The three songs played at the funeral of Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury

“What will I be doing in 20 years’ time?” I will be dead, darling! “Are you crazy?” – Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury had been diagnosed with AIDS three years before recording Queen’s 14th and final album, Innuendo. However, the singer appeared to be as virile as ever. He strove to maintain the same joie de vivre that had made him so popular throughout his life. This upbeat attitude towards adversity shines through on the album, just as it did for everyone else at the time.

The story of the fitting anthem ‘The Show Must Go On’ provides the perfect backdrop for this fortitude. As his bandmate Brian May recalls, by this point in the recording process, the virus and the effects of the radiation treatment used to combat it had weakened Freddie to the point where he was seriously ill and nearly bedridden. But nothing would deter him.

May expressed concerns that Mercury was too ill to perform and they should cancel the recording session. However, Mercury got up from the floor and, as May recalls: “I said, ‘Fred, I don’t know if this is going to be possible to sing. And he said, ‘I’ll fu*king do it, darling’. Vodka down—and went in and killed it, completely lacerating that vocal cord.” Knowing he was probably only capable of one take, the jovial frontman poured all of his might and a serving of vodka into a performance that seemed to encompass his entire life and the eternally upbeat way he led it.

Shortly afterwards, the frontman died. He had been suffering in silence, but in his final 24 hours, he bravely issued a press release revealing that he was indeed suffering from AIDS. At a time when the illness remained hidden in conservative ignorance, he faced the wrath of the press even in his final moments to issue a statement intended to raise awareness. “The time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth. I hope that everyone will join with me. My doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease,” he went on to say.

Freddie Mercury died 24 hours after this acknowledgement, on November 24th, 1991, surrounded by close friends at a bedside vigil. His lifelong friend and former girlfriend, Mary Austin, received the majority of his fortune and is the only one who knows where his ashes are. In the days that followed, fans flocked to the streets surrounding his home, decorating it with flowers, notes, and candles.

However, the man who loved lavish things had vowed to have a rather more quaint funeral than many might expect. Close friends and family gathered at the West London Crematorium for a 25-minute service led by two Parsee priests. His coffin was adorned with a single red rose as he was carried into the hall, accompanied by Aretha Franklin’s version of ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand’.

A brief pause followed by Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend’, which played while the congregation reflected. Finally, his favourite aria, ‘D’amour sull’ali Rose’, composed by Giuseppe Verdi and sung by Montserrat Caballe, who appeared with Mercury on his 1980 solo album, was performed. The mix of playfulness and poignancy typified by these anthemic songs was appropriate for the man himself. A tender trailblazer galvanised by rambunctious charisma.

The songs played at Freddie Mercury’s funeral:

‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand’ – Aretha Franklin

‘You’ve Got a Friend’ – Carole King

‘D’amour sull ali Rose’ – Montserrat Cabelle

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