Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Mercury: Messenger of the Gods

Mercury: Messenger of the Gods

(My Essay on my favourite band: Queen and their lead singer)


By C.L.G. Lockhart


Among the ancient gods ‘Mercury’ was a messenger. He had wing tipped feet and was able to run very fast (in some interpretations) he carried messages back-and-forth between the gods. In my lifetime there was another ‘Mercury’ but this man was not a messenger for the gods, he was a messenger of rock 'n' roll and his name was Freddie Mercury, and he was the lead singer of the British rock band Queen.


My earliest recollections of the band Queen and Freddie Mercury are those of their greatest hits. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘We Are The Champions’, ‘Another One Bites The Dust’, ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Radio Gaga’ etc. Every time the Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup they would play ‘We Are The Champions’. And I remember the images of Freddie, a man with a short haircut and a mustache. But as I did some research recently and watched a lot of interviews with Freddie Mercury over the years I came to realize that that look was only for a period of time in the 80s. In the 70s he was clean-shaven with very long hair and later in his life he was clean-shaven with short hair. His look evolved over time as did Queen and their music.


November 2018 the film ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ came to our local theater. To be honest I didn't know too much about this film other than it was a biopic about the band. I hadn't watched a preview or teaser or anything leading up to the release of the film other then I saw a review on our local news station done by the local film critic, and he gave it a solid four out of five rating. The film came to our local theatre and my Mom asked me if I would go to the film with her. You see my mom was born in the 60s and was a teenager through the 70s and 80s, and she grew up on the music of that era. So pretty much from the first time Queen was introduced to the Canadian audience my Mom was a fan. So being a fan of their greatest hits myself I did accompany my mom to the theatre to watch the film. And I was absolutely blown away by how well a movie it truly was. It was a great film but not accurate to the true events that occurred as I would later find out, but again still a great film. Bohemian Rhapsody isn't trying to be a documentary, and I think that's where some people are getting confused or upset with it in some cases. It is not meant to be an accurate interpretation of Queens’s existence but rather a bio pic. A bio pic is not a documentary by any means; a bio pic is based on true events and not an accurate interpretation of those true events.


I'm not faulting the producers or director or Queen itself for the film. They did an excellent job with his film and if you're not a fan of Queen you honestly wouldn't know the difference. They tell a great story with this film, but that being said they only have a little over two hours to tell the story they want to tell. And in these two hours they are essentially telling a 15 year tale as the events of this film take place between 1970 and 1985. But obviously they did something right because this film has won numerous awards, perhaps the most notably being for me at the Golden Globes for Best Picture (I personally believe more in the Golden Globes than I do the Oscars...). And Rami Malik (who portrayed Freddie in the film) and the rest of the crew of actors all did an amazing job for this production.


But as I mentioned prior to watching this film I didn't actually know a lot of the specifics of the band or of Freddie Mercury. But my interest was piqued and following the film I watched a lot of documentaries and music videos and listened to a lot of audio recordings to better get to know the band. I've also bought a lot of their actual individual Queen albums and began listening to them rather than just continue to listen to their greatest hits albums (because there are a lot of great songs on the albums that are not included in their greatest hits collection, as I have discovered). Once you begin to learn more about the band: Freddie Mercury, Brian May (guitarist) Roger Taylor (drummer) and John Deacon (bass guitar) you really learn how amazing they all were together. For example every member of the band contributed to the writing and production of their own music. Freddie played piano for several of their songs. Brian sang some songs himself and he could also play the piano. Roger sang as well and John also played piano (as he did for the song ‘Spread Your Wings’). They are the only band in the world where every member is in the songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2001 they were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. All four members of Queen have composed more than one chart topping single (Examples: Freddie it was obviously ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, for Brian it was ‘We Will Rock You’, for Roger it was ‘Radio Gaga’ and for John Deacon it was ‘Another One Bites The Dust’).


The film Bohemian Rhapsody really focussed on Freddie as its main character and I really feel they did a good job portraying the complex person that he truly was. I really admire Freddie Mercury that he was his own person, he had his own sense of style, and he had his own way of doing things. He was a very caring and loving human being, and to be honest I think we should all be a little bit like Freddie in that way. But of course they can't talk about Freddie Mercury without talking about the way he died, the fact that he was one of the first celebrities to contract HIV/AIDS and to die from it...


Now I grew up in the 80s and 90’s and remember the stigma associated with being gay and AIDS. The medical community didn't really understand what was going on: only that the gay community was really being affected by this HIV virus in a big way more than anybody else. For a time it was actually termed the ‘gay disease’ and a lot of the tabloids of that time really berated Freddie Mercury for the fact he was a bisexual man, who was known to have dated multiple men. So later in his life when Freddie started getting sick due to the virus a lot of the tabloids pounced on that and really drove home the point that it was his homosexual lifestyle that led to him being sick. Again this was the 80s and there really was this big stigma about HIV in relation to the gay and bisexual community. We now know years later that HIV is not limited to one sexual preference, or one particular race or one particular demographic in anyway, it's a virus that anyone can get. But back then they just didn't know that, they just didn't understand and they made assumptions. And it was generally accepted back then that if you received an HIV diagnosis that you would die. I remember in the early 90s when Magic Johnson Announced that he was HIV-positive and I remember thinking at the time that he was going to die. Thankfully science has come a long way since the 80s and there are drugs that people can use to block the HIV virus from destroying their immune system, hence why in 2019 Magic Johnson is still alive. But the drugs and technology that people use now to negate the spread of HIV and to study HIV just didn't exist during Freddie’s life, and sadly he passed away in November 1991 from bronchial pneumonia brought on by complications due to AIDS.


Having listened to the Queen albums and really getting to know Freddie better through the interviews he gave in the documentaries that have been made I can't help but wonder what he would be like today had he lived. What kind of music would he have created in the almost 30 years since his passing? There’s no doubt in my mind that Freddie Mercury along with his band mates would have written more powerful songs that we would remember today in the way that we remember the song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.


The legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen is this: great music, epic anthems, and the fact that four different people came together to change the history of music as we know it. Bless you Freddie Mercury as you are fondly remembered and dearly missed. And thank you Brian, Roger and John for all you’ve done and continue to do for us fans.


God Save The Queen.


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