MERCURY – THE ALL-ROUND ARTIST
(scroll down for art, fashion, literature or film sections)
Freddie Mercury: “Art School teaches you to be more fashion conscious, to be always one step ahead”
Freddie Mercury’s favourite art in the 60s/70s:
Richard Dadd: “Bacchanalian Scene” and “The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke”, a very complex painting:
Freddie Mercury was a big lover of art and practised it himself. A proper education in art and naturally visual talent helped him to broaden his horizon and to develop a good taste which accompanied him throughout his whole life and helped him to create this special ‘Queen atmosphere’ which we know today.
… And fashion – stage presence:
“He was a free thinker; I think those changes of image show a wonderful free-spirit” – Zandra Rhodes
Freddie Mercury resembling a Shakespearean dramatic actor:
Lyrics, literature and philosophy:
Brian May: “Freddie’s stuff was so heavily cloaked, lyrically. But you could find out, just from little insights that a lot of his private thoughts were in there, although a lot of the more meaningful stuff was not very accessible.”
Freddie Mercury once said he didn’t read books because it was a waste of time… But in reality, the lyrics we can hear in his songs prove of an intelligent mind; just think about Bohemian Rhapsody and its countless metaphors and symbolism. Actually, Freddie must have been a well-read person and the above stated phrase just one of his numerous provocative and sarcastic jokes; in his lyrics you can find references to the Bible and Catholicism, Greek mythology, existentialism (in “Bohemian Rhapsody”), Islam (in “Mustapha”), Christianity (in “All Gods People”), issues about morality and basic philosophy in songs like “Don’t Try Suicide” and “Keep Passing the Open Windows” and to various classic prose and poetry writers. For example, the opening lines “In the land where horses born with eagle wings | And honey bees have lost their stings” in the song “My Fairy King” are inspired by the poem “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Robert Browning.
With all those mentioned examples Mercury surely must have read classics like Goethe or Marlowe etc., philosophers like Sartre, Camus (after who the only problem of our life is finding the sense of it), Friedrich Nietzsche... and even librettos to operas such as the “Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Indeed, Schikanaeder’s libretto to the “Magic Flute” contains some well-known phrases which appear at different times: “Is this reality?” “Or is this just imagination?” (The same problem/question is also one of the main problems in the entire history of philosophy – namely what can be understood under “reality”; or even: how can we know that our life is real? – for example in René Descartes philosophy).
Another fact of interest is that Freddie grew up in a religious environment. Concluding from this piece of information and noticing the strong Christian influence on Queen’s first and second album Freddie surely knew much about religion and the traditions of his culture.
During Queen’s early career, many of their songs – especially those written by Freddie – were inspired by magic and fantasy. Unlike other bands of that time, whose fantasy themes centred on the Tolkienesque literature of that time, Freddie’s inspiration centred mainly on the Victorian’s obsession with fairies and their folklore.
In addition to the above mentioned, his lyrics are written in various forms; some songs are composed in monologues, dialogues, ballads, some others in elegiac form or even in that of the Aristotelian tragedy which contains a choir who comments the action of the persons within the oeuvre – the best example is probably “The March Of The Black Queen” and the middle section of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Freddie Mercury received twice the Ivor Novello award for his songwriting – for “Killer Queen” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (actually, he even received one posthumously for “Living On My Own”); although he did not tell publicly what literature he liked to read and some of his lyrics may appear tongue-in-cheek (which they were at times, because it is impossible to be always serious:-)), it is obviously that he was interested in classic literature; his deep thoughts certainly prove of a sophisticated nature.
David Wigg: “He loved the ballet, opera and theatre and, of course, this influence was often embraced in his stage performances and Queen’s imaginative videos:”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is not the first music video ever… but it is the first with a theatrical, almost dramatic atmosphere. Queen and Freddie Mercury turned a simple recording medium into a possibility of artistic expression. Queen did not just ‘sing’ this song in front of a camera – they ‘acted’ it. And this fact makes the video so revolutionary, which led to numerous confusions, whether it is the first or not. Queen’s video just gave the world a new and fresh idea, which wasn’t seen before. And that’s because it is so important in the development of the modern music video history.
Some of the albums owned by Freddie Mercury while he was student (sources: documentation “Becoming Queen” and – as far as I can remember:-) where I read this info – “Queen – The Early Years”; Freddie’s fellow colleagues and band mates report that young Freddie Mercury owned only about 12 albums while studying):
· The Who: “Tommy”
· “Led Zeppelin”
· Jimi Hendrix: “Electric Ladyland”
· “Cabaret” (Soundtrack)
· The Beatles: “The White Album”
· The Who: “Sell Out”
· “Led Zeppelin II”