Freddie Mercury is the most flamboyant personality in rock history, with the possible exception of "Ziggy Stardust"-era David Bowie. Openly bisexual, devilishly decadent and decidely hedonistic, Mercury was the grande dame of rock.
Amid all of this pomp and circumstance, there was always the danger that Mercury's talents as singer, songwriter and musician might be overlooked, or at least downplayed. While it's true that Mercury loved a good gimmick, scorned subtlety as a stage performer, and consistently went way over the top once the bright lights hit his slender frame, in the recording studio, behind the microphone, or seated at the piano, he proved himself to be a musician of considerable prowess time and again.
Here -- avoiding the obvious triumphs of the ubiquitous "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions" in favor of some deeper cuts -- are a few of the recorded moments that comprise the legacy of a true original.
"Death on Two Legs," from "A Night at the Opera" (Hollywood, 1975)
Mercury in fiendish mode, dressing down the band's former manager atop what sounds like a classical Hungarian march.
"Let Me Entertain You," from "Jazz" (Hollywood, 1978)
The hard rock side of the singer emerges, and he snarls over the tune's delightful, swirling cadences with what sounds like mischievous glee.
"Killer Queen," from "Sheer Heart Attack" (Hollywood, 1974)
One of many minuets in the Queen catalog, with Mercury cooing sweet nothings into the ear of diva-esque femme fatale. Humorous, sly and painstakingly perfect.
"Love Of My Life," from "A Night At the Opera" (Hollywood, 1975)
The romantic side of the erstwhile prima donna. Folk-opera, anyone?
"Lily of the Valley," from "Sheer Heart Attack" (Hollywood, 1974)
Here, Mercury reveals (and revels in) his mastery of layered vocal harmonies. Oh, and that melody is pretty sublime, too.
"Don't Stop Me Now," from "Jazz" (Hollywood, 1978)
Proof that Mercury could do Elton John better than Elton John could. A sublime statement of purpose revealing a true lust for life.
-- Jeff Miers