24+ Little-Known Facts and Curiosities About Freddie Mercury’s Exceedingly Private Life
Thu Nov 24 2022
It’s been more than 30 years since legendary rock star Freddie Mercury departed from the world. Despite being one of the world’s most influential musical artists, he was exceedingly private about his personal life, famously giving few interviews and remaining relatively quiet about his life off-stage.
Despite Freddie’s desire to keep his private life out of the public eye, more and more information has been learned about him over the years that sheds a whole new light on the Queen singer. Take a look at some of the most curious aspects of Freddie’s life, including some of his little-known controversies.
Freddie’s Real Name
Freddie’s real name wasn’t actually Freddie Mercury. He was born Farrokh Bulsara in the island of Zanzibar on September 5, 1946 – his parents had been ordered to move there by the British Colonial Office. As a child, Freddie was quiet and introspective. He was deeply attached to his parents, especially his mother. He later said that she was the only person who truly understood him.
Freddie Mercury’s parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara, were Parsis from the Indian state of Gujarat. His father, Bomi, worked as a civil servant while his mother, Jer, was a tea merchant. The family didn’t have much money when Freddie was born, and they lived in a rented room in a house in Bombay for a while.
One of the World’s Oldest Religions
Freddie grew up in his parents’ faith, Zoroastrianism, which was common for people of Parsi origin. The Parsi Zoroastrians are an ethnic and religious group that hailed from Iran around the 7th or 8th century CE and migrated to India. Followers of the faith believe in one God called Ahura Mazda and believe that, ultimately, good will triumph over evil. While Freddie wasn’t actively practicing this faith for a lot of his life, people believe it had a profound effect on him.
When Freddie once told an interviewer, “I’ll always walk around like a Persian popinjay and no one’s gonna stop me, honey!” people thought he was referencing his Zoroastrian upbringing. And many have speculated that Bohemian Rhapsody was much influenced by Zoroastrian religious themes. Freddie’s sister once remarked: “I think what [Freddie’s] Zoroastrian faith gave him was to work hard, to persevere, and to follow your dreams.”
A Privileged Upbringing
Due to Bomi’s occupation, Freddie and his family were afforded some benefits. Bomi worked as a cashier employed by the British High Court, which saw him traveling frequently during Freddie’s youth between India and Zanzibar. When the opportunity arose for Bomi and his family to move to the United Kingdom and acquire British citizenship, he took it.
Aside from that, Freddie’s father earned a descent wage. Freddie had four siblings – Kashmira, Farrokh, Jerusalem, and Nerdine – and while the family were living in Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town, they enjoyed beautiful living quarters. Freddie was 18 years old by the time the Bulsara’s moved to London, England, in 1964.
Freddie’s Live-in Nanny
The Bulsara’s family apartment was in such a fantastic location, it was said that they enjoyed sea views in the historic Tanzanian district. The Bulsara’s had it so good infact that they had a full time nanny when Freddie was young to take care of him 24/7, among other servants in their household.
One of Freddie’s nannies was a woman called Sabine, who is seen in a few surviving photographs of the Bulsara’s before they emigrated to the United Kingdom. Aside from photos that show her with the Bulsara family, very little is known about her, undoubtedly one of the first significant influences in Freddie’s young life.
Living In an Indian Boarding School
Freddie was five years old when he started studying at an Anglican primary school run by nuns, called the St. Joseph’s Convent Missionary School. For three years he continued studying there until his family sent him to study in India, accompanied by another member of his family to look after him.
When he arrived in India at eight years old, he started living and studying in St. Peters College in the Panchgani region, a location renowned for its good schools and high level of education. At this time in life Freddie was a shy kid, but he would soon start to grow into the more confident version of himself that his fans are familiar with.
A Passion For Stamps
It was in Freddie’s youth that he discovered his love for stamp collecting, also known as Philately. Freddie enjoyed collecting, admiring and researching postage stamps that had come from Zanzibar, India, and the United Kingdom alike. Even stamps from other British colonies would catch the eye and imagination of a young Freddie.
His love for Philately was strongest from the ages of nine to 12, when he was studying and living in St. Peters College. Soon after the rock legend passed away in 1991, the Postal Museum in London acquired young Freddie’s impressive stamp collection, and these days they show his alongside fellow rock star John Lennon’s own Philately collection.
Freddie’s First Band
It was during Freddie’s time boarding at St. Peters College in India’s Panchgani region that Freddie started exploring his love of music. He started to learn how to play the piano during this period, and quickly took to composing his own songs and singing along side them.
Freddie even put together his own band during this period, called The Hectics, and successfully booked a few gigs for them for some private events. Alongside bandmates Farang Irani, Victory Rana, Derrick Branche, and Bruce Murray, Freddie enjoyed his first taste of performing live, before the group went their separate ways in 1962 after four years together.
