Brian May opens up about Freddie Mercury's death: “Losing him was like losing a brother"

17 May 2022, 12:05

Brian May recently opened up about losing Freddie Mercury on a podcast about dealing with grief.
Brian May recently opened up about losing Freddie Mercury on a podcast about dealing with grief. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

The world felt the shockwaves of grief upon hearing the news that Freddie Mercury died.

Only the day before his death were his fans made aware of his terminal condition, having battled AIDS for years until that point.

So on 24th November 1991, the rock music world had lost one of its brightest stars in Freddie Mercury.

But if people that didn’t even know him felt the immeasurable loss, imagine how those closest to Freddie were feeling.

Queen were not only facing a new reality without their iconic frontman, but also had to contend with the loss of one of their dearest friends.

And the pain and devastation is still being felt today, particularly by Queen’s legendary guitarist Brian May who had a unique relationship and friendship with Freddie.

One of the final projects they worked on together was Made In Heaven, which was eventually released posthumously by Queen in 1995 as their fifteenth and final studio album.

In a new appearance on the How Do You Cope podcast, Brian once again pays tribute to Freddie and recalls how he felt and dealt with the immediate aftermath of his death.

Queen in 1991.
Queen in 1991. Picture: Everett Collection/Contrasto

Brian confessed that Made In Heaven was difficult to make because of Freddie's deteriorating condition, and that he would listen to his vocals every day after his passing.

“It was very weird. It was traumatising in itself. I spent hours and days and weeks working on little bits of Freddie’s vocals.” he explains.

"Listening to Freddie the whole day and the whole night. I’d have moments thinking, ‘This is great…this sounds great Fre… Oh, you’re not here’."

“It was quite difficult," he goes on to say. "You’d have to go away from it sometimes and recover and come back."

"But I felt this immense pride and joy in squeezing the last drops out of what Freddie left us.”

Brian delved into why he chooses not to celebrate the anniversary of Freddie's death, when fans all over the world pay tribute to the loss of one of the most unique talents in rock music history.

He also turned to the work of John Lennon to help stave off depression.

“I think Roger and I both went through a kind of normal grieving process, but accentuated by the fact it has to be public,” Brian continues.

“We sort of went into denial. Like, ‘Yeah well, we did Queen, but we do something else now’."

“I went so far as to adapt John Lennon’s 'God' song in my solo stage act to say, ‘I don’t believe in Queen anymore’."

"That was a vast overreaction. I didn’t need to do that, why would I do that? Because I couldn’t cope with looking at it."

Brian May recently said: "We all owe Freddie a lot." (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
Brian May recently said: "We all owe Freddie a lot." (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

“Losing Freddie was like losing a brother, but yes it had the glare of public knowledge to go along with it."

"We were kind of dragged into a perpetual wheel of having to look at the loss of Freddie in a public way. That’s why I tend to hide away on the anniversary of his death," Brian admits.

"People do a lot of, sort of celebrating on the day of Freddie’s death, but I don’t want to and I don’t feel I can."

"I'll celebrate his birthday, or the day we first got together, but the day of losing him will never be something I can put straight in my head. There was just nothing good about it.”

April 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, in which the remaining members of Queen gathered the most famous faces in rock music at Wembley to both pay tribute to Freddie and raise money for their newly established Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS charity organisation.

At the beginning of that month, Brian spoke fondly about Freddie's charisma and influence on him and the band.

Speaking on SiriusXM’s Debatable show, he said: "We owe Freddie a lot."

"I have to say, Freddie tends to have the image of being someone who’s like a diva and won’t compromise, but actually, Freddie was a wonderful force of coherence,” said Brian.

"If he was questioned in the interviews about being the leader of the band, he would always say, ‘No, I’m not the, I’m the lead singer, but we are a democracy.’"

"It was absolutely true. So very often, Roger and John would be pulling in opposite directions. Roger and myself always in opposite directions. Freddie would be able to find the sort of glue to make it still hang together."

"So I think we all owe Freddie a lot because of that, the catalyst that he was apart from being a great creator in his own right."

"He was part of the essential glue that made this very kind of rocky organisation that managed to keep creating."