Date:18/09/2006 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2006/09/18/stories/2006091800730300.htm
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God should've saved the Queen

No one has ever delivered the incredible package of singing, songwriting and sheer onstage presence that Freddie Mercury of Queen had



GREAT STAGECRAFT Unmatched Freddie Mercury

There have always been great vocalists through the years, delivering variously unique mixes of power, precision and range that can send you flying to unimaginable heights of ecstasy or bringing you crashing down to the depths of despair. Few, however, have ever managed to do so quite like Freddie Mercury did. If there's one consensus that spans the world of music irrespective of genre barriers, it is that Mercury, who would have turned 60 last week, was one of the greatest singers of all time in rock history.

On his own, and together with Queen, Mercury gave the world a collection of supreme rock hits such as "Bohemian Rhapsody", "We Are The Champions", "Don't Stop Me Now", "We Are The Champions", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "Love Kills", The Great Pretender" and more — a body of work without which the world would have been that much plainer and duller.

Unique

Like Divya Joseph, who has sung Queen compositions at a number of acoustic competitions and concerts says: "There was no one who made music quite like Queen and Freddie Mercury did." For Divya, it was her first encounter with that self-indulgent epic "Bohemian Rhapsody" that got her hooked to Mercury. "Everything about that song was brilliant — the harmonies, the lyrics, the way it was performed, the different tonalities..." she says.

What Mercury did best — and the one factor for which he will always be remembered for — is his incredible vocal talent. Reportedly, his recorded vocals spanned between three-and-a-half and four octaves. No matter what style of music the band played, they were always instantly recognisable by Mercury's one-of-a-kind singing style.

Yasmin Claire of MyndSnare, who cherishes the relatively unheard of "Too Much Love Will Kill You" for its incredible sadness, says: "Mercury always kept the feel of each song in his mind. He sang each song for what it was and captured the feel for every song every time he sang it."

But Mercury wasn't merely a great singer. He was also a consummate performer who could whip the crowd up into a frenzy every single time. Time and again, he gave his all to the performance, and ensured that the audience did the same. The result was a live act that few could ever hope to replicate.

Indeed, Queen's 1985 performer at Live Aid, in which Mercury had 75,000 fans clapping in unison to "Radio Ga Ga", has often been rated as the best live performance of all time. It was his onstage theatrics, outrageous costuming and sheer energy that ensured that fans kept thronging to every venue that Queen performed at. As Sunil Chandy, who plays for Soup of the Day, explains: "His astonishing vocal abilities itself were quite unique. Added to that was a marvellous stage presence. He gave us a full package that others just couldn't produce."

But underneath all that onstage theatricality, Mercury and all the members of Queen were also serious musicians with the ability to produce very complex music and still make it appealing to the masses. In fact, all four members of Queen were songwriters, and the band often combined varied genres such as disco, rock and heavy metal in ways that had not been previously attempted. In his solo career too, Mercury continued his genre-bending work, recording the album Barcelona with opera singer Montserrat Caballé, thus bringing popular music and opera together.

For many, Mercury's fame seems easily explainable by his flamboyant homosexual lifestyle and ultimate death by AIDS. After all, they say a rock star who dies before his time, and that too from an illness like AIDS, is automatically assures of a place in posterity. However, as fans of the musician will testify, Mercury truly deserved every bit of fame he received. "Even if he had lived to 85 and been straight, it wouldn't really matter. He will always be the best vocalist ever," says Yasmin. She is similarly dismissive of those who try to play up his Indian Parsi roots, saying: "It doesn't make a difference where you come from, unless it shows in what you do."

Songwriter

In the end, the message is clear: Freddie Mercury was one of greatest singers, performers and songwriters of our time, and everything else is just background noise.

For those looking for more on Freddie Mercury, EMI Music is celebrating his 60th Anniversary by releasing The Very Best of Freddy Mercury in a single-CD edition that features original recordings of quintessential Freddie Mercury songs and a double-CD version that features rare contemporary remixes of his work. Moreover, EMI is also putting out a two-DVD collection called Lover of Life, Singer of Songs. The first DVD features the documentary The Untold Story, which follows the lesser-known parts of Mercury's life, while the second features the singer's solo video performances.

RAKESH MEHAR

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