September 5: Freddie Mercury

Freddie MercuryIf one were to try to create the definitive rock star, there are probably a few qualities you’d want to include: Theatrical bravado, twenty tons of charisma, a larger than life personality and a great voice. Well, children, what if I told you that there once was a time when a man who possessed all of those qualities walked the face of the earth? That man, born on this day in 1946, was named Farrokh Bulsara, but you probably know him by his stage name, Freddie Mercury.

Farrokh Bulsara was born in Zanzibar to Parsi parents and his music career began when he was just 12 years old and formed a rock and roll cover band at his Indian boarding school. At school, Bulsara adopted the name Freddie and over the next twelve years, Freddie Bulsara performed in a number of bands, all of which didn’t last long. In the Spring of 1970, Bulsara teamed up with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor to form a new band. After some deliberation, Bulsara made two decisions that would change music history: Bulsara decided to call the band Queen, and change his surname to something more rock and roll. And thus, Farrokh Bulsara officially became Freddie Mercury.

Now, anyone who’s listened to Queen is aware that Mercury had some serious musical talent. But did you know that he had no formal musical training? Mercury was born with two remarkable musical gifts: The first was his famous four octave range that gave him every note from a bass low F to soprano high F. Secondly, he had an incredible ear for music. As one of Mercury’s boarding school chums once commented, he possessed “an uncanny ability to listen to the radio and replay what he heard on piano.” As a songwriter, Mercury could do it all: Glam rock (“Killer Queen”), hard rock (“Let Me Entertain You”), rockabilly (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”), gospel (“Somebody To Love”), opera (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), music hall (“Good Old Fashioned Loverboy”), disco (“Living On My Own”). Mercury’s compositions could be as simple as three chords, or layered in key changes and complex harmonies. Not bad for someone who claimed he couldn’t read music.

Mercury was one of the most dynamic performers to ever grace a stage. Don’t believe me? Check out footage of Freddie Mercury commanding a crowd of of over 70,000 people during Queen’s performance at Live Aid back in 1985. Queen’s Live Aid set is regarded as one of the greatest live performances ever filmed and it’s a wonderful document of a performer at the top of his game.

A couple years ago, as part of the Mercury Phoenix Trust’s annual Freddie For A Day celebration, a special cocktail was created to pay tribute to Mr. Fahrenheit: Mercury Rising is a nice medley of fruit juices and vodka that creates a nice yellow color similar to Freddie’s iconic marching band jacket.

Mercury Rising

  • 1 ½ ounces Vodka
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1 ounce mango juice
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • Dash of simple syrup

Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a mint leaf.

Tomorrow: An American woman votes.

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