I cannot express just how jealous I am of everyone who is attending the EMP Pop Conference in Seattle this weekend. One of yesterday’s panels was a roundtable on the one and only Freddie Mercury.
From the abstract of “Freddie Mercury Deconstructed” (I’ve bolded my favorite parts):
As the lead singer and songwriter of rock group Queen – and famous for songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Killer Queen”, “Somebody to Love”, “Don”t Stop Me Now”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, and “We Are the Champions” – Freddie Mercury is arguably the most gifted and flamboyant of 20th century rock stars. Often neglected in discussions of Mercury”s stardom, however, are his Asian heritage and African roots, his interest and work with black and Asian musicians, and his bisexuality. The multiple (open) closets in which he worked and his subversive musical and visual content should have long ago prompted a total re-examination of the assumed whiteness, Western-ness and straight-ness of the rock front “man” mythology. But the often fraught journeys of contemporary artists like Mika and Adam Lambert and Sam Sparro suggests how far and not so far we’ve come.
This panel proposes to deconstruct Freddie Mercury’s impact on popular music, with a special focus on these hidden aspects of his public image. Among topics for consideration: Freddie Mercury’s early Bollywood and Hendrix influences; Tanzanian pop culture of the 50s; the politics of flamboyancy (Liberace to Elton to Morrissey and Mika); postcolonial superstardom; Mercury’s impact on contemporary artists like Lady Gaga; his influence on glam rock and the ways that his transnational identifications complicate our notions of “white” male rock singing; Queen’s ”70s multitracked vocal excess; Mercury’s buried ”80s records with Michael Jackson; revisiting Queen’s critical reception by the rock press; Mick Rock’s classic photographs of Queen.
There’s just so much to love and be curious about in those two paragraphs. I have always wanted to know more about how Mercury’s childhood in India affected his art. Alas, I haven’t yet been able to find any articles or posts about yesterday’s discussion. In lieu of that, I thought I’d share two of my all time favorite Queen videos.
The first is the song Save Me from the Queen Rock Montreal concert. Freddie’s voice is astonishingly pure here, which is all the more amazing when you consider that he was a fairly heavy smoker (also note the beer bottles on the piano):
My second favorite is a bit of an obvious choice, because it is one of Queen’s best known music videos after Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s “I’m Going Slightly Mad” from Queen’s last album Innuendo. Just great imagery. The only negative part of this video is seeing Freddie so painfully thin: