In which I prolong the goodbye
Today marks thirty years since Freddie Mercury, or the former Farrokh Bulsara, left us for a world where everyone’s inner ear finally matches his. He had something like a four-octave range, he could play the piano upside down, and he rocked a fur coat better than he had any right to. He was one of those flares that are brief and so, so bright.
I didn’t really take Queen seriously for the first twelve years that I knew them due to certain influences (though nothing could stop “Seven Seas of Rhye” being my jam), so it was only post-Bohemian Rhapsody that I began to appreciate just how much we lost.
He was a Performer, in the sense of Plato’s ideal. Even within the format of those silly lip-synced TV spots he drew you in (seriously, watch that link). I wish our existences on this plane could have overlapped; in lieu of that I’m thankful to be able to share in the cultural memory of him, which I’m sure will not fade for a very long time.
He became a symbol of the movement for HIV/AIDS awareness, though the real problem was that the powers that were had plenty of awareness and no willingness to help. And while he never spoke on the record about his sexuality, he was such a high-profile figure that sooner or later the advocates who had been organizing all along for those affected by HIV—both inside and outside the LGBTQIA+ community—had to be acknowledged (if less than vindicated) on a larger scale.
He honestly changed the world. I know as a culture we place way too much emphasis on individuals who supposedly do that when it’s the collective that makes true progress. But he was one of the greatest ambassadors for the belief that music has the power to change the world. A lot of people have come, and will come, to believe it because of him.
We still miss you, darling.
Image: from best of queen, one of my favorite Twitter accounts. A killer queen if ever there was one.