With Bohemian Rhapsody playing in theaters, legendary music icon and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury has been on a lot of people’s minds lately, even though it’s been 26 years since his tragic death from complications relating to AIDS in 1991.
The film, which stars Rami Malek as Mercury, has been scrutinized for glossing over some of the more difficult parts of Mercury’s life, including his death.
A close friend of Mercury’s, Sir Elton John, shared a moving story about Mercury during his final days that shows what a selfless and kind person he was. The excerpt from Sir Elton’s 2012 book, Love is the Cure: On Life, Loss and the End of AIDS, has been appearing in news outlets on the internet as a way for newcomers to Mercury to gain insight into the man behind the music.
In the book, the 71-year-old singer, pianist, and composer wrote:
“Freddie didn’t announce publicly that he had AIDS until the day before he died in 1991. Although he was flamboyant on-stage – an electric front man on par with Bowie and Jagger – he was an intensively private man offstage. But Freddie told me he had AIDS soon after he was diagnosed in 1987. I was devastated. I’d seen what the disease had done to so many of my other friends. I knew exactly what it was going to do to Freddie. As did he.
“He knew death, agonizing death, was coming. But Freddie was incredibly courageous. He kept up appearances, he kept performing with Queen, and he kept being the funny, outrageous and profoundly generous person he had always been.
“As Freddie deteriorated in the late 1980s and early ’90s, it was almost too much to bear. It broke my heart to see this absolute light unto the world ravaged by AIDS. By the end, his body was covered with Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions. He was almost blind. He was too weak to even stand …”
Fans have been posting tributes to Mercury on Instagram:
“By all rights, Freddie should have spent those final days concerned only with his own comfort. But that wasn’t who he was. He truly lived for others.
“Freddie had passed on November 24, 1991, and weeks after the funeral, I was still grieving. On Christmas Day, I learned that Freddie had left me one final testament to his selflessness. I was moping about when a friend showed up at my door and handed me something wrapped in a pillowcase. I opened it up, and inside was a painting by one of my favourite artists, the British painter Henry Scott Tuke. And there was a note on the front from Freddie.
“Years before, Freddie and I had developed pet names for each other, our drag-queen alter egos. I was Sharon, and he was Melina. Freddie’s note read, “Dear Sharon, I thought you’d like this. Love, Melina. Happy Christmas …”
“I was overcome, forty-four years old at the time, crying like a child. Here was this beautiful man, dying from AIDS, and in his final days he had somehow managed to find me a lovely Christmas present. As sad as that moment was, it’s often the one I think about when I remember Freddie, because it captures the character of the man. In death, he reminded me of what made him so special in life.”
Commenters on Twitter appreciated the story:
This beautiful. Thank you for sharing!
— Diana Montoya (@dianaeme) November 4, 2018
Thank you so much for sharing the story!
— yumiyumi (@yammyyammy) November 5, 2018
Love this! Loved him, love you Sir Elton John! Freddy will always hold a special place in my heart. As will you! ❤️❤️
— @Donnajcherold (@Donnajcherold1) November 5, 2018
I needed to know today that these men were close friends. That gives me life.
— Austin Shinn (@untitleduser) November 4, 2018
Two Hours before I get to go see #BohemianRhapsodyMovie I see This Beautiful testament. Guess the 😭 floodgates started early. Ty 4 sharing❣
— rougeannie024 (@AnnieRouge) November 4, 2018
People were genuinely touched:
— Pascale Angell (@glamazonangell) November 7, 2018
This is beautiful. I’m so tired of hearing how gay and bi men are degenerates. And performers, for that matter.
— Orion (@OrionKidder) November 4, 2018
A very moving tribute to one of the greatest front men of all time. ^JH
— Ink Bomb (@inkbombing) November 4, 2018
— Lily B (@LilandtheCat) November 4, 2018
Beautiful memory and tribute between two old friends. I think now is the time where everyone knows or has lost one to the horrible disease. If we can add years, maybe a cure is close.
— Andrew Williams (@AndrewW101665) November 5, 2018
Check out Bohemian Rhapsody in theaters now.