Gay Iconography: All Hail the Queen Frontman, Freddie Mercury


Among Queen’s 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles and 10 number one DVDs, one of the most defining is, of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The six minute-plus opus has no chorus and was, at the time, the most expensive single ever made. Its promotional video, above, is often credited with ushering in the music video age. “Rhapsody” enjoyed a resurgence in popularity following its inclusion in the Wayne’s World film in 1992.


In the early ‘70s, Mercury was romantically involved with a woman named Mary Austin. They ended their romantic relationship when he revealed to her that he’d had an affair with a male music executive. However, the two remained close friends the remainder of Mercury’s life. He wrote “Love Of My Life,” above, about her. In an interview, he once said, “The only friend I've got is Mary and I don't want anybody else … We believe in each other, that's enough for me."


Folks still struggle to place a label on Mercury (gay, bisexual, “flamboyant,” “theatrical,” “camp”) or agree if he was or wasn’t open about his sexuality. He famously said in 1974, “I am as gay as a daffodil,” but often distanced himself publicly from his male romantic partners (like Jim Hutton) and the LGBT movement. He was famously averse to interviews, but he wasn’t afraid to introduce elements of queer culture into his art. Take for example the band’s name (“I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it,” he said) and their dragged-out video for “I Want To Break Free,” above.


Not only was Mercury known for being an incredible singer and songwriter, but he was a legendary performer. One of the band’s most well-known concerts was their set at Live Aid in 1985. Mercury commanded the stage in front of 72,000 people inside Wembley Stadium (and nearly two billion watching around the world). Watch him get the whole crowd clapping along to “Radio Ga Ga,” above, but their whole set is worth watching in its entirety.


Mercury acknowledged that he had AIDS via press release on Nov. 23, 1991, 24 hours before his death from bronchopneumonia. The remaining members of Queen organized the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which held the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness in 1992. The concert featured many incredible guest performers, including Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John, George Michael and a powerful performance of “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Annie Lennox, above. The concert was broadcast to an estimated 1 billion viewers around the world.

What are your favorite Mercury memories?


  1. Den says

    Now can there be any real dispute that here really is a literal gay icon. He may not have been officially out during his career but he and everyone else knew there was really no doubt at all about his sexuality

  2. Buckie says

    I remember the day Freddie died.

    Rush Limbaugh announced it on his show, and played “Another One Bites The Dust”, and laughed.

    I will never, ever, forget him doing this, and should he have the misfortune to ever cross my path, the resulting incident will be because of what he did and said that day.

  3. Henry Holland says

    He wasn’t gay, he was bisexual. The love of his life was a woman named Mary Austin, who he left the bulk of estate (including his record royalties) in his will.

    Great singer, great songwriter, incredible stage presence, RIP Farrokh Bulsara.

  4. Scott says

    I was working at a radio station in Los Angeles at the time. Queen was not on our regular playlist at the time but the station decided to stop our regular music and do a wonderful tribute to Freddy. Richard Blade, the DJ on duty probably did the most touching tribute I’d ever heard.

  5. Patrick says

    Amazing on of a kind talent. He is sorely missed. Today’s “talent” does not even begin to come close to Mr.Bulsara. He truly rocked it. I saw Queen in concert twice in Houston TX. Two of my Top 10 concerts of all time. He had a killer voice … May he RIP….

  6. David From Canada says

    Freddie Mercury wasn’t bisexual, but rather, a confused gay man. He was born in 1945 and raised at a time when gay men were not allowed to be themselves. He did extremely well considering that the times were stacked against him.
    The one and only Freddie Mercury – there’s never been anyone like him. A true gay icon that is universally loved and admired.

  7. petey says

    Freddie Mercury was closeted. His image was designed to avoid hints of homosexuality. The marketing team behind Queen ensured it. He evinced a degree of camp but this is not gay.

  8. NOTICE says



    Hardly that closeted during a time when it was illegal to be gay most places- the band was named “QUEEN”

  9. petey says

    The British music scene has never truly accepted male homosexuality. Neither has the American. Male homosexuality is considered a negative by the recording labels.

  10. Ulu says

    Great comments in this thread. Thank you for telling us about what Rush Limbaugh did too; it makes it all the more repugnant that Elton John sung at Limbaugh’s wedding.

  11. Craig S says

    Buckie, neither Morrissey nor Placebo have ever had anything even approaching the mainstream impact that Freddie Mercury had. (And I’m saying that as somebody who loves them both.) And further, Morrissey still to this day isn’t actually out, and Placebo haven’t had even the first hint of anything you could call even a modest cult hit in over a decade.

  12. Denx says

    No question, a gay icon. But a correction: Queen did not have 18 number one albums or 18 number one singles (unless you’re counting other countries or on multiple formats). This should probably read top ten?
    Queen had only two number one singles (Bohemian Rhapsody hit number 9 in its original release, and number 2 in 1992 after Wayne’s World), and one or two number one albums ion the US Billboard charts.

  13. says

    you know, it’s funny….i discovered Queer via my parent’s vinyls when I was a kid. and instantly responded to the music on a deep deep level. energetic rock, epic balladry, and Mercury’s voice ……..that VOICE.
    i remember when Wayne’s World came out, and my classmates were like “There’s this new band called Queen with this new song called Bohemian Rap City”…and I’m thinking, at 10 years old, “you’re all a bunch of f***ing philistines….”

  14. Ler says

    Only Freddie knew his true orientation as he never publicly revealed his orientation by audio/video, but evidence shows he wasn’t really consistent or exclusive about anything in his life- music tastes, personality, or sexuality. He was a true free-spirit that did whatever seemed right for the moment.
    In addition to many same-sex partner links, you will also find he had interest in Gita Bharucha (school girlfriend), a string of girls in college (according to Brian May in the Stone Cold Crazy interview and the “Freddie’s Loves” documentary video), Rosemary Pearson, Mary Austin (love of his life for 6-7 years and apparently engaged), and Barbara Valentin. There are rumors of others, but not confirmed.
    This amount of connection with the opposite gender doesn’t seem consistent with a truly exclusive homosexual person. If sexuality must be a factor in a talent (which it shouldn’t), let’s appreciate him as the icon who is simply fluid and not heteronormative; it seems more accurate than an exclusive hetero/homo label in his case. I think his mysteriousness and apparent openmindedness in breaking gender-boundaries in love is inspiring.

  15. Craig S says

    Little Kiwi, around that same time I was at a party where someone had brought his little sister. I guess she wanted all the older folk to think she was cool or something, because she walked up to the group I was chatting with and asked if we’d heard of this awesome new band called Queen.

    (Desired effect not achieved. Obviously.)

  16. Jake says

    Freddie Mercury had more talent than all the music legends we know. Everything you see and hear from Mercury is self taught. I was stunned when I saw a documentary on Youtube called Freddie Mercury Saved My Life. The way he sang and played the piano I had always thought he was classically trained in vocals and piano. I thought he had attended music school. Just now finding out he had none of it. Amazing solo songwriter too both in lyrics and melodies. This is what I call a real musical genius.

Leave A Reply