Audacious, enigmatic, bombastic, larger than life, the rock star's rock star - Freddie Mercury's stage persona encapsulated all of these things. Queen fans seem to agree, however, that Freddie Mercury's stage persona is not the whole picture, and most people really don't know who the legendary frontman truly was.
Rumors and tall tales about Mercury are easy to come by, but only a select group of people knew how Freddie Mercury really lived. Firsthand accounts from people who met Freddie Mercury reveal that there is a softer side to the man, the myth, and the legend, and that although he was humble, he was also extraordinary.
One time a fan I had met through Bowie wanted to meet Freddie. After a gig I took him backstage and introduced them. I don’t know if the kid loved the music or just was in love with Freddie, but he got blind drunk, and basically threw up all over Freddie’s shoes.
Freddie was very understanding about the whole thing. He took the shoes off and told the kid not to worry, and was actually being very caring about him, getting some water, looking for some bicarbonate or soda. I mean, the kid had thrown up all over his shoes!
Freddie was walking around in his bare feet, but was definitely much more concerned about the young man’s well being than he was about the shoes...
One of Freddie's primary school classmates, Ajay Goyal, remembers that the future star "was shy but never a nobody." He says he and his classmates would "call him 'Bucky' for his protruding teeth, but only because [they] were kids who didn't know any better." Goyal muses that that's "probably why, in the only picture [he has] of him, he's kneeling, happy to avoid the attention."
When it was time to take up an instrument, Goyal adds, "I took up the violin but [Freddie] was already good at piano." Goyal had no idea that his former classmate grew up to be one of the world's biggest rock stars until one day when he came across an alumni page on his school's website and saw his old friend Farrokh:
I'd heard of Freddie Mercury, of course, but I'd never made the connection with Farrokh. I was living in Montreal, Canada, when Queen played there. I would have attended the concert if I'd known it was him!
One fan reportedly had a personal encounter and was surprised to later find that Freddie remembered. The fan recalls:
[I] met him in a bar in Charlotte, NC, after the show. [It was a] brief three minute greeting. [He] was very nice [and] smelled so damn good. [He] had a lot of anonymity there, [I] was shocked folks didn't realize who was there but also grateful he was able to have some fun, some peace without people [dangling] all over him...
[Three] days later in Philly [we] saw them again, he came over to where I was standing [and said], "Oh we have some family here, Hello!" and he waved. Jamie and I knew it was a hello to us, he remembered. Special moment, special time, special person.
Many fans and critics assumed that Freddie hated being recognized in the street, as it happened so rarely. Classic Rock journalist Jon Hotten shared an anecdote of happening upon the then-reigning king of rock outside his lavish home. He wrote:
One day back in the late '80s, I saw Freddie Mercury in the street. Appropriately, it was in Kensington High Street, close to his house and also to the spot where he and Roger Taylor had begun their now famous market stall. Freddie looked like he was arriving for a bash at the Roof Gardens. It was an early evening in summer.
Suddenly there he was, a slight man, but upright and barrel-chested, and with a black mustache that seemed to take up at least half of his bony face. Like many very famous people, there was a hubbub about him, and a sense of expectation.
One of his pet hates was supposed to be getting recognized in public, but as the bystanders spotted him he gave everyone a small wave and a flash of those big old gnashers before gliding off. And then, remarkably, a round of applause broke out. Freddie looked back and smiled again, obviously pleased.
This was post-Queen's Live Aid triumph and pre-AIDS, and smack in the middle of Queen's second golden era, a time when this seemingly unimposing man could hold football stadiums full of people in his thrall.