There’s hardly anyone who is unfamiliar with the flamboyant stage persona of Farrokh Mercury, known worldwide as Freddie Mercury, the lead vocalist and co-songwriter of the rock band Queen. The band’s dazzling music success, their talent and affirmed legacy, are probably the main reasons why the songs “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Break Free,” “Don’t Stop Me,” and many more still attract new fans while maintaining the old ones who enjoy the sounds of Freddie’s four-octave vocal range.
Freddie’s personal life was often the focus of the public eye as well. He was forthright about being gay, and was one of the first major entertainers to die of AIDS, during the 1990s. Freddie’s loves have been men, and yet there was one woman in his life who suggests a different perspective. Her name is Mary Austin and she is known as Freddie’s muse with whom he had a serious relationship in the early 1970s. She inspired him to write the ballad “Love of My Life” from Queen’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera.
Mary grew up in a struggling working-class home in West London. She dropped out of school at the age of 15 and worked various jobs to support herself. In her adolescent years, she dated Brian May, but their relationship didn’t last long, and they broke up on friendly terms. At the time, May was a musician who’d started a band with some friends, so he introduced Mary to his band pals. The band was, as you might presume, Queen. Mary attracted the attention of Freddie Mercury, who was born in Zanzibar, and he asked her out on a date.
Freddie Mercury in New Haven, CT at a WPLR Show. Author: Carl Lender. CC BY-SA 3.0Freddie and Mary’s personalities were poles apart: He was exuberant in public while she was shy and unassuming. Regardless, soon he let her see another side of himself which he hid from others: a serious, wary persona. In the 1970s the band started to become popular, their income growing so much that the couple moved in together. Freddie and Mary spent at least seven years living together and, reportedly, he said that she was the only person he truly loved and took home to meet his parents, declaring her as his “common-law” wife.
Mrs. Bulsara, Freddie’s mom, recalled: “She was lovely and used to come to us for meals. I used to wish they had got married and had a normal life with children.”
As Queen’s popularity grew, Mary felt out of place in the world of celebrities, assuming that Freddie would lose interest in her. One day, she announced an ending to their relationship but Freddie refused to let her go, although he did feel as well that they were growing apart. He wrote several songs about her, most notably “Love of My Life.”
Shortly afterward, Freddie revealed to her his constant infidelities with male partners, and astonished by it, Mary moved out and finally left him.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t a bitter break-up and they remained close friends, visiting each other frequently. During the 1980s, Mary toured with Queen, working as a secretary to the band’s publishing business. Freddie wholeheartedly supported her life priorities.
In 1987, Freddie told her the terrible news that he was HIV-positive. Mary was heartbroken and became devoted to his health care. Aware of his death coming, Freddie wanted to make sure that Mary was financially secure because, according to him, he owed her so much as she stuck by him through thick and thin. Finally, in 1991, his health deteriorated further and he passed away at the age of 45.
Freddie Mercury’s will dictated that Mary was left with the better part of his wealth, more than $10 million, as well as his large mansion. His mother reportedly approved his decision, stating that Mary was like a family to her.
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In the next years, Mary married and launched a foundation to Mercury’s memory, the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity organization that fights HIV and AIDS worldwide.