenced throughout Queen’s music catalog, the enchanting nature of Freddie Mercury’s vocal expressions are imbued with depth of soul, buttressed with primal power. A remarkable God given gift which he was able to masterfully harness, refine, and then project. Indeed, Freddie Mercury was prodigious in his use of the kind of universally compelling harmony, that spoke directly to the souls of untold millions. 

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In listening to Freddy Mercury sing,one is likely to routinely witness it’s movement through a dazzlingly diverse set of octave ranges. As ‘Queen’ grew in popularity and influence throughout the mid to late 1970’s on their way to the pinnacle majesty of the 1980’s, they became one of the biggest, most commercially successful stadium rock bands in the world. Discerning live audiences who were part of the era became accustomed to the live show auspices of the ‘Queen experience’. Those halcyon days, like the days of Freddy Mercury’s mortality, have since passed. However, the music, his memory, and that of the illustrious by-gone era, continue to exist as an integral part of the bedrock nostalgia … of the stadium rock era.

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Indeed, there has never been a recording artist of his ability, stage performer of Mercury’s magnetism. His jovial personality was such that it provided cohesion and relative harmony in areas of bandmate compatibility. This fact, in addition to his transcendent talent, are among the most notable reasons that that Queen was able to flourish. 

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The Band:  Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylorand John Deacon 

Indeed, Queen became a worldwide phenomenon. The reality is that the music business can be extremely difficult. The pressure on recording artists is constantly building to an unknown crescendo. The back-handed treachery that  has long tested the tensile strength of recording artists souls, was something that Freddie Mercury and Queen managed to avoid falling victim.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  (2001)  //  Songwriters Hall of Fame (2003)

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‘Queen’ released their freshman album (eponymous titled) in 1973, which was a modest success though without any charted releases. In March of 1974 they released their sophomore effort,Queen II’, this album performed moderately better commercially,  and gave Queen its first foray onto the U.K. Charts. However, by November of 1974, Queen released their junior album effort Sheer Heart Attack’. It was this, Queen’s 3rd album, that put them on the rock music map, internationally. ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ was Queen’s first album to break into the U.S. Billboard Top 20 Album Charts. peaking at number 12 in 1975.

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The first single release from their ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ album, Killer Queen’ became Queen’s first charted top 10 single in the U.K. (#2) and their first top 20 single in the U.S. (#12). By the end of 1974, Queen had arrived on rock’s main stage, albeit still at opening act level, however, it was also clear that Freddy Mercury was becoming a significant frontman, and the band appeared to be hitting their musical stride through touring  experience, and the maturation of their sound/identity, all while the Queen phenomenon was still was still in low gear infancy. 

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QUEEN  circa 1977

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Freddy Mercury and Michael Jackson circa 1978 

In November of 1975, the ‘Queen’1974 band that was ‘warm’ and ‘getting hot’, exploded as a band of full combustion, with the release of their 4th album, ‘A Night at the Opera’. This album was a smash success with the aide of the legendary hit operatic single, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which hit number (#1) in the U.K. and remained in that top dog position for over 9 weeks. At the time of its release, Queen’s thematic concept rock album A Night at the Opera‘ was the most expensive studio production album … ever. In addition, for as much time. money, and effort that went into the album, the guys spent little effort in formulating its title, instead, they chose the 1935 Marx Brothers film title of the same name. 

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‘A Night at the Opera’ went on an assault of the U.S. charts and its corresponding commercial market. To wit, it peaked at number (#4) on the US Billboard 200 chart, on its way to becoming Queen’s first RIAA Certified Platinum album in U.S. sales. A remarkable showing for an album that went on to achieve worldwide sales well in excess of 6 million  units. As mentioned earlier, a large part of this album’s astronomical success was the impact of what could be argued as Queen’s greatest single (along with the genre historic, ground-breaking music video) “Bohemian Rhapsody’. In fact,Bohemian Rhapsody’ exists today as one of the best-selling singles in the history of music. As a result, ‘A Night at the Opera’ is usually involved in critical conversations about Queen and their ‘greatest album’. As an example of its critical acclaim, ‘A Night at the Opera’ is also mentioned in conversations regarding best concept albums of all-time.

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The only way that Queen could equal and/or surpass the commercial success and legendary impact of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, andA Night at the Opera’, would be to release a follow-up album of equal of better critical and commercial gravitas. As it turns out, in October of 1977, Queen did exactly that with their release of their 6th studio album release, ‘News of the World’.

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‘News of the World’             (1977) 

There were many music critics who were disappointed in Queen’s meandering over to the more commercially viable mainstream arena rock sound, as such some panned the album, as for everyone else? It was a smash hit. Indeed, as if they were intentionally doubling down on the inclusion of timeless classics on their albums, ‘News of the World’ contained not one but two anthem singles that have been part of American pop culture, specifically, American sporting culture. ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’ have become ubiquitous musical anthems in the world of sports virtually since their release back in 1977.   

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In addition to the all-time contributions of hit singles,’We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are the Champions’, sales of the News of the World’ album was meteoric. The album went on to achieve RIAA Certified 4X Platinum status in the United States alone. With all-time sales estimated to be in far excess of 10 million copies, ‘News of the World’ remains today what it achieved back in the late 1970′s, and that is the distinction as being Queen’s most successful studio album of all-time.  

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To date, Queen has sold approximately 200 million albums world-wide, with an estimated range that may very well raise that total to the rarefied heights defined as  in excess of 300 million. With absolute certainty, it can be asserted that Queen shares the rarefied air that comes with being one of the best-selling music bands/artists, in the history of rock music

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In 1990, Queen was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award‘. Followed by their 2001 honored induction into theRock and Roll Hall of Fame. Additionally, in 2003 all four members of the band were inducted into the ‘Songwriters Hall of Fame’. Then in 2005, Queen received the ‘Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Catalog. Lastly, in 2018 Queen’s musical legacy became cemented in history, when they were presented a ‘Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award‘.

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A Golden Voice Fades into the Evening Glory of the Ages … 

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Sadly, in late October of 1986, the media reported that Freddy Mercury had undergone testing for exposure to the HIV/AIDS virus. Despite Mercury’s repeated denials, and strict secrecy, it was revealed that Mercury had indeed been diagnosed with AIDS sometime late in the month of April, 1987. The voice was embroiled in the grips of a terminal illness. On November 24th of 1991, Freddy Mercury passed away while at his Kensington, England home. Freddy Mercury was just 45 years old

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Freddy Mercury blessed the world with the power and influence of his legendary ‘voice’. His musical legacy with Queen and beyond is cemented in the annals of rock history for the ages to admire. Although, there will likely never be another quite like him, the music he left behind with Queen maintains their legend and ensures his immortality. Indeed, Freddy made us all feel like champions … if only for a moment. 

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American Pop Bonus Photo Gallery      FREDDIE MERCURY 

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Mercury 1986 Live at Wembley



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