Freddie Mercury in 1984 (photo by Thomas Steffan)

I remember the day I first heard Bohemian Rhapsody. I imagine it was 1975 when the album came out, and my friend Jeff had just bought the LP. A couple of us sat on his bed and listened as the ballad rock opera unfolded in our ears and my head exploded. I’ve loved Queen ever since.

I also have a hard time forgiving Freddie Mercury for coming out so late. He was famously gay in underground London, yet he only came out as gay 24 hours before his death. When he died on November 24, 1991, the announcement read: “Freddie Mercury died peacefully this evening at his home at 1 Logan Place, Kensington, London. His death was the result of pneumonia brought on by AIDS.” He could have helped change a lot of people’s understanding of AIDS and homosexuality if he had owned it a little earlier.

Then compassion reminds me that Mercury was born born Farrokh Bulsara to a Parsi (Zoroastrian-Indian) family in Zanzibar, growing in Tanzania and India. To go from that background to become one of the world’s biggest rockstars must have been a trip. And then to front the band Queen. Oh my.

This cascade of reminiscences was triggered by this charming cover of Somebody to Love by singer Marc Martel. Love the dirty ‘stache.

RIP, Freddie. We still love you.

[Update: August 2012]

Freddie Mercury rose again to rock the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. It is stunning to see a gay man, long dead from AIDS, rousting a stadium full of people into singing out loud in joy. Powerful stuff.