Freddie Mercury Told Biographer He Felt ‘Imprisoned’ by Fame
The author of a Freddie Mercury biography recalled how the Queen icon once told her he felt “imprisoned” by fame, and that he had a desire for “anonymity and normality” for much of his life.
Despite that, Lesley-Ann Jones also offered an example of how hard Mercury worked to please any audience in front of him.
Her book Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury was originally published in 2011, and has been selling well again, boosted by the success of biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. She was involved as script consultant in early versions of the movie.
“The film is a superficial montage of snapshots,” Jones told Billboard. “Freddie was 45 when he died. No two-hour flick could portray his whole life story, or capture his true essence. His life and his personality were too complicated for that.” She added that, in her opinion, the most fascinating era of his life was his formative years, attending a boarding school and seldom seeing his parents, then moving to London, going to art school and discovering Jimi Hendrix. “For me there is an entire second film in Freddie’s childhood and teens,” she said.
Describing him as “an incredibly shy man,” she continued, “Over the years that I toured with Queen, I had more than my share of downtime moments with him. He was candid with me about the ways in which fame and fortune had compromised and even ruined him. He craved anonymity and normality, much of the time.”
Jones said her most poignant memory was “sitting with him late at night on the banks of Lake Geneva in Montreux” in 1986. “Freddie talked that night about being ‘imprisoned’ by fame. He said he wanted to be buried there without fanfare when his time came – he already knew his days were numbered. ‘Just throw me in the lake when I go,’ he said.”
But she recalled a moment that demonstrated his commitment to his fans. “I was with him in Budapest when he was trying to learn the words to a traditional folk song… He couldn’t quite get them, so he scrawled them in black marker pen on his left palm. During the performance, he made flamboyant gestures with his arm, which enabled him to read the lyrics written on his hand. It was so important to him to get it right. I melted.”