Rami Malek’s Oscar-winning performance brought Freddie Mercury to life in Bohemian Rhapsody, but the film only covered from Queen’s formation to Live Aid, in 1985. It was a celebration of the man’s life, but it didn’t portray Mercury’s tragic end. When did Freddie Mercury die?
When Did Freddie Mercury Die?
Few performers have ever been as full of life as Freddie Mercury. For such a vivacious force of nature to waste away and die is particularly painful. And unlike other rock legends, Mercury wasn’t suddenly taken away by a drug overdose or crazed fan. Mercury’s illness lasted years, and his friends and family were forced to watch him slowly become a shell of his former self.
In October of 1986, just a year after Mercury’s iconic performance at Live Aid, sources in the British press reported that the singer had gone to London’s Harley Street clinic for a blood test. Rumors began to spread wild that Mercury had HIV/AIDS, but when asked, he flat out stated that he had tested negative. Nothing to worry about. Sadly, this was an outright lie.
His longtime partner Jim Hutton would later admit that Mercury discovered he had AIDS in 1987, though the denials would continue right up until the very end. Hutton recalls Mercury telling him, “I would understand if you wanted to pack your bags and leave,” but Hutton stood by his partner’s side to the very end.
Hard to Hide
Though Mercury didn’t admit he was battling AIDS, the rumors persisted, and as the disease began to take its toll, they only got louder. Mercury started looking gaunt and thin, his once-formidable frame growing pale and tired.
On February 18, 1990, Mercury joined his bandmates on stage at the Brit Awards to receive an honorary award. It was the last time he would ever get up in front of an audience. To make things worse for the ailing rock star, paparazzi began stalking him everywhere he went, looking for further evidence of his decline.
In November of that year, The Sun ran a particularly grim photo of Mercury with the headline “It’s official—Freddie is seriously ill.” Though it was a cruel breach of privacy, it was also, sadly, very true.
Freddie Mercury stopped working with Queen in June 1991, and spent the rest of his life at his home in Kensington. He had wasted away to almost nothing, and he started to lose his sight. He saw that the end was near and decided to stop all medications except for painkillers.
A few days before he died, Mercury wished to leave his bed and see his collection of paintings one last time. Hutton brought him downstairs, then had to carry him back to his bed. Mercury told him, “I never realized you were as strong as you are.” It was the last true conversation he would ever have with his beloved partner.
The Time Has Come
On November 22, 1991, Freddie Mercury asked Jim Beach, Queen’s manager, to come to Kensington. The next day, the band released the following statement:
“Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.”
One day later, in the evening hours of November 24, 1991, Freddie Mercury died. He was 45 years old. His funeral was held on the 27th, conducted by a Zoroastrian priest (in keeping with Mercury’s Kurdish heritage). Just Mercury’s family and 35 close friends were present, including his bandmates and Elton John.
Mercury left most of his estate to his friend and former partner, Mary Austin, who was his near-constant companion towards the end. He also bequeathed his remains to her. She buried them in an undisclosed location, which she has stated she will never reveal. Austin continues to live in Mercury’s Kensington home to this day.