Next month we are releasing the fascinating biography of the world-famous Freddie Mercury by Laura Jackson. With his birthday last month and the 20 year anniversary of his death in November we asked Laura about her research and inspiration to discover more about the real Freddie Mercury. . .
‘I’m not very good at being a housewife!’ With a giggle Freddie Mercury bounced back in his seat and a hand flew up to hide his buck teeth as his roguish eyes twinkled and from that one clip in a TV tribute marking his death, aged 45, on 24 November 1991, I wanted to write his biography.
Having written Brian May’s biography I already knew the Queen story, with all its excess and success. I saw Freddie’s personal life story as providing a rich and diverse tapestry to overlay this. But the nature of Freddie’s harrowing death from Aids made the prospect, for me, a delicate one of working out how to balance the task of unearthing the unvarnished truth about such a larger-than-life character while not trespassing on the very raw feelings of those still privately grieving for him.
Rewardingly, I found a whole-hearted willingness – near eagerness – on the part of many of his friends and acquaintances to reveal the Freddie they had each known. In sharing their memories with me, all were frank, some were moved to tears. Many people adored Freddie, others saw the less attractive sides to his multi-faceted personality and there were those in between whose bad experiences at his side did not shake their respect for him. Take Pete Brown, for instance, a personal assistant on whom Freddie turned his wrath one day while on tour in Sydney. Said Pete: ‘Freddie often made me cry during the years I worked for him. This time, he was in such a cold rage that he picked up a big mirror and literally smashed it over my head. Then he ordered me to find a brush and to sweep up the glass. He’d suffered a humiliation. He just had to take it out on someone and, that time, it was me. I understood.’
Nothing was straightforward with Freddie, including his love life. Everyone now knows that while leading an insatiable gay lifestyle, Mercury cherished to the end his inimitable bond with Mary Austin. But there was another woman who had been close to the star, the late Austrian actress Barbara Valentin. Amid the fleshpots of the Munich club scene and in the privacy of her apartment Freddie and Barbara spent many happy hours together. She said: ‘Freddie told me: “My God! Finally I can talk to someone who understands the real me and what I want to do with my life”’ Sadly that life proved to be shorter than he knew. Once he learned of his illness, at first, Freddie tried hiding away, but cutting himself off from Barbara didn’t work. ‘After about eight months,’ she told me ‘ my door bell rang, and it was Freddie. He just stood there and said: “I can’t stay away from you. I can’t live without you in my life. Take me in and take care of me.” And I did. He was in a lot of emotional pain and he had to work out a way to live with his illness but it was very hard.’
Freddie lost that battle for life twenty years ago now yet his star, if anything, burns brighter particularly with a big-screen biopic of his life in the pipeline. It’s true that death has been known to deify the plainly undeserving, but Freddie Mercury became a colossus of rock in his own lifetime and it’s unlikely that his equal in, all his crowning glory, will ever be seen again.
To find out more about Laura Jackson and the other biographies that she has written then please click here or on the thumbnails below. You can also follow her on twitter!
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