Freddie Mercury tragically died in 1991 due to complications from AIDS, leaving behind an incredible musical legacy and friends and loved ones who continue to remember his wit and generosity. One such friend is Elton John, who spoke out about losing the Queen frontman to AIDS in his 2012 book Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS. Looking back on Mercury’s death, the musician shared a poignant memory which sticks in his mind when he thinks about his late pal.
“As Freddie deteriorated in the late 1980s and early ’90s, it was almost too much to bear,” John admitted. “It broke my heart to see this absolute light unto the world ravaged by AIDS.
“By the end, his body was covered in Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions. He was almost blind. He was too weak to even stand.
“By all rights, Freddie should have spent those final days concerned only with his own comfort. But that wasn’t who he was. He truly lived for others,” John said.
The Rocket Man hitmaker went on to explain how he and Mercury had pet names for each other, their drag queen alter egos, with the singer being Melina while he was dubbed Sharon.
John recalled still being grieving weeks after Mercury’s funeral when he received one last gift from the Bohemian Rhapsody singer, “one final testament to his selflessness”.
“I was moping about when a friend showed up at my door and handed me something wrapped in a pillowcase,” he wrote.
“I opened it up, and inside was a painting by one of my favourite artists, the British painter Henry Scott Tuke. And there was a note on the front from Freddie.
“Freddie’s note read, ‘Dear Sharon, I thought you’d like this. Love, Melina. Happy Christmas.’ I was overcome, 44 years old at the time, crying like a child.
“Here was this beautiful man, dying from AIDS, and in his final days, he had somehow managed to find me a lovely Christmas present,” he continued.
“As sad as that moment was, it’s often the one I think about when I remember Freddie, because it captures the character of the man. In death, he reminded me of what made him so special in life.”
In his new autobiography, Me, John admitted his visits to see Mercury during the final weeks and days of the Queen star’s life were fairly short because he found it too difficult to stay.
“I visited him a lot when he was dying, although I could never stay for much longer than an hour,” he wrote.
“It was too upsetting — I didn’t think he wanted me to see him like that. Someone so vibrant and so necessary, someone that would have got better with age and gone from strength to strength, dying in such a horrible, arbitrary way.”
Shortly after Mercury’s death, major advancements in AIDS research occurred, leading to the introduction of treatment which could help with long-term management.
“A year later they could have kept him alive with antiretroviral drugs,” John said. “Instead, there was nothing they could do for him.”
Elsewhere, Queen’s popularity and the interest in Mercury’s life has soared since the release of Bryan Singer’s biopic Bohemian Rhapsody earlier this year.
The film won four Oscars, including Best Actor for Rami Malek’s portrays of the iconic frontman.
In recent years, the band have been touring with Adam Lambert up front performing Mercury’s incredible vocal parts.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Queen’s Brian May revealed the biggest change since Lambert joined the band, speaking out on the contrast between him and Mercury.
He called the singer “new blood”, praising his energy levels and even joking the band have all been “drinking” it to “stay young”.
“He’s a shot in the arm, he really is,” he said. “He’s like new blood, you know actually. We have all been secretly drinking Adam’s blood to stay young.”