It was twenty-seven years ago today. Freddie stopped taking his medication. Everything except the painkillers. He was going to be the one to decide when he should die. For weeks, twenty-four hours a day, the world's press had camped on his doorstep at Garden Lodge, Kensington. He was a prisoner in his own home. Nothing could be done about it. Except, perhaps, what he did do - which was to let go. He'd had enough. The will to live was ebbing away. His only regret at the end was that there was so much more music still inside him.
'The Show Must Go On', Queen's brave, heart-rending single backed by 'Keep Yourself Alive', had been released in October. The band, their management, their publicists and entourage, all sworn to secrecy, continued to contradict rumours about Freddie's health. EMI continued to pump out product: 'Greatest Hits II', 'Greatest Flix II'. With their frontman's life hanging by a thread, the band appeared more prolific than ever.
Freddie's friends and housemates, Peter Freestone and Joe Fanelli, nursed him through the final days. Freddie had now begun to cut people off. He just didn't want to see them. His parents, for example. They had visited during those final weeks, and wanted to come again, the Saturday before he died. But Freddie refused. 'I've seen them,' was all he said. Part of the reason for the decision had to be that he didn't want them to see him as he now was. He wanted to be remembered as he had been. It was the reason why he had turned his back on so many friends during the final year. A few really close pals continued to be there for him: Dave Clark, Tony King, Elton John; and there was help from medical staff at Westminster Hospital. Gordon Atkinson, Freddie's physician and friend, made regular visits throughout the week. Terry Giddings, Freddie's driver, still came every day, despite the fact that Freddie wasn't going anywhere. In the end, he did entertain his parents at tea, one final time.
On 23rd November, with manager Jim Beach at his bedside for a long meeting, they agreed the wording of Freddie's last-ever statement, admitting to his fans and to the relentless press that he had AIDS. After years of keeping his biggest secret, his friends now had to stand by helplessly as the truth was broadcast to the world. Less than twenty-four hours later, Peter Freestone made the call to Jer and Bomi Bulsara with the news they were dreading to hear. Their beloved son, the king of Queen, the Great Pretender, was dead.
FREDDIE MERCURY 5th September 1946 - 24th November 1991 R.I.P.
'Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury' by Lesley-Ann Jones, published by Hodder & Stoughton UK, Simon & Schuster USA, and in translation worldwide.