July 24, 2024

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Song of the day for February 18, 2024

2 min read
It was on this day in 1990 Freddie Mercury made his final public appearance on stage when he joined the rest of Queen to collect the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music

Today’s song is The Show Must Go On by Queen.

It was on this day in 1990 Freddie Mercury made his final public appearance on stage when he joined the rest of Queen to collect the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, held at the Dominion Theatre, London, England.

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.”

“The Show Must Go On” is featured as the twelfth and final track on their 1991 album, Innuendo. It is credited to Queen but written mainly by Brian May. The song chronicles the effort of frontman Freddie Mercury continuing to perform despite approaching the end of his life, although his diagnosis with HIV/AIDS had not yet been made public despite ongoing media speculation claiming that he was seriously ill. When the band recorded the song in 1990, Mercury’s condition had deteriorated to the point that May had concerns as to whether he was physically capable of singing it. May recalls; “I said, ‘Fred, I don’t know if this is going to be possible to sing.’ And he went, ‘I’ll fucking do it, darling’—vodka down—and went in and killed it, completely lacerated that vocal.”

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