Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara 1946 – 1991, British-Zanzibari)

Freddie Mercury with Deliah

Freddie Mercury with Delilah

Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara 1946 – 1991, British-Zanzibari) is one of the most famous pop-rock singers in the world. Born in Zanzibar to Indian-parsi parents who immigrated to Britain in 1964, he began studying music at a young age in India. After moving to Britain, he studied art at Isleworth Polytechnic in West London and graphic art and design at Ealing Art College graduating with a diploma in 1969, one year before he formed the band Queen in 1970. Mercury designed the logo for Queen and also chose the name “Queen” for the new band. He later said, “It’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid. It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.”   At about the same time, he legally changed his surname, Bulsara, to Mercury.

Mercury was described as being the “best virtuoso rock ‘n’ roll singer of all time” by Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey. Mercury had an amazing range and could change his style. Over the years, Mercury performed approximately 700 concerts around the world. He also wrote more than half of Queen’s greatest hits and was posthumously inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame as well as the Song Writer’s Hall of Fame.

Freddie Mercury wearing Cat Vest

Freddie Mercury wearing Cat Vest

 

At about the same time that Mercury started the group Queen, he met Mary Austin, who was to become his life long friend and lover. Even though Mercury formed other relationships, he maintained his close friendship with Austin and bequeathed her and his cats most of his estate upon his death. In a 1985 interview, Mercury said of Austin, “All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary [Austin], but it’s simply impossible. The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.” It was Austin who introduced Mercury to cats.

Mary Austin and Freddie Mercury

Mary Austin and Freddie Mercury

Perhaps Mercury can be called “rock’s greatest lover of cats” since his love of cats is renown. His first two cats, Tom and Jerry, given to him by Austin were the beginning of a long devoted relationship with cats. His London residence was soon filled with up to 10 cats, each with their own bedrooms. The eccentric Mercury often called home to check on his feline loves. His personal assistant, Peter Freestone stated, “He’d get to a hotel, we’d dial through, and he really would talk to his cats.” Freestone explained, “Mary would hold Tom and Jerry in turn up to the receiver to listen to Freddie talking. This continued throughout the years with succeeding feline occupants of his houses.”

Mercury’s cats Tiffany (a Blue Point given to him by Mary), Dorothy, Delilah, Goliath, Lily, Miko, Oscar and Romeo were his family, so much so that he insisted that each Christmas they be given their own Christmas stockings filled with kitty treats. Mercury loved rescuing cats from the Blue Cross shelter. This included Goliath (a small black cat who liked to sleep in the bathroom washbasin), Miko (black and white – mainly black), Romeo (tabby and white), Lilly (black and white – mainly white, a Turkish Van type cat) and Oscar (an orange-and-white Tom who came to live with him via his partner Jim Hutton).

 

Freddie Mercury's Cat Goliath in Sink

Freddie Mercury’s Cat Goliath in Sink


Freddie Mercury Romeo

Freddie Mercury Romeo

 

 

Freddie Mercury and Cat

Freddie Mercury and Cat

 

Freddie Mercury and Oscar

Freddie Mercury and Oscar

 

Freddie Mercury with Jerry

Freddie Mercury with Jerry

 

 

Freddie Mercury with Miko

Freddie Mercury with Miko

 Jim Hutton, his last companion, wrote, “He would constantly fuss over them, and if any of them came to any harm when Freddie was away, heaven help us. During the day the cats had the run of the house and grounds, and at night one of us would round them up and bring them inside.”  Once when Goliath disappeared Hutton remembers, “Freddie became frantic, and in deep despair he hurled a beautiful Japanese hibachi [grill] through the window of the guest bedroom.” When Goliath was found, “Freddie was over the moon. . . For five minutes or more he poured his attention on the kitten, cuddling and stroking him. Then, like a mother, Freddie scolded the cat, shouting and screaming at tiny Goliath for leaving Garden Lodge. The dark ball of fur just sat there, listening calmly to Freddie’s outburst and purring loudly.”

Mercury loved his cats so much that in 1985, he dedicated his solo album Mr. Bad Guy “to my cat Jerry—also Tom, Oscar, and Tiffany, and all the cat lovers across the universe—screw everybody else!” 

Freddie Mercury and Tiffany

Freddie Mercury and Tiffany

 

Freddie Mercury with Oscar and Tiffany

Freddie Mercury with Oscar and Tiffany

However, it was his calico cat Delilah whom he got in 1987, “the little princess”, that stole Mercury’s heart. Hutton recalls that Delilah was “the one he’d pick up and stroke the most often. . . . She’d sleep at the foot of the bed, before slipping out for a nighttime prowl…  Delilah was a spoilt cat and depended on Freddie for everything, even protection from the other cats. They would gang up on her and she would run into our bedroom—it was a cat sanctuary. In many ways the cats were Freddie’s children, and we all thought of them that way. The slightest feline sneeze or twitch and he’d send them off to the vet for a check-up…”

Delilah Freddie Mercury's Favorite

Delilah Freddie Mercury’s Favorite

 

Freddie Mercury, Delilah and Goliath

Delilah and Goliath

It was to Delilah that he wrote the song of the same name for even though his band mate Roger Taylor hated it. The song appeared on the album Innuendo, the last one to be released while Mercury was alive. The cover of the album had a photo of Mercury with a cat sitting on each of his shoulders and another on the top of his head.

 

Freddie Mercury Innuendo Artwork

 


Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS in late 1987, and on 24 November 1991, Mercury died at the age of 45 at his home in Kensington. One of his last actions was to pet Delilah.

Freddie with Delilah and Miko

Freddie with Delilah and Miko

The film Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) is the highest grossing musical biopic of all time. Rami Malek won an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury.

 

Want to know more about the cat in history, art and literature? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 

 

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats

 

 

 

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