How did Freddie Mercury die?

A new biopic, 'Bohemian Rhapsody', will be released on October 24

The legacy of Freddie Mercury lives on. We knew this already – look at the pop landscape filled with stars, from Lady Gaga to Foo Fighters, that have cited Queen as a major influence – but the excitement around a new biopic, entitled Bohemian Rhapsody and starring Mr Robot actor Rami Malek, proves it beyond any doubt. Formed in London in 1970, the band has sold an estimated 300 million records worldwide thanks to such timeless smashes as ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘We Are the Champions’ and, of course ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

Mercury is widely regarded one of the most charismatic and influential frontmen of all time – Kurt Cobain admired his stage presence – and the movie, which will chart a fifteen-year period in the band’s career, culminates in their incendiary performance at Live Aid in 1985. At the time of the jaw-dropping show, watched by 1.5 billion people, he was facing what the blurb for the movie describes as a “life-threatening illness”. Eventually, tragically, this took his life in 1991, when Mercury was just 45.

How did Freddie Mercury die?

Freddie Mercury died at his home on November 24, 1991, just 24 hours after he released a formal statement that revealed he had lived for years with HIV. He had released a statement that read: “Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.”  Mercury died from complications of AIDS, namely inflamed lungs, a condition known as Bronchopneumonia.

When was Freddie Mercury diagnosed with HIV?

He had been diagnosed with HIV in spring 1987, though those close to him kept his condition secret. In the 2011 documentary Days of Our Lives, Queen guitarist Brian May explained: “We hid everything. I guess we lied! Because we were trying to protect him.” Last year, interviewed by The Sunday Times, May revealed the extent of Mercury’s illness. “The problem was actually his foot,” he said. “Tragically there was very little left of it… Once, he showed it to us at dinner. And he said: ‘Oh Brian, I’m sorry I’ve upset you by showing you that’. And I said, ‘I’m not upset, Freddie, except to realise that you have to put up with so much terrible pain.”

Could Freddie Mercury have been saved from AIDS?

In that Sunday Times interview, May lamented the fact that Mercury narrowly missed out on the widespread arrival of antiretroviral medication that might have saved his life.  “He missed it by just a few months,” May said. “If it had been a bit later, he would still have been with us, I’m sure.” This echoed a 2011 Daily Mail interview with Mercury’s friend Dave Clark, who explained: “Freddie had tried everything. He had special new medications flown in by Concorde from America. He said the next generation will be the ones to beat this. And the sad thing is if it had been 12 months later, he might have been okay when combination drug therapy first came in.”

As his condition worsened, Clark claimed, Mercury chose to stop taking the medication that combatted his illness: “He was getting frail and he decided to come off all the medication apart from painkillers. Freddie loved life. He lived it to the full. And towards the end, when he realised it was no longer fun, he decided to come off medication. He was suffering and sadly there was no way out”.

Did Freddie Mercury continue to work through the latter stages of his illness?

The video for ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’ was recorded on May 1991, just months before Freddie Mercury died. Before it was released, he travelled to Switzerland to work on a new record, which was eventually released in 1995 as the five-time Platinum hit ‘Made In Heaven’. In the Days of Our Lives documentary, May revealed: “Freddie at that time said, ‘Write me stuff. I know I don’t have very long. Keep writing me words, keep giving me things – I will sing, and then you can do what you like afterwards and finish it off.”

Producer Dave Richards added: “He was dying when he did those songs, and he knew he would be dead when they were finished because he said to me, ‘I’m going to sing it now because I can’t wait for them to do music on this. Give me a drum machine and they’ll finish it off.'”

Where is Freddie Mercury buried?

Before he died, Mercury asked former girlfriend Mary Austin, his former girlfriend with whom he remained very close, and who cared for him through his illness, to ensure that the location of his remains were kept secret. He was cremated, but the whereabouts of his ashes was never revealed.

The location of the ashes was reportedly even withheld from his parents. In the 2012 documentary Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender, Austin revealed: “He suddenly announced one day after Sunday lunch, ‘I know exactly where I want you to put me. But no one’s to know, because I don’t want anyone to dig me up. I just want to rest in peace.’” Despite this, a plaque dedicated to Mercury was discovered in a cemetery in Kensal Green, West London, in 2013, leading to speculation that this was the musician’s final resting place. However, Austin later denied that this was the case, telling The Daily Mail: “Freddie is definitely not in that cemetery.” The plaque has since been removed.