Freddie Mercury’s celebratory approach to life was probably one of the reasons which made him such a magnetic persona. He dared to dream and live on his own terms, even when the journey wasn’t exactly a bed of roses. Raging through the social and cultural stigmas, he pushed boundaries, broke barriers and emerged to be a God-like figure who assured millions of fans that they too can be the “Champions” if they want.
Though born in a Parsi-Indian family in Zanzibar, Farrokh Bulsara aka Freddie, found himself hooked to English pop music from a very young age. He blurred the East-West cultural divide by simultaneously crossing over and incorporating ethnic elements. A flamboyant stage personality, which was a complete contrast to his shy and reserved self, Freddie once said: “That’s something inbred, it’s a part of me. I will always walk around like a Persian popinjay.” He never imposed his differences as an individual be it religious beliefs or sexual orientation, instead, he blended his personas effortlessly making himself more relatable and relevant universally to his audience. Brian May, Queen’s guitarist, once said that Mercury could make “the last person at the back of the furthest stand in a stadium feel that he was connected.”
Mercury was as revolutionary a musician as he was in his personal life — undoubtedly redefining rock music. His angelic voice, with an incredible four-octave range, shifted the focus from rock’s lead guitarists to vocals which at the time was quite unusual in rock. He infused a certain amount of sweetness, tenderness and positive energy along with more expressive and variant pronunciation of words to create his own style. One can’t help but marvel at his songwriting skills which he uses to experiment with a wide range of genres such as gospel, rockabilly, progressive rock, disco, heavy metal and so on. But personally speaking, his non-cyclical chord progressions and intrinsic harmony lines are the things that make him unique.
One Queen song, written by Mercury himself, which can be unanimously agreed to be a rock anthem, is ‘We Are the Champions’. It was released in 1977 as part of the album News of the World, it soon became a popular single reaching number two in UK Singles Chart. It later became the official theme song in 1994 FIFA World Cup and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009.
The song was inspired by audience response in a concert at Bingley Hall, Stafford where the audience sang ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to the band. Adorned with magnificent jazz chords and a five-part harmony chorus, the song catches one’s attention in a fraction of a second, emitting tremendous positivity, making it the perfect sing-along song. Brian May stated, “We wanted to get the crowds waving and singing. It’s very unifying.”
Freddie Mercury’s isolated vocals on ‘We Are the Champions’ however is a cathartic experience. Stripped off all instrumentations, it magnifies his beautiful, crystal clear tenor. It makes one wonder with renewed awe how gifted and skilled he was. The way he breaks his voice, pronounces the words with the utmost care and changes his singing style line to line is commendable and unavoidably captivating.
Without wasting any more time, let’s give our ears a treat!