Image Source: Getty / Steve Jennings
It was recently announced that Rami Malek takes on the role of the legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury (née Farrokh Bulsara) in the new biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Freddie was only 45 when he passed away on Nov. 24, 1991, and the film has revived interest in the details surrounding his death.
Freddie released a statement disclosing that he suffered from AIDS less than 24 hours before he died in his London home from bronchopneumonia resulting from the disease. "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," he said. "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 my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease."
The news came as a shock to Freddie's fans, given that he was extremely private when it came to his personal life, but his longtime friend and bandmate Roger Taylor later opened up about why Freddie initially chose to keep his battle with AIDS a secret. "He didn't want to be looked at as an object of pity and curiosity," Roger told Entertainment Weekly. "And he didn't want circling vultures over his head."
While the British singer never married, Freddie carried on a relationship with a woman named Mary Austin in the early '70s and left her his mansion, a large part of his wealth, and recording royalties after his death. Freddie was also sexually involved with his personal chef, Joe Fanelli, who was diagnosed with AIDS in the Summer of 1990 prior to dating Jim Hutton, who discovered he was HIV-positive a few weeks after Joe was diagnosed. It's still unclear how Freddie contracted the disease.
Annie Lennox and David Bowie at the Freddie Mercury tribute. Image Source: Getty / Kevin Mazur
The Freddie Mercury Tribute: Concert For AIDS Awareness was later put on at England's Wembley Stadium in April 1992 in honor of Freddie's memory. It featured performances by Def Leppard, David Bowie, Annie Lennox, Elton John, and Metallica and was broadcast in 76 countries. All of the proceeds were donated to an AIDS organization.
Even though it's been nearly 26 years since Freddie died, his legacy is alive and strong. Not only did Freddie help influence music genres from heavy metal to pop, but he also continues to inspire musicians like Adam Lambert, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga today. Adam, who has been fronting Queen since 2012, previously told Rolling Stone that he initially fell in love with the band because he could identify with Freddie. "Look at what Freddie pulled off! He had the balls to do so much outlandish sh*t on stage and say exactly whatever he wanted to say and wear whatever he wanted to wear." Katy was also heavily inspired by the singer. "Freddie Mercury was — and remains — my biggest influence," she previously told the Daily Star. "The combination of his sarcastic approach to writing lyrics and his 'I don't give a f*ck' attitude really inspired my music."