Freddie Mercury: Six things you didn't know about the Queen frontman

TV tonight Freddie Mercury: A Life in Ten Pictures
Freddie performing at Live Aid in 1985 (Picture BBC)

A new documentary, Freddie Mercury: A Life in 10 Pictures, reveals a hidden side to the iconic rock frontman. Here we reveal six surprising facts about the Bohemian Rhapsody singer…

As the lead singer of rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury was a global superstar.

A new documentary, showing on BBC Two this Saturday 3 April – Freddie Mercury: A Life in 10 Pictures – reveals an alternative side to the flamboyant frontman.

Freddie never liked to talk about his family, but in the film his friends, some from his early childhood, remember who Freddie really was when he wasn't on stage or in the glare of the spotlight.

Here are a few facts you may not know about the star.

1. He was born in Zanzibar, Africa and his real name is Farrokh Bulsara

In September 1946 Farrokh Bulsara was born to Indian parents on the island of Zanzibar off the west coast of Africa. The island was part of the British Empire and his father worked for the British Government, giving the young family security and stability.

In Ten Pictures - Freddie Mercury

Farrokh Bulsara, Freddie Mercury's birth name, in his pram in Zanzibar alongside his nanny (Picture BBC)

2. At aged eight Farrokh was sent to a private boarding school in India

Three thousand miles away from his home in Zanzibar, the young Farrokh arrived at St Peter's School in Panchgani, India. Here he became known as Fred and learnt to play the piano. He was known for his love of music but was also a shy and quiet boy. At aged 15 he returned to Zanzibar, but life was about to dramatically change for Fred and his family…

In Ten Pictures - Freddie Mercury

Freddie (in the middle) at boarding school in India (Picture BBC)

3. The 1964 revolution in Zanzibar caused the Bulsara family to flee their African home for Britain

The family arrived in Feltham, west London and started their new lives in this cold and foreign land. At 22-years-old Fred enrolled at Ealing College of Art to study fashion, before switching to graphic design.

It was here he met his first serious girlfriend, Rose Pearson, who remembers him as shy and a bit of a misfit. But by now he was also performing in a band and Rose recalls he would totally go for it on stage, transforming from a timid student into the charismatic frontman he would become.

4. Queen originally called themselves Smile

In 1970 Freddie joined a band called Smile, which soon changed its name to Queen. Freddie also changed his own name from Bulsara to Mercury. Then, over the next four years, Freddie and his band mates – Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon – worked hard to find success. By 1974 they had made it onto Top of the Pops.

Freddie Mercury

Freddie and Brian May delight their fans in Montreal (Pictures BBC) (Image credit: BBC/Queen Productions Ltd.)

5. He was a dedicated godfather

By 1982 Freddie had a new love in his life – his godson, Freddie Mack. Born to his friend and Queen producer Reinhold Mack, Freddie loved spending time with the little boy and his family. They lived in Munich, Germany and Freddie Mercury soon came to see the city and the Mack family as his second home.

In Ten Pictures - Freddie Mercury

Freddie cuddles his godson in Munich (Picture BBC)

Freddie Mack reveals he used to call his godfather Ga Ga because of the Queen song. He still treasures a huge teddy bear that Mercury bought for him when he was a baby and which is now a much-loved soft toy for his own daughter.

6. He threw the biggest and best parties

In 1985 Freddie threw a huge party for his 39th birthday. In one of his favourite clubs in Munich he invited all the people he loved to a lavash Black and White Drag Ball. His friend and long time Queen photographer, Richard Young, remembers a fabulous party that went on long into the night.

Freddie Mercury: A Life in 10 Pictures is on Saturday 3 April, BBC Two at 9pm. Don't miss it. 

Joanne Lowles
Freelance writer and editor

Joanne Lowles has been writing about TV since 2002. After graduating from Cardiff University with a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism, she worked for All About Soap magazine covering the ups and downs of life on the cobbles, the square and the Dales. 

Next came nearly 10 years at TV Times magazine as a writer and then deputy features editor. Here she spent many happy days interviewing the biggest names in entertainment and visiting the sets of some of our most popular shows including Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife and Strictly Come Dancing

With a love of nature and wildlife she’s also interviewed the leading experts in this area including David Attenborough, Chris Packham and Steve Backshall. She’s also travelled the world visiting Mongolia, Canada and South Africa to see how the best in the business make the most brilliant natural history documentaries. 

Freelance since 2013, she is now is a digital writer and editor for What to Watch, previews the best on the box for TV Times mag each week and loves being constantly surprised, entertained and informed by the amazing TV that she is lucky enough to watch.