Singer Freddie Mercury with Images from his Gallery
He may have died but his legacy of iconic songs lives on and as his mother puts it: “I still feel he is around because his music is played so often.” Such is the devotion Freddie Mercury enjoys from his countless fans world over but his mother still remains his uncontested number one fan.
Even 21 years after Freddie’s death, born Farrokh Bulsara, 90-year-old Jer Bulsara’s voice quivers with emotion as she talks about her son. “My boy” is how she refers to the frontman of rock band Queen and charismatic solo performer, who died of Aids-related pneumonia at the age of 45.
One can only imagine how hard it must have been for Freddie’s devoutly religious parents to come to terms with their exotic, bisexual, wild-living and supremely talented son. Fortunately, the love flowed both ways and Freddie seems to have tried to protect them from his excesses. “Freddie kept a strict division between his work and his home all his life,” she insists.
Freddie was born in Zanzibar in 1946 and went to an English-style boarding school in India when he was eight. Owing to his Parsee faith he was made to believe in one invisible God and observe only good thoughts, good words and good deeds. In 1964, as a result of the Zanzibar Revolution, the family, including Freddie’s younger sister Kashmira, now 60, fled to the UK in Feltham, Middlesex.
Like most parents they wanted their only son to have a safe job. “Most of our family are lawyers or accountants, but Freddie insisted he wasn’t clever enough and wanted to play music and sing,” she laughs. “My husband and I thought it was a phase he would grow out of and expected he would soon come back to his senses and return to proper studies. It didn’t happen.”
Despite the countless male lovers in his life, the person whom Freddie called the love of his life was a woman – Mary Austin. They were together for seven years and he later described her as his common-law wife.
“She was lovely and used to come to us for meals,” Mrs Bulsara recalls. “I used to wish they had got married and had a normal life with children. But even when they broke up, I knew she still loved my boy and they stayed friends right to the end.” Mary had two sons; Richard, who Freddie knew, and Jamie, born shortly after his death. Her relationship with their father didn’t last and she later married a London businessman.
Within a couple of years of Freddie’s death, there were significant medical advances in the treatment of HIV and Aids. Some believe that if he had lasted a little longer his life could have been saved.
Mrs Bulsara has a more philosophical approach. “It was a very sad day when he died in November 1991, but according to our religion when it is the right time you cannot change it. You have to go. God loved him more and wanted him with Him and that is what I keep in my mind. No mother wants to see her son die, but, at the same time, he has done more for the world in his short life than many people could do in 100 years.”
Mrs Bulsara is particularly keen on the new book, containing finely reproduced photographs of Freddie from the time he was six months old until shortly before his death. It also includes a CD of an interview with Freddie from the Eighties. While look at one of the pictures in which her son is donning a particularly garish outfit, she says “I often told him I didn’t like his clothes and dresses, and tried to get him to cut his hair, but he would explain it was something you have to do when you are in the pop world.”
She pauses for a minute, then smiles. “Whatever he did or wore I always saw in him the same child I knew, he would tell us lots of jokes and I could always connect with him.”
Not every mother could say that about their famous son.