Marrying a guitarist who grew up in the same 1980s decade as I, I probably couldn’t escape that the band Queen would enter our lives at some point. My new husband’s enthusiasm for the musical group caught my attention, and in time, I, too, grew to have an appreciation for many of Queen’s songs, even if I scratched my head at times at their the meaning.
As it turned out, Queen became an indelible part of our beginning as pieces of our history merged. On our wedding day, Nov. 23, 1991, my husband shared his shock that Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the band which boasted one of his favorite guitarists, Brian May, was stricken with AIDS. Even more dramatically, the next morning, we learned Freddie had died.
Just as our new life was beginning, Freddie’s was ending.
Through the years, I’ve continued to hear the songs of Queen pumping through the radio, a CD, Ipod speakers, and whatever other means becomes available for channeling music. Watching and hearing this band through my husband’s eyes, ears and heart, I’ve come to appreciate the talent of this creative crew, and as a musician myself, have grown impressed with what the band accomplished in terms of uniquely stirring its audiences’ souls.
So when we learned “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a movie telling more of the band’s and Freddie’s stories, would be coming to the big screen, it seemed a given we’d go.
Undoubtedly, I knew the movie would cover, along with his musical genius, Freddie’s attraction to men, a matter that had been concealed for a time in his career. What I did not know until we were on our way to the theater was that Freddie had once fallen in love with — and even been engaged to — a woman named Mary Austin. In watching the movie and reading articles later, I learned they met when he was 24, and she, 19; that she was with him at his deathbed 21 years later; and that he’d left most of his estate to her and her two sons.
This revelation cast a whole new light for me on Freddie’s life. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was produced in part by several Queen band members, is as much the love story of Freddie and Mary as anything. Though I appreciated the music and learning more about the band’s history, I also felt a tinge of sadness throughout, tied predominantly to this realization of Freddie’s lost chance at the deepest form of true love, as lived out in marriage and family life.
Some, like me, are just learning that the song, “Love of My Life,” was written about and for Mary. She was Freddie’s one true love. He once said that none of his other partners could come close; that it was, and always would be, Mary who knew him best. Freddie’s homosexual lifestyle seemed to develop as his fame grew, and he was pulled into a life of drugs and recklessness. Always, there was a sense of feeling lost and alone, and a longing to stay connected with Mary, despite these other attractions. She was the one who grounded him. And, years after they broke off the engagement, when he learned she was pregnant, he was at first devastated. Later, out of love for her, he expressed happiness for her.
But the movie left me wondering, what if Freddie had not given into the passions the world offered? What if, instead, he’d seen the truth of what he later came to know deep down — that Mary was his true love? What if he’d found a balance with his career and life and followed up on his initial desire to marry Mary and have a family with her? He knew something would be incomplete with anyone other than her; which was, I think, a God-given, natural and supernatural knowing.
If that had happened, would Freddie still be with us? Would we still be enjoying his creative genius even now?
The story turns tragic, especially after fame comes, and Freddie becomes enamored with power, and I can’t help but wonder about a different outcome. Mary also had several other relationships which didn’t last; she was devoted to Freddie to the end. Freddie even once said that Mary was, in his mind, his common-law wife; that it made sense to leave his fortune to her. She’s said she’s never met anyone like Freddie.
As I take all of this in, the tragedy of Freddie’s early death and the desire for power that took hold of Freddie, as it does so many, I’m downcast. Some of us eventually have clarity about the sin that has been driving us, and a chance to back away, make amends and change our lives. Others fall into the false life, trading in what would have been real, and more satisfying ultimately, for the fake, fleeting version of life and love.
It seems to me that Freddie came close to the real thing, but at some point, it was too late. AIDS had taken over, and he knew his life would be cut short. The fact that he stayed loyal to Mary above all others, though, offers hope, and a beautiful, even though still tragic, ending. That he chose Mary to be the beneficiary of his life’s work says something about his soul, and the true love he felt only with Mary, a woman.
Though I know many will see things differently than I, I firmly believe that the narrative of our current culture has blinded us to what is real, and what is false. This was, for me, powerfully displayed in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Yes, the movie tells the truth of the gay lifestyle Freddie fell into, but it also shows the clarity revealed in Freddie’s soul at death.
In some ways, I am only now grieving Freddie’s passing. Along with that, I grieve his lost chance at true love. But I’m heartened to know that even though that love story did not have the chance to flower to the full, that he recognized and experienced it at all was a gift; one that ultimately might well bring him to the gates of Heaven.
We never know how experiencing true love can transform our hearts. God alone knew the state of Freddie’s soul at death. We can hope it was transformed to Christ in his dying and what was revealed then, for Freddie’s own sake.
May the perpetual light shine upon him, and may he rest in peace. God bless Mary, and all those who loved Freddie Mercury.
Q4U: Did you see “Bohemian Rhapsody?” What are your takeaways?