Freddie Mercury’s Final Days: Watch a Poignant Montage That Documents the Last Chapter of the Singer’s Life

The “biopic” has deliv­ered dra­mat­ic retellings of famous fig­ures’ lives since the very ear­li­est days of cin­e­ma. We hunger, it seems, to see more-or-less-faith­ful approx­i­ma­tions of our idols stride across the screen, enact­ing events wit­nessed by mil­lions and those hid­den away from every­one. In the case of pop­u­lar musi­cians, these tend to involve epic alco­hol and drug use, tumul­tuous love affairs, sta­di­um-sized tri­umphs and the crush­ing defeats of falling out of cul­tur­al favor. Such scenes can prove dif­fi­cult to recre­ate con­vinc­ing­ly, espe­cial­ly the music and sig­na­ture moves of world famous stars.

Con­dens­ing life­times into mar­ketable nar­ra­tive films that hit typ­i­cal Hol­ly­wood beats also involves tak­ing a fair amount of license. And as a spate of arti­cles like “Every­thing Bohemi­an Rhap­sody Got Wrong About Fred­die Mercury’s Life” tes­ti­fy, the new biopic about Queen singer Fred­die Mer­cury, played in the film by Rami Malek, twists or total­ly changes key events in Mercury’s life. The film re-imag­ines, for exam­ple, how Mer­cury met his band­mem­bers, his girl­friend Mary, and Jim Hut­ton, his long­time and final part­ner.

And, odd­ly, it imag­ines Mer­cury telling Queen about his HIV diag­no­sis dur­ing rehearsals for their 1985 Live Aid appear­ance, which it stages as a reunion, show­ing the band as hav­ing been on hia­tus while mem­bers pur­sued solo projects. The truth, how­ev­er, is that Mer­cury didn’t receive his diag­no­sis until 1987, and his band­mates weren’t ful­ly aware of his ill­ness until 1989. And when the band came togeth­er to per­form at Live Aid, they had just toured the world in sup­port of their 1984 album The Works.

Such dis­tor­tions are a lit­tle per­plex­ing giv­en that Bri­an May and Roger Tay­lor served as cre­ative con­sul­tants, sit­ting in on set dur­ing the pro­duc­tion. The film has been also been accused of “straight­wash­ing” Mercury’s sex­u­al­i­ty and gloss­ing over his roots and reli­gion. You’ll have to eval­u­ate the mer­its of these charges for your­self, but the case remains that if we want to know what Mercury’s life was real­ly like, we need to sup­plant the enter­tain­ing fic­tion with the even more com­pelling truth.

The video above helps in some small part to fill gaps in our knowl­edge of Mercury’s last years, edit­ing togeth­er inter­views, TV clips, and per­for­mance footage. Although Mer­cury was very sick dur­ing this peri­od, you would hard­ly have known it, and most of the peo­ple around him didn’t. He con­tin­ued to write and record, work­ing hard on Queen’s last album, Innu­en­do, released in the final year of his life.

We learn that his clos­est friends, col­leagues, and band­mem­bers were in denial, “right up to the last minute,” as Bri­an May says, about the sever­i­ty of his dis­ease. “We sort of refused to know” how bad it was, May admits. Mer­cury him­self pushed the knowl­edge away, immers­ing him­self in his music to keep going. “The sick­er Fred­die got,” says Roger Tay­lor, “the more he seemed to need to record to give him­self some­thing to do, you know, some sort of rea­son to get up… so it was a peri­od of fair­ly intense work.”

Mercury’s ear­ly death was trag­ic, but he met it hero­ical­ly. And though his band­mates strug­gled to face the truth, they ral­lied around him in sup­port, both in life and in death. When the tabloid press vicious­ly slan­dered and attacked him, May and Tay­lor went on tele­vi­sion to defend their friend. “He had a very respon­si­ble atti­tude to every­one that he was close to and he was a very gen­er­ous and car­ing per­son to all the peo­ple that came through his life and more than that you can’t ask,” said May in a 1991 inter­view appear­ance after Mer­cury passed away. “I tell you we do feel absolute­ly bound to stick up for him,” added Tay­lor, “because he can’t stick up for him­self any­more, you know?”

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Behind-the-Scenes Footage From Fred­die Mercury’s Final Video Per­for­mance

A First Glimpse of Rami Malek as Fred­die Mer­cury, Com­pared with the Real Fred­die Mer­cury Per­form­ing at Live Aid in 1985

What Made Fred­die Mer­cury the Great­est Vocal­ist in Rock His­to­ry? The Secrets Revealed in a Short Video Essay

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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