Bohemian Rhapsody

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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Who would have predicted that a Parsi guy from Zanzibar named Farrokh Bulsara would use his four-octave vocal range and over-the-edge on-stage style to deliver what has been called “the greatest live performance in the history of rock music” at Live Aid in 1985?

We’re talking about Freddie Mercury, of course.

As the lead singer of Queen, he became “the best virtuoso rock ‘n’ roll singer of all time.” At least that’s the assessment of Roger Daltrey of The Who.

Freddie Mercury wrote numerous hits for Queen – including “We Are the Champions,” “Killer Queen,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is the title of this new biopic about the British rock group and its charismatic lead singer. It’s currently playing at Tropic Cinema.

The film follows Freddie Mercury’s against-all-odds rise to success. He worked as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport, sold second-hand clothes with his then-girlfriend Mary Austin, and played with little-known bands like Wreckage and Sour Milk Sea, before teaming up in 1971 with guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor, and later bassist John Deacon, to form Queen.

Shy in person but flamboyantly gay on stage, Mercury performed with Queen in over 700 concerts around the world. To date, Queen has sold an estimated 300-million records worldwide.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was made with the cooperation of his old bandmates, Brian May and Roger Taylor. Former Queen manager Jim Beach co-produced.

Brian Singer is listed as director, but he was actually replaced by Dexter Fletcher before the film was completed. Singer claimed family health issues; others whispered it was due to unexpected absences and clashes with the performers.

Rami Malek (TV’s “Mr. Robot”) takes on the mantle of Freddie Mercury with startling success. Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello assume the roles of bandmembers May, Taylor and Deacon. Lucy Boynton (“Sing Street”) is perfect as Mary Austin.

Tom Hollander (“Enigma”) is cast as Jim Beach. And Mike Myers (“Wayne’s World,” “Shrek”) plays an EMI record exec.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a tribute to the performer and his music. But it’s also the story of Freddie’s relationship with Mary Austin.

Despite his sexual orientation, he remained friends with Mary for the rest of his life. He once said, “All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible. The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife.”

When he died of AIDS in 1991, he left his 28-room London home and recording royalties to her.

And he left a legacy of music to us.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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