Thursday, 24 November 2011


Freddie Mercury died of AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia  on November 24, 1991

When Queen frontman Freddie Mercury died of AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia on November 24, 1991, he decided in his last hours to publicly disclose his condition, no longer caring what the world thought – and keen to shape his own obituary, unlike Rock Hudson six years earlier. That gesture undoubtedly helped educate many rock fans about HIV and AIDS in an era when gay men were still dropping dead like flies all over the damn place.

No doubt it made one of my old friends – a well-known Canadian rock journalist from the era who prefers to remain nameless for this story – think about his own mortality. In fact, my colleague was befriended by Mercury when Queen taped two live concerts at the old Montreal Forum on November 24 and 25, 1981, for the famous 35MM live film Queen Rock Montreal.

“He wanted to sleep with me,” Mr. Rock Critic told me, pointing out the band had rented out the entire floor of a Montreal hotel. “He chased me down the hallways! Lets just say I ran the 100-metre dash in record time!”

There is another fun Montreal connection with Queen, featuring yet another old friend of mine, legendary CHOM deejay Tootall whom I like to say has the sexiest voice on Montreal radio. Anyway, Toots broke Queen’s #1 worldwide hit Crazy Little Thing Called Love right here in Montreal on CHOM back in 1980. 

TooTall of Montreal's CHOM FM

“What happened was CHOM deejay and man about town Doug Pringle was in London and sent me a tape of Crazy Little Thing Called Love which was apparently on the British forthcoming release of The Game but he said they weren’t sure if they would release it in North America since it sounded so un-Queen like,” Toots told me. “So he sent me the song and I kept on playing it. The station’s music director – who shall remain nameless – didn’t like it and gave me grief. Of course when the album did come the song was on it and it became a big hit – the Number One song of 1980.”

I also recently asked Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford what it was like to rise to showbiz fame in the 1970s at the height of the homophobic “disco sucks” movement.

Samantha Fox and Freddie Mercury atop Barkers
Photo: Courtesy Samantha Fox
“I saw Freddie, it must have been in the early 1980s, and I was going to Mykonos with friends from London via Athens,” Halford recalled. “We got to the hotel [in Athens] and did what we all did then – the clubs, the parties. At one club Freddie was holding court at the other end of the bar. We were two ships passing in the night. He waved, I waved. The place was packed and we never got the chance to connect. The next day we all went to Mykonos and I was on a beach when his yacht sailed by.”

A few years ago I also had a heart-to-heart with openly-lesbian 1980s pop siren and British pin-up Samantha Fox about the showbiz closet. When we discussed Freddie Mercury, she recalled rubbing elbows with British pop royalty in a nightclub above London’s iconic Barkers department store on Kensington High Street 25 years ago this past summer.

“It was an outrageous party! The place was filled with naked women painted green,” Fox said. “And everybody was there: Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Pet Shop Boys, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, even Gary Glitter. And Queen was playing. I had just one [hit] song [at the time], but Freddie Mercury pulled me up on stage and said, ‘Do you know Johnny B. Goode?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ So we sang it together!”

May 2012 update: To mark the band’s 40th anniversary, the Queen officially-approved Queen Extravaganza contest begat a concert tour by official Queen tribute band the Queen Extravaganza, which headlined Montreal's Bell Centre on May 27, 2012, which I attended. It was a truly excellent tribute, and Montreal native Marc Martel of the Juno Award-winning band Downhere was the (no pun intended) Freddie Mercury deadringer who won the Queen Extravaganza contest. Check out Martel’s winning audition here:

June 2015 update: British pop star Mika has long reminded of Freddie, and he channeled Freddie on his new 2015 album No Place in Heaven. One recent weekend in Montreal, Mika and I talked about his beautiful ballad Last Party, the emotional centerpiece of his new album and an ode to Mercury.

"The last time I saw you," I told Mika, "you imitated Freddie backstage from Queen's We Will Rock You: Live in Montreal 1981 DVD . . ."

"Yes! I remember — that interview is something straight out of Absolutely Fabulous," Mika replied, laughing. "The song Last Party started with this idea that I had, when Freddie Mercury found out that he had AIDS, he closed himself up in a nightclub and had a crazy party for three days, with drugs and everything. It was the worst possible thing to do after discovering that kind of news, but that’s what he did. That’s why that song is called Last Party, and it’s one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard."


  1. 35 ans déjà !! in 24 nov 1981
    Voici le cadeau d'anniversaire je me suis offert pour mes 14 ans en plus d'une petite visite(complètement innocente) back stage avec les chauffeurs de limo avec qui on était voisines de siège durant tout le show :0 bon on c'est fait gentiment montré la porte de sorti (celle du garage arrière lol ) mais j'ais vu UP close le band au complet !!

    And Freddie, on my 25 birthday 24 nov 1991 past away from, as you all knows, HIV. It was then that i’have learns that a member of my family was infected to. He was the youngest teen detected at the time in Canada. He is steel alive and doing very well, thanks’ to Orgs with all the researches they could save lives of millions.

  2. Cried my eyes out Mika 😢

  3. I cried my eyes out to I love freddie he was Amazing and queen music will live on forever