Mr. Fahrenheit: Freddie Mercury’s Creative Complexity

“I’m so powerful on stage that I seem to have created a monster. When I’m performing I’m an extrovert, yet inside I’m a completely different man.” ~ Freddie Mercury

The soundtrack of my teenage years reverberates with the amazing vocal range of Freddie Mercury.

Freddie Mercury’s vocal range. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

Not until recently, however, have I begun to appreciate the complexity of the man born Farrokh Bulsara, who grew up in Zanzibar and India before moving with his family to England when he was seventeen.

Creativity Is Complex

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who studied dozens of eminent creative people to figure out what, if anything, makes them different from others, one “dimension of complexity” they tend to possess is that of extroversion and introversion:

“Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.” ~ Read more

It’s hard to imagine a more extroverted performer than Freddie Mercury, but he had another side, as well:

“Can you imagine how terrible it is when you’ve got everything and you’re still desperately lonely? That is awful beyond words. I don’t want people to think, poor old Freddie. because I can deal with it. But I’m so powerful on stage that I seem to have created a monster. When I’m performing. I’m an extrovert, yet inside I’m a completely different man. Of course, the stagey streak in me, where I love to jump around and be volatile, is real, but people don’t realise there’s more. They expect me to be the same in my personal life as well. They say. ‘Come on, Freddie, perform, give us some excitement’.” ~ Freddie Mercury, Interview with Ken Everett

“That Was His Nature”

Biographer Lesley-Ann Jones quotes one of Mercury’s cousins as remembering that he was a “delightfully courteous, serious, and precise little boy” with “a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous streak.” She continues, “But I remember him most vividly as secretive and shy. Painfully shy. He would not talk much, even when he came with his parents to see us. That was his nature” (Mercury, p. 32).

After Mercury’s death in 1991, Guardian reporter Paul Myers wrote that a “more sedate lifestyle” was closer to “the real Freddie Mercury” than was Mr. Fahrenheit.

My teenage Queen obsession was reignited recently by a chance hearing in a grocery store of “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and I’ve since learned other fascinating tidbits about the band, such that lead guitarist Brian May has a PhD in astrophysics and drummer Roger Taylor has a degree in biology, after having switched from dentistry.

The Voice, The Music

As I await the upcoming Queen biopic (with Ben Whishaw—listen to this Freddie Mercury radio interview to hear how similar are their spoken voices), I will keep entertained with some of the music that kept me going in the late 1970s and 1980s. Enjoy.

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