Top Ten Divas: Freddie Mercury

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By Moira Cue

Although the term “diva” typically applies to women, there is one man who lives up to the title, and in a good way. Freddie Mercury developed a signature style that was loud, flamboyant, and, frankly, more than a little dramatic. So much so that he is included here in The Hollywood Sentinel list of TOP TEN DIVAS, which also includes Madonna, Nina Simone, the Bangles, and Janis Joplin. Each of these women, including all the members of the all-female group, Bangles, developed an iconic je ne sais quoi that exemplifies the maxim of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

When you hear Freddie Mercury, (whose birth name was Farookh Bulsara) lead singer of the band Queen, break into the first few bars of a song like “We are the Champions,” there is no mistaking him for somebody else. Freddie Mercury's voice has a polish, range, and gloss we associate with pop star divas like Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, but an audacity, depth, and schmaltzy grit that links him more to someone like Bette Midler. In 2005, a poll organized by Blender and MTV2 saw Mercury voted the greatest male singer of all time (source: Wikipedia). I would not disagree with the assessment, but I would add, that it is because Mercury combined both male and female strengths in an androgynous sexuality and personae that he stands out as exceptional, a star among stars.

Born in 1946 on the island of Zanzibar, Mercury was raised in India and England, where he attended the Ealing College of Art. His song “Radio Ga Ga” was the inspiration for Stefani Germanotta's stage name. Although Freddie was bisexual, the love of his life was a woman named Mary Austin, who continued to be a presence in his life after the romantic aspect of their relationship ended.

Freddie Mercury was the first major rock star to die of AIDS related complications, on November 24, 1991, one day after publicly admitting he had the disease. Following his death, the remaining members of Queen (John Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor) and their Manager, Jim Beach, worked together to create a tribute concert that celebrated the life and legacy of Mercury. Held for 72,000 fans in London's Wembley Stadium on Easter Monday of 1992, all proceeds from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness were donated to AIDS research. Performers included Elton John, Roger Daltrey (of The Who), Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), David Bowie, Mick Ronson (Spiders from Mars), James Hetfield (Metallica), George Michael, Seal, Paul Young, Annie Lennox, Lisa Stansfield, Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Joe Elliott and Phil Collen (Def Leppard), Axl Rose and Slash (Guns N' Roses), and Liza Minnelli.

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