freddie mercury

Exit 223. I can learn something from the way that they lived their lives.

Death.  Never an easy topic to discuss.

Comic book writer Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and many other superheroes, died a couple weeks ago.  I recently saw the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, based on the true story of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen.  Freddie was only 45 when he died, and yesterday was the anniversary of Freddie’s passing in 1991.  My pastor knows another pastor in the same denomination whose toddler granddaughter recently died unexpectedly and suddenly.  And, hitting closer to home, a friend from the church I went to when I first moved here lost his battle with cancer this weekend.  He was only 30; he was in the college group at church when I first started going there, and his older brother was one of my first friends when I moved here.

I feel especially bad because this guy and I had kind of grown apart.  We didn’t argue or have a falling-out or anything like that; we just grew apart from natural causes as life took us in different directions.  The same thing happened with me and his brother, who no longer lives in California.  I’ve grown apart from a lot of people over the course of my life, and I’ve always told myself that no one is in the wrong here, that growing apart is just a natural part of life.  But now I have to accept the fact that it had been well over a year since I had seen him face to face and now I won’t get to see him again.

Death also always makes me wish I had known people better in their lifetimes.  Like I said, my deceased friend and I didn’t really run in the same circles anymore.  Similarly, at the memorial service for another acquaintance who died unexpectedly in 2012, I learned all kinds of things about him that I never would have expected.  And, as I have written before, I didn’t really discover Queen’s music until the months just after Freddie Mercury’s death.  But I can still appreciate everything and everyone in my life now, because I never know what will happen in the future.

And I can learn something from those who pass away and the way that they lived their lives.  In the case of my friend who had cancer, he was one of the nicest people anyone would ever meet, being kind to all of those around him and committed to knowing God and living for him.  And that is something we can all learn from.

Exit 199. Oh yes, we’ll keep on trying.

I have a lot of thoughts swimming around in my brain right now, and I’m not sure how much of it I’m ready to share at this point.  So instead, this week I’ll skip all that and write about one of my other recurring themes on this site: rediscovering a great song from an earlier time in my life.  This time the song is “Innuendo” by Queen.

Queen was a British band active from the early 1970s to the early 1990s.  I did not grow up listening to Queen.  I was vaguely aware that there was a band called Queen, and my earliest memories of hearing music on the radio as a preschooler include a song called Another One Bites The Dust, but I don’t think I connected the name Queen to that song until I started actually listening to Queen in my mid-teens.  Much of Queen’s later work was far more popular in Europe than in the USA, for a variety of reasons, so they were absent from the music that was around me in elementary school and my early teens.

Queen experienced a resurgence of popularity in the USA in the winter of 1991-92, for two reasons: lead singer Freddie Mercury’s death, and the release of the movie Wayne’s World, which featured a scene where the main characters drive around singing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  I was watching MTV a lot at the time, I was 15, and the channel often aired both tributes to the recently deceased Freddie Mercury and a remixed music video of Bohemian Rhapsody, combining scenes from Wayne’s World with scenes from the original 1975 music video.  Queen was one of the first bands I got into whose heyday was before my time.

Despite this, however, my knowledge of Queen does not extend deep into their catalog, beyond their two greatest hits albums and the 2005 live CD from the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour.  (In this century, after Freddie Mercury’s death, two of the original members of Queen, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, have done tours performing Queen songs with other lead singers, but they have billed themselves as “Queen + [whoever is on vocals]” rather than just Queen.)  Innuendo, the song I posted above, was on the album of the same name, the last released in Mercury’s lifetime, but not on the US version of either of the two greatest hits albums.  Until a few weeks ago, I had heard the song exactly once.  I was in the car at some point in late high school; by that time I knew enough Queen music to recognize Freddie’s voice, but this was not a song I had heard before.  A few weeks ago, I was looking up something about Queen on Wikipedia (who knows why, it’s me and it’s Wikipedia, that’s enough of a reason), and I came upon a mention of the song Innuendo, and I thought, that’s that song I remember hearing once, the one that goes “yeah, we’ll keep on fighting.”  I should go listen to it, because it’s 2018 and you can find stuff like that on the Internet.  So I did.  (And I was wrong; the song contains the lines “we’ll keep on trying,” and “we’ll keep on smiling,” but no “we’ll keep on fighting.”  It is definitely the song I was thinking of, though.)

Freddie Mercury died of AIDS-related complications less than a year after this song was released.  Rumors had long circulated about Freddie having been in sexual relationships with men, and when some noticed his health declining, rumors had circulated about his having contracted AIDS.  But Freddie never said anything public about either of these topics until days before his death.  By the time Innuendo was recorded, the band knew that Freddie was dying.

And this is a really deep song, full of great quotes that can be interpreted as wisdom from one nearing the end of his life to pass on to the next generation, the kind of wisdom I need to hear these days.

While [all this variety of bad stuff happens in the world]… oh yes, we’ll keep on trying.

You can be anything you want to be.

Be free.

And whatever will be will be, till the end of time.

Thank you, Internet, for helping me unpack this song that’s been stuck in a corner of my brain for the last quarter-century.