Given the news that shook the world (or at least the United States) last week, we wanted to do something to honor this great stride taken for the LBGT community in this week’s Music Video Monday.  To do so, we’re going to take a walk down memory lane and arrive on Coronation Street.  Let us explain…

QUEEN

Queen is a British rock band formed in London in 1970, originally consisting of Brian May on guitar, John Deacon on bass, Roger Taylor on drums and front man Freddie Mercury taking an occasional turn on piano. Queen enjoyed success in the UK with their self-titled debut in 1973 and its follow-up, Queen II in 1974, but it was the release of Sheer Heart Attack in 1974 and A Night at the Opera in 1975 that gained the band international success. The latter featured “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which stayed at number one in the UK Singles Chart for nine weeks and gave the band their first top ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Their 1977 album, News of the World, contained two of the most recognizable rock anthems ever created, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”.

By the early 1980s, Queen was one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world, with “Another One Bites the Dust” as their best-selling single, and their performance at 1985’s Live Aid is regarded as one of the greatest in rock history. Clearly, the band was, at that time, one of the most influential bands in the world and Freddie Mercury was one of the most influential personalities on the scene. In 2001, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, having sold 300 million records worldwide. Unfortunately, for Freddie, this was over a decade after his passing.

FREDDIE MERCURY

Before Queen, Freddie was­­­­­­­ known by his birth name of Farrokh “Freddie” Bulsara. He was of Parsi decent and was born in Zanzibar, in what is modern day Tanzania. His family fled Zanzibar during the Zanzibar Revolution and moved to England as refugees when he was 17. After several failed bands in his late teens and early 20’s, Freddie met the other members of Queen and they formed the band. At the time, their managers fought strongly against naming the band Queen, given its homosexual connotations, but Freddie insisted on it and they eventually relented. He said in a later interview that he was aware of the reception such a name would bring but he was sure he could convince people that “…that was just one facet of it.”

This is a pretty important interaction because it exemplifies Freddie’s attitude towards his own sexuality during his entire tenure with Queen, and indeed to the day of his death. He never once said the words, “Yes, I am gay,” in any interview. Instead, he would divert the question or answer it in an intentionally confusing way. In a famous interview in the New Music Express from 1974, he responded to a direct question about it with the answer, “I am gay as a daffodil.” Not really knowing exactly HOW gay daffodils are in their personal lives (daffodils being notoriously private flowers) it was hard to tell exactly what he meant by this.

It might be easy (and some have openly done this) to call Freddie a coward for not openly admitting his sexuality to the public. He spent years in monogamous relationships with men and often appeared on stage in flamboyant costumes, seen by many to be a confirmation of his homosexuality. Some, to this day, criticize him for being afraid to publicly admit what was pretty much considered common knowledge at the time.

But let’s put Freddie’s state of mind in a bit of context here. His home country of Tanzania to this day has the second strictest laws in the world against homosexuality, with both men and women (in Zanzibar, at least) facing life imprisonment for even suspicion of homosexuality. In the Zoroastrian religion that he was brought up in, it is believed that gay men or women are Daevas or demons and should be killed on sight by any other member of the religion. So, yes, his own parents would have been morally obligated by their religion to kill him on sight should he openly admit his sexuality. And let’s not forget that when he first arrived in England in 1965, it had its own laws that would have sent the Queen front man to jail for being homosexual. (England’s laws were not repealed until 1967.)

Given all that, we find Freddie (and the rest of the members of Queen with him) to be incredibly brave to have made the below video.

I WANT TO BREAK FREE

“I Want to Break Free” is from Queen’s eleventh studio album, The Works released in 1984. Written by bassist John Deacon, the song itself is largely known for the music video, which parodied the long-running British soap opera Coronation Street, known to most Brits as “Corrie” since it came on the air in 1960. While the parody was acclaimed in the UK, it was considered controversial in the US. After one or two showings that instigated a barrage of hate mail for “promoting a transgender lifestyle”, it was banned by MTV and all other stations. Yes, there was a time when MTV not only showed music videos, they also banned them for being too progressive. In the years since, it has become a bit of an anthem for those stuck in lives where they are unable to admit who they really are, much as Freddie was in his own.

We’ll let you savor it for a second and try not to let it turn you transgender while you watch it.

We apologize if you suddenly find yourself dressed in women’s clothes. (But you DO look damn good in that dress.)

In November of 1991, Freddie admitted publicly that he was suffering from AIDS. When he made the announcement, beside him was his boyfriend of 6 years, Jim Hutton. The two held hands on national television and reportedly continued holding hands until Freddie died, just 24 hours later.

We’d like to think the events last week in the United States might have made a big difference to Freddie and the other members of Queen who so publicly supported him, had it happened several decades ago.

We hope they will continue to make a difference to all the other Freddies out there, no matter what side of the lily pad you hop on.

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