Say It's Your Birthday: Freddie Mercury

Today is the birthday of Freddie Mercury, born Frederick Bulsara on this day

in Zanzibar in 1946. His family moved to England in 1959, moving in virtually

next door to Brian May, although the two didn't meet until 1970. Backtracking

a little, Brian May had a band in 1967 called Smile, which also included

Roger Taylor, and a bassist named Tim Staffell. When Tim Staffell left that

group, he suggested his flat mate Freddie Mercury should form a new band with

May and Taylor. The guys took Staffell's advice, and that was how Queen was

formed. As a band they combined elements of hard rock, heavy metal, prog and

art rock, but when all is said and done Queen is best summed up as pomp rock.

In July 1973 , the quartet released their first single, "Keep Yourself

Alive," from their self-titled debut album to a rather luke warm response in

their native UK. (Although it did chart in the U.S.) A month before, Mercury

apparently hedging his bets, released a revival of the Phil Spector track "I

Can Hear Music" as Larry Lurex. Luckily Queen's self-titled debut album began

to pique some interest, but it wasn't until their second album Queen II

, released in March '74 that they broke through in England, scoring a Top

Ten hit with "The Seven Seas of Rhye."Sheer Heart Attack released

later the same year contained the excellent single "Killer Queen." The

biggest of Queen's album was 1975's Night At The Opera which topped

the UK charts and reached number five in the U.S., and which included the

anthemic mini opera, "Bohemian Rhapsody." According to legend, EMI didn't

want to release the track as a single, but a copy was slipped under to table

to a DJ from London's Capital Radio, and as they say the rest is history.

More history was made in December of that year, when EMI made a promo film of

the song, becoming one of the first examples of a video used to break a

record, especially effective in places where Queen had never played.

Mercury, the consummate performer, wasn't content with the lead singer pose,

and produced a record for Eddie Howell in 1976 called Man From Manhattan.

Then in 1979 he made his debut as guitarist on the Queen record "Crazy

Little Thing Called Love." In 1984, he began stretching out and looking for

solo projects, contributing a track titled "Love Kills" to the soundtrack of

the remake of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.He followed that with his second

solo single, "I Was Born To Love You" in May 1985, reaching No. 11 on the

UK charts and No. 76. in the U.S. That same month, Mercury also released a

solo album, Mr. Bad Guy. A regular work alcoholic, he contributed

three tracks to cast recording of Dave Clark's stage musical Time

which was released in June 1986. His obsession with opera grew over the

years, reaching a pinnacle in 1987, when he recorded a duet with Spanish

opera singer, Monserrat Caballe, on a song called "Barcelona." Charmed by

the experience he released an album of the same name in October 1988.

Throughout this time Queen continued to record, scoring gold in the U.S. with

the 1982, Hot Space and 1984's The Works. However, it seemed

their day in the sun had passed, and they spent the rest of the eighties in a

commercial decline. A surprise to everyone, excepting themselves, when their

1991 album Innuendo returned the band to gold status, but

unfortunately that milestone was marred when Mercury died of AIDS in November

of that year, spurring a boon in catalog sales. In April of 1992, there was a

huge concert at Wembley Stadium in England commemorating Mercury's life and

benefiting AIDS charities. It is also the birthday of Dweezil Zappa, and

Buddy Miles.