Feb 18, 1990: Freddie Mercury’s Last Public Appearance

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Mercury in his prime (Photo source: queenonline.com)

Rumors had been swirling in the late 1980s, fed by England’s tabloid press, that Freddie Mercury had AIDS. The singer had performed his last show with Queen on August 9, 1986 at Knebworth Park, the final date on their Magic Tour. It was the band’s biggest tour to date and played to over one million people around the world.

The following year Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS. That fact was kept so private that the band weren’t even informed at first. “We actually didn’t know what was wrong for a very long time,” says guitarist Brian May. “We never talked about it and it was sort of unwritten law that we didn’t. He just told us that he wasn’t up to doing tours, and that’s as far as it went.”

The band was able to complete two albums in the intervening years: The Miracle (released in 1989) and Innuendo (issued in early 1991). It became increasingly challenging as Mercury’s health failed. When they tracked “The Show Must Go On,” May wondered if Mercury was physically able to sing.

“He went in and killed it, completely lacerated that vocal,” May recalls. As the singer’s physical state grew weaker and weaker, Mercury was still determined to contribute as much as possible. ““He just kept saying. ‘Write me more. Write me stuff. I want to just sing this and do it and when I am gone you can finish it off.’ He had no fear, really.”

Related: Queen tops U.K. all-time best-selling albums

When Mercury, May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor showed up on February 18, 1990, at the 1990 Brit Awards to accept the Outstanding Contribution to British Music honor, people were shocked by Mercury’s gaunt appearance. May did the talking, thanking both the music industry and public for “a lot of freedom to explore what we loosely call our art to any extent we felt like at the time,” which enabled Queen to wander out onto “a lot of strange limbs which seemed very precarious at the time, but we didn’t quite fall off.”

Just before the band went off, Mercury stepped up to the mike and said, “Thank you… good night.”

Watch the presentation

He was never seen again in public. He died on November 24, 1991, a day after issuing a public statement in which he admitted he had AIDS. His funeral was three days later.

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  1. Mikey
    #1 Mikey 19 February, 2022, 01:58

    Freddie Mercury. A fantastic one-off. Totally unique and irreplaceable. Thanks for the music, Freddie. Heaven’s the winner now. RIP.

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