As a seminal figure in the closing decades of 20th century rock ‘n’ roll, Freddie Mercury is often heralded as a magnificent live performer, unrivaled singer and, of course, cultural icon. I’m not here to agree or reaffirm what’s been said so many times since Queen’s music went global in the ‘70s. However, as a lifelong fan of both the band and Freddie’s spandex onesies, here are three tracks slightly off the artist’s beaten path that show his wide range, in order to celebrate a wonderful talent who left us 24 years ago today.
1. “Mustapha” – Queen
In a post-9/11 world, we haven’t exactly been inundated with beautiful cultural legacies from the Middle East (at least here in the U.S., I can’t speak for anybody in, say, Belize). But, in this strong opener from 1978’s Jazz, it’s very apparent that, had the whole “international superstar” thing not worked out for Freddie, he would’ve made a more-than-adequate muezzin/prayer caller.
2. “The Show Must Go On” – Queen
Perhaps remembered as one of Queen’s more emo tracks, “The Show Must Go On” is yet another testament to Mercury’s vocals and lyrical imagery. This song explores the darker side of emotions similar to those visited in “We Are The Champions” and “We Will Rock You”, while maintaining the familiar theatricality. This anti-ballad is perfect for anybody having a bad day or an especially long shower.
3. “Living On My Own (No More Brothers Extended Mix)” – Freddie Mercury
The platitude, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” holds true in this classic track. This mix simply adds another minute and a half to Freddie’s fabulous dance floor single, and more is always better in the discotech. In typical Freddie fashion, the lyrics are emotional without becoming maudlin, but the underlying instrumentals hold their own. Listener beware: The scatting is so good in this track, you will try to imitate it. And your friends will hate you for it.