“I would only believe in a god who knew how to dance.”
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Fr. Nietzsche
“I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend.”
This text will begin with a video. Watch it, even if it’s only for one minute.
London, 1 July 2017. Before the Green Day take the stage, Bohemian Rhapsody is played through the speakers.
65.000 people break into a sing along to a hymn. I call it “hymn” not just because I worship this song but also because there is a genuine element of worship in this scene.
And I have no doubt that those who were there to experience this glorious spectacle felt this much more intensely than we do when we watch the video on YouTube.
There were even more people and, certainly, a lot more intensity at Queen’s concerts when Freddie was still alive.
But even so, this video is – semiologically – religious in nature. Placed among the crowd, one on the left, one on the right, the two loudspeaker sets look like gigantic crosses. Light peeks through the clouds, the sun is shining on the sacerdotal cymbals, and everything looks so much like a looming Second Coming.
And what’s more important: the empty stage.
The man called Freddie Mercury does not exist, neither the one born Farrokh Bulsara.
Farrokh died of music with Freddie rising from his ashes like a phoenix. Then Freddie died of AIDS, this time leaving nothing behind.
Did he leave nothing behind? That is the question.
Much like believers do in Mecca, Jerusalem and the Vatican, the crowd in this concert worships an absent god. This is what the empty stage stands for.
The Queen is dead, long live the Queen.
Queens and prime ministers die, Stalins and Kennedys die, Gandhis and Guevaras die, Mercurys and Monroes die. Even gods die. What is left behind? The believers.
Freddie Mercury once said he would not be a rock star. He would be a legend. He achieved something even bigger than that: he became a god!
Think just how difficult that must have been for someone like him. He was a second-class citizen (in India when the country was part of the British Empire), he was born at the wrong place (how many of us know where Zanzibar is?), in a relatively poor family (his father was a civil servant), with the wrong religion (Zoroastrianism is older than Christianity but it’s not Christianity after all), with 4 extra teeth on the upper jaw and a homosexual orientation (when homosexuality was still a criminal offense).
What were the chances of Farrokh Bulsara becoming an idol?
It is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to understand the workings of our chaotic world. What made Bulsara become Mercury?
Was it his magnificent voice? The fortuity of meeting the rest of Queen? Was it his formidable skill in songwriting (he wrote more than half of Queen’s songs)?
Was it his stage presence? (His moves, his posture, the way he clenched his fists resembled that of a great orator, actor, prophet or Zarathustra – the founder of Zoroastrianism.)
Could it be the fact that when we see him, when we listen to him, we get a feeling of moral uplift? His music, his voice, his presence exalt us.
(A group of scientists recently tried to determine the most stimulating song, the song that makes listeners feel better, more blissful, happier than any other song. Guess which one it is: Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen, music and lyrics by Freddie.)
Was it his homosexuality? (He never tried to hide it but when he was asked about it in the rare interviews that he gave, he simply replied: “I am who I am”.)
Was it his love for cats? Or maybe his origin, his religion, his 4 extra teeth?
Was it the fact that he died young, as young as 45, before he had the time to age, write boring songs, try to dance on stage when he was as old as Queen Elizabeth?
What turns a person into an object of worship?
I think it’s impossible to grasp. It is the combination of external (social) and internal (personal) chaos.
Like another Zarathustra, Freddie played with chaos, danced with his demons, mocked the status quo, constructed his identity the way he wanted it to be.
What made him a god was this uniqueness of coincidences that is called Freddie Mercury, something that cannot be repeated.
I’m trying to finish this text, sitting on the balcony past midnight. A truly huge night-butterfly (like a little bat) falls on me, spins around the screen and sits on the keyboard. It is said that the dead return as night-butterflies.
OK, Freddie. I’ll stop here. I’ll leave you alone with your cats. (Are there any cats in Zoroastrian heaven?)
Translated by Anastasia Seni
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