Freddie Mercury: Sister recalls last two weeks of his life
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Tonight, Mr Mercury’s life is back in focus in the Channel 5 documentary Queen: A Rock History, which airs from 9.20pm. The legendary performer, who is often regarded as the greatest singer in history, has remained a firm favourite for music fans, with his songs still constantly played across the airwaves. Such was his legacy, dozens of documentaries, films and books have been crafted to explore the life of the award-winning singer.
These include the Channel 5 documentary, which gained a key insight into Mr Mercury’s character in, and out, of the public eye.
He was often thought of as a wild entertainer, thanks largely in part to his extravagant performances while fronting Queen.
But those closest to the Zanzibar-born hitmaker often noted how, away from the spotlight, the 45-year-old could actually be quite shy.
As well as amassing a huge fan base across the globe, Mr Mercury was also revered by other legendary musicians, including the likes of Sir Elton John, David Bowie and Liza Minnelli.
While his music captured the imagination of a generation, another huge part of his legacy was his battle with AIDS, which led to his death in 1991.
His battle was kept away from the spotlight, after his diagnosis in 1987, with only his bandmates and other close associates aware of the condition that was destroying his health and his life.
These included guitarist Brian May’s wife Anita Dobson, who recalled a moment the pair shared prior to his death on the BBC documentary Freddie Mercury: The Final Act.
She noted how Mr Mercury said to her: “Darling, when I can’t sing anymore I’ll just die, I’ll drop dead.”
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Ms Dobson added: “When he’d sung all he could sing, he withdrew and he got ready to die.”
A year before his death, Queen was continuing to record, and Mr May noted how “when he came in [the studio] he wasn’t in a great state”.
He continued: “He was finding it hard to walk, even finding it hard to sit.
“He said, ‘Bring the vodka,’ he pours himself a shot, knocks it down and then he props himself up, knocks another vodka back and then he went for it.
“Those notes came out of him and I don’t know where they came from.”
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When Mr Mercury’s final vocals for Made in Heaven were recorded, he opted to retire to his home in Kensington, where he was visited by his boyfriend Jim Hutton and personal assistant Peter Featherstone, among others.
Mr May recalled the moment he knew the band’s touring future was over after Mr Mercury explained he was unable to carry on with the schedule.
He said: “We’d done the biggest tour of our lives and it was a great success and we were very happy, and Freddie said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’
“We saw him disappearing and coming back with these burns to his skin. We didn’t like to ask because we didn’t want to know perhaps, and that went on a hell of a long time.
“Freddie at that time was still full of energy but [there were] signs that something was attacking him. We wanted to think it was something else.
“Maybe to do with his liver or something. There was a certain amount of self-deception going on.
“In the end, it became fairly obvious.”
In 2002, Mercury was voted number 58 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.
Queen: A Rock History airs tonight on Channel 5 from 9.20pm.
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