Forced To Leave Everything Behind
It was the sixties by the time the Bulsara family decided to emigrate to the United Kingdom. Zanzibar was in a state of social and political unrest, and in 1963 a series of conflicts began that eventually led to what is teermed the “Zanzibar Revolution”. Things were tense, as revolutionaries from Africa attempted to form their own autonomous government and overthrow the ruler, Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah.
The Bulsara family moved their entire lives over to 22 Gladstone Avenue in a place called Feltham, situated on the outskirts of west London. They were living in a small and humble house, and his parents struggled at first to adjust to their new less privileged lifestyle. Little did they know that their son would soon become one of the biggest names in music.
Struggling To Come To Terms
Interestingly, Freddie always struggled in later life to address his early years in Zanzibar and at the boarding school in India. He didn’t give many interviews, but when he did, and questions about his early life arose, fans noticed that he seemed uncomfortable sharing much information about that turbulent period.
For years, fans speculated as to why he was always so tight-lipped about his younger years. Some believed that Freddie had few positive memories from his childhood or the countries he grew up in, while others believed the rock star felt repressed by Zanzibar’s tense social and religious climate.
A Museum In a Perfect Location
We may never truly know how Freddie felt about his country of birth, or whether he really did have mixed feelings about his time spent in Zanzibar. But either way, the rock star has come to be a proud and celebrated figure in Zanzibarian history. So much so that Zanzibar opened up its very own Freddie Mercury museum, dedicated to the life of one of their most famous citizens.
It opened in 2019, and is located in Stone Town – the location that Freddie’s family lived in before they emigrated to the U.K. The museum building is actually the same building that Freddie spent much of his early years. Naturally, the museum has chosen to focus on the singer’s early life especially, as those were the very four walls that he had grown up in.
A Gifted Sportsman
We all know Freddie as having one of the best voices in the business. He was certainly gifted when it came to singing, but did you know that he was also a naturally talented sportsman? During his time at St. Peters College in Panchgani, Freddie enjoyed a number of different sports, all of which he was very good at.
Freddie discovered a fondness for table tennis, field hockey, and even boxing during his time at the Indian boarding school. He was thought to be especially talented at the latter, but he didn’t enjoy all the sports that he tried. Games like soccer and cricket were apparently not to his liking.
Finding His Musical Feet
Once Freddie was a young man living in London, he didn’t B-line for music like many assume that he did. He actually started to pursue a career in Graphic Design, choosing to study the subject at Ealing College of Arts. But Freddie’s attention soon shifted towards his biggest passion – music – which he would soon become legendary for.
While studying Graphic Design, he came across a band called Wreckage and upon showing the bandmates his singing talents, was offered a place with them. They were a blues band, and Freddie soon gave all his spare time to rehearsing with them. But when he met a couple of guys called Roger Taylor and Brian May, he found his allegiances turning. He soon joined their band, Smile, before eventually changing their name to Queen.
Queen’s Mysterious Band Logo
Considering how Freddie was studying Graphic Design at the time, he obviously had some talents when it came to logo design, too. So it may not be all that surprising to learn that Freddie designed the logo for his band with Roger Taylor and Brian May, which has since become legendary. Freddie decided to combine each band member’s zodiac sign for the band’s logo, which saw two lions for for two Leo members, a crab for Cancerian, and two fairies for Virgo, Freddie’s own zodiac.
Aside from that Freddie also included a phoenix – a non-zodiac animal – which fans continue to wonder about to this day. One popular opinion believes that the band saw themselves as being reborn into something completely different when together, much like how a phoenix is reborn from its own ashes.
The Baseless Microphone Stand
Freddie had a number of curious habits both on and off stage that fans never failed to miss. For example, during Queen performances it was not unusual to see Freddie pacing the stage holding a stand microphone with an unattached base. It went unexplained for a while, until the truth came out about what had inspired this oddity.
Apparentley Freddie’s unattached microphone stand allowed him greater movement on stage, but it all started when the singer would struggle to perform with a stand microphone in the first place. On one particular occasion, the base broke, and Freddie discovered his preference for just holding the stand. Since then, he made it part of his performances with Queen and never looked back.
Piano Playing Quirks
Despite how talented the world came to think of Freddie, he wasn’t always so confident in his own abilities. One of the things he used to do to ensure that his creative juices were flowing was to create music only when he was playing at the piano. He never believed in his pianist abilities all that much, but he depended on the piano when it came to composing songs.
Freddie relied upon his piano so much that he kept a piano right by his bedside so that he could leap straight onto the keys if inspiration struck him in the middle of the night. Legend has it that he composed the hit song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” while in the bathroom, hovering a piano over his bathtub as he did it!
Personality Clash With David Bowie
Freddie was also known to have a fiery side, and that apparently got him into quite some unexpected conflicts. He is known for collaborating with David Bowie on the song “Under Pressure”, which would go on to be one of his most successful songs. But things weren’t always smooth sailing between the rock stars.
