When Freddie Mercury met Elton John

Britain is home to many singers and song writers, but few are as special as the two iconic geniuses, Freddie Mercury and Elton John.

After becoming friends in the 1970s, they remained close until Freddie’s untimely death, at the age of 45, in 1991.

Freddie Mercury singing with Elton John
© Kraft74 / Shutterstock.com | © Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com

Elton paid tribute to Freddie at the time, hailing him as having an “incredible mind” and being “one of the funniest people” he had ever met.

After commemorating the 32nd anniversary of Freddie’s death on 24th November, the Queen singer’s fan club has recalled his enduring friendship with the Candle in the Wind star, publishing a photo of the two rock legends together, along with an interview with Elton declaring his admiration for his late friend.

While their careers prevented them from spending as much time together as they would have liked, when Freddie fell ill with AIDS in 1987, Elton visited him regularly at home.

Elton John early career

Elton John and Freddie Mercury are two of the biggest icons of their generation. However, they came from very different backgrounds.

Elton was born in the suburb of Pinner, in Harrow, in 1947. After learning to play the piano as a child, he won a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

His father wanted young Elton to follow a sensible career in banking. However, he rebelled by becoming a singer known for his outrageous stage costumes.

He formed his first band, Bluesology in 1962, before going solo in 1967, when he met his long-time songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin.

By 1970, Elton had achieved a top ten hit in the UK with the ballad Your Song and enjoyed a succession of chart-topping albums and singles. His 1973 album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, was number one in both the UK and the US, launching his international career.

Freddie Mercury early career

Freddie was born in 1946 in Stone Town in Zanzibar – now part of Tanzania. His parents were members of the Parsi community of India.

He started taking piano lessons at age seven, forming his first band, The Hectics, at 12 with school friends. They played cover versions of hits by stars such as Little Richard.

In 1964, aged 18, Freddie and his family fled to England to escape a violent revolution in Zanzibar. They settled in Feltham, Middlesex.

In 1970, Freddie formed Queen with drummer Roger Taylor, guitarist Brian May and bass player John Deacon. They became one of the biggest rock bands of their generation. Their debut album, also called Queen, in 1973, went gold in the UK and US and platinum in Canada.

Freddie had a natural baritone speaking voice, but his singing range was off the scale. He could belt out vocals with equal power in a staggering range, from bass low F to soprano high F.

The critics said his crystal-clear voice was what made him stand out from almost every other rock star of the era.

Queen at Live Aid Concert

When Freddie Mercury met Elton John, both vocalists were already at the peak of their careers. They were a similar age, with Freddie being one year older.

They met through their music careers and became friends thanks to a shared love of rock.

Both famously performed at the Live Aid Concert in 1985 at Wembley, when Queen stole the show.

They freely admitted their slot at 6.40pm was earlier than they would have preferred. They enjoyed the exciting atmosphere that an after-dark show produced.

However, they outshone every other artist on the bill from the moment Freddie jogged out onto the huge stage, under the banner sporting the message, “Feed the World”.

The charismatic star sat at his piano and launched the set with an inspired version of their global best-seller, Bohemian Rhapsody.

Later performing Radio Ga Ga, Freddie strutted round the stage with the microphone and stand, encouraging the adoring 72,000-strong audience to join in. He displayed his amazing talent for vocal improvisation, while the crowd sang along with a simple chorus of “ay-oh”.

Freddie ended the song with a stunning vocal that became known as “the note heard around the world”.

Famous DJ Paul Gambaccini, on the BBC Live Aid broadcasting team, remembered the other superstar musicians backstage were awestruck at Queen’s performance.

Elton was also on the bill, but despite his rousing hits, he realised he had been outdone by his friend. The I’m Still Standing icon took it in good spirits, going to Queen’s dressing room afterwards and complimenting the band, saying “You stole the show!”

Elton John birthday

On Elton John’s 73rd birthday in 2020, the Queen fans’ forum posted an interview with the star, when he discussed his friendship with Freddie.

He had said there was “nobody like Freddie”, who was “funny, gifted and larger than life”. He praised Freddie’s know-how when making music videos, saying the use of ballet dancing was an innovation.

Elton added, “He had such an incredible mind,” and was “wonderful to spend time with”.

Peter Freestone, Freddie’s personal assistant from 1979 to 1991, revealed how Elton and the Queen frontman would visit each other whenever they could. However, they were both touring and couldn’t get together much.

Despite this, they remained good friends and after Freddie’s AIDS diagnosis, Elton took time out of his hectic schedule to visit his old friend at home.

Fight against AIDS

Freddie became a key voice in the fight against AIDS, breaking down the stereotypes of people who had the disease. It was frequently associated with promiscuity and homosexuals, but he wanted to help people understand that anyone could fall victim to the HIV virus.

He recruited friends, fans and the medical profession to his campaign, with the aim of preventing the needless deaths of more people. Elton supported the campaign, which meant a lot to Freddie.

Even when sick, Freddie was renowned for organising big Christmas celebrations and would invite people who didn’t have a family, or who had nowhere to go, to celebrate the festive period with him.

Elton went to Freddie’s house after his death on 24th November 1991 to see how the people who had been left behind were coping. He was touched to find Freddie had left him a Christmas present, even when seriously ill. Elton said Freddie had been generous to the end.

It was a painting by Henry Scott Tuke, his favourite artist. It was wrapped simply, with the message, “I thought you’d like this.” He admitted he “cried like a child” at the beautiful gesture.

Elton invited Freddie’s partner Jim Hutton and the late singer’s assistants, Freestone and Joe Fanelli, to celebrate Christmas with him at his home.

In his memoirs, Elton said Freddie remained upbeat to his dying day. One of the final things he did was to finish recording Queen’s last album, Made in Heaven.

Following the Queen icon’s death, Sir Elton spoke warmly about Freddie, praising how he had “truly lived for others”.

Elton John retirement

Earlier this year, Elton John said goodbye to a life on the road, after more than 50 years of touring.

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