Allegedly, the singers met when Freddie came to Bowie’s aid for a university performance, as the “Life On Mars” musician had forgotten some all-important equipment. Freddie offered his own equipment, and the two become friends. But later in life, the singers would clash heads while recording with one another. Luckily, they let bygones be bygones after that tricky period.
Inspiration In Unlikely Places
Freddie is known for having an incredible voice, but his talents weren’t limited to his singing ability. He was also incredibly gifted when it came to composing music, and along with Brian May, was the main one compositing original music. But being a major source of inspiration also came with a lot of responsibility.
That’s why Freddie always took to carrying a pen and notebook on him at all times, in order for him to start writing whenever inspiration should strike. The 1982 Queen song “Life Is Real”, for example, a song dedicated to fellow musician John Lennon, came to him when he was in an airplane.
Abnormal Teeth Stemming From a Genetic Defect
One of Freddie’s most famous attributes was his wonderfully crooked teeth. It gave him one of the most recognizable smiles in the business and came to be a much-loved feature among his fans. His front teeth protruded out from his mouth more than normal, but it was actually due to an uncommon genetic defect.
Freddie had four extra incisor teeth in his mouth that pushed his front teeth forward. it was long thought that his unusual teeth were somewhat responsible for his unique voice, but that’s since been revised as false information. Interestingly, Freddie absolutely hated dentist appointments and refused to have surgery later in life to better align his teeth for fear of it affecting his musical ability.
Freddie’s Fist Fight With Sid Vicious
One of Freddie’s better-known enemies in the business was Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols. It is said that their tense relationship began when Vicious once snarkily remarked, “Have you managed to bring ballet to the masses yet?” It was a slight on Freddie’s frequent use of a pair of ballet slippers, as well as a derogatory mark on the Queen star’s effeminate nature.
This comment is said to have greatly affected Freddie, who grabbed Vicious and dragged him right out of the studio. Freddie later admitted to snapping back at the rock star, “Aren’t you Stanley Ferocious or something?” After a fight outside, Freddie revealed that “He was very well marked. I said, ‘Make sure you scratch yourself in the mirror properly today, and tomorrow you’re going to get something else.’ “
Clubbing With Princess Diana
Actress Cleo Rocos once recalled sharing an evening wth Freddie, Kenny Everett, and Princess Diana, in which the four of them ended up in a gay bar called Royal Vauxhall Tavern and enjoyed a TV show together. It was 1988, and according to the actress, she was there helping to sneak the people’s princess into the club.
The unlikely group of friends proceeded to watch The Golden Girls together that evening, presumably in a private room. And all that Princess Diana apparently needed was a simple hat and leather jacket to go by unnoticed. Despite the unlikely friendship group, they were never all pictured out together.
The Science Behind That Voice
Posthumously, some scientists took a special interest in what made Freddie’s voice so spectacular and different from his contemporaries. Some scientists concluded that the Queen singer had a four-octave vocal range, just like Pavarotti and Prince. But that wasn’t all Freddie had that gave him such a magnificent singing voice.
While it hasn’t been officially proven true, many believe that Freddie was a natural baritone singer whose vocals fell within in the tenor range. On top of that, vocal analysts believe that Freddie had such an incredible vibrato that was better controlled than that of many opera singers.
He Had Special Relationships With Some Women
Freddie’s romantic life was always the subject of much speculation, both when he was alive and after his death. He is considered to be a gay icon, but some fans strongly believe that Freddie also enjoyed romantic relationships with women, too. Many believe that Freddie was most probably bi-sexual for most of his life.
During the period of time that Freddie was living in Munich, for example, he lived with a woman – adult film actress Barbara Valentin. He also enjoyed an especially close relationship with a woman called Mary Austin, pictured, who he almost married in 1969. While they didn’t end up tying the knot, the pair stayed extremely close for the better part of three decades.
Other Artistic Interests
It wasn’t just music that Freddie used to express himself. He was immersed in other artistic pursuits like dancing and painting. He had a genuine Picasso painting in the bathroom of his London house and would frequently attend art auctions to look for gems to add to his collection. He also had a special interest in Japanese arts and crafts.
While Freddie painted himself, he also took inspiration from works of art and used it in his songs. The 1974 Queen song “The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke” was actually directly inspired by a Richard Dadd painting of the same name from the mid-nineteenth century. Freddie had seen the painting hanging in London’s Tate Gallery, and greatly appreciated the characters depicted.
Pet Names With Elton John
Close friends of Freddie would know that he enjoyed bestowing his mates with funny nicknames and receiving them in return. Freddie enjoyed a close friendship with fellow singer Elton John, who used to refer to the Queen star as Melina. It was a long-standing inside joke between the pair, that continued even after Freddie’s last days.
John once recalled receiving a Christmas present from Freddie on the first holiday after the Queen star passed away. It was packaged that contained a pillow of Freddie’s, and with it was written a cheeky note: “Dear Sharon, I thought you might like to have it. Love, Melina. Merry Christmas.”