Searching for the best Freddie Mercury books on the market throws up the same issues that seem to surround every globally famous rock star – there are almost too many to choose from.
As you would imagine, some exploring the late Queen frontman’s life are worthwhile reads, others less so, but most of them offer something for fans to get their teeth into, be it a hitherto unknown factoid or a new image of the great man strutting his considerable stuff.
And following the massive success of the Mercury and Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody – which became the biggest music biopic of all time and scooped an incredible four Oscars, two Golden Globes and two BAFTAS – the spotlight has once again fallen on the vocalist’s life and career.
We’ve done some extensive reading in order to uncover a number of books about Freddie Mercury that will not only cater for seasoned Queen veterans, but will give newcomers to the band an insight into one of rock’s greatest ever frontmen.
Best Freddie Mercury books: Our picks
1. Freddie Mercury: A Life, In His Own Words by Freddie Mercury
An absorbing read which was compiled by Queen archivist Greg Brooks and film producer Simon Lupton. The book comprises narrative transcripts of interviews that Mercury gave to both print media along with TV and radio, and is set out in a number of chapters that broadly follow the chronology of the singer’s legendary career.
Originally published in 2006, the 2019 revised edition of Freddie Mercury: A Life, In His Own Words features text taken from a number of interviews that were unearthed from Queen’s expansive archive that hadn’t previously made it into the public eye. The book includes a heartfelt preface from Mercury’s mother Jer Bulsara which adds to the intimacy of the project.
For a man famously wary of the press, there are some lovely insights to be found here.
2. Freddie Mercury: The Biography by Laura Jackson
Also responsible for the patchy Queen & I, the ‘definitive biography’ of guitarist Brian May, rock biographer Laura Jackson rolls up her sleeves and gets stuck into her task with gusto here. When compared to other books featured, Jackson refreshingly avoids shining a light into the darker and more sordid corners of Mercury’s life, content instead to stick with descriptions of the familiar path of his journey from the small African island of Zanzibar to the stadia of the world.
Freddie Mercury: The Biography is well written and competently-researched, and while it’s unlikely to tell the reader anything radically new about Mercury’s life, it’s enjoyable nonetheless – especially if you’re after something lighter in tone.
3. Somebody To Love: The Life, Death And Legacy Of Freddie Mercury – by Matt Richards & Mark Langthorne
This excellent book from two highly experienced authors focuses more closely on the horrors of AIDS than many of the other publications on this list and, as such, is a timely reminder of just how terrible the disease is.
This approach to Mercury’s life and career is fascinating and although much of the band-related info here will be familiar to fans, the fact that the spectre of HIV and AIDS lurks throughout makes for a sobering read. It’s the antithesis to the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic that has been accused of glossing over this part of Mercury’s life and, as such, is definitely worth getting hold of.
4. Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones
Enjoyment of this controversial book will depend on whether you can stomach Jones’ self-reverential ‘I was there!’ style of writing. Queen guitarist Brian May has publicly disputed her supposed closeness to his former bandmate – most recently on his Instagram page back in 2019 – but the breadth of the contributions Jones has assembled does lend the familiar content some depth.
The trial of ploughing through pages detailing her boozy experiences as a rock journalist in the 80s is more than balanced by her eminently readable prose, with the chapters concentrating on Mercury’s early life especially absorbing. Definitive? Hardly, but one to check out nonetheless.
5. Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender, a Life in Pictures by Sean O’Hagan & Richard Gray
This sizeable coffee table book features the musings of respected writer Sean O’Hagan and is sprinkled with images selected by Richard Gray, who oversees Queen’s mammoth picture archive – and we’d suggest that if you’re only going to buy one book on the list, it’s probably this one.
The foreword has been written by Rami Malek, who portrayed Mercury in the smash hit Bohemian Rhapsody biopic – and it’s a nice touch. However, even his charms are eclipsed by the slew of baby pictures from the Bulsara family’s days in Zanzibar and, as you turn the pages you find some new images alongside a number that are much more familiar.
It’ll be Mercury’s early life that will attract the most attention, but the whole package is thoroughly engrossing.
6. Mercury and Me: An Intimate Memoir by the Man Freddie Loved by Jim Hutton & Tim Wapshott
The success of the Bohemian Rhapsody film has led to Jim Hutton being painted as something of a baddie in the story of Queen and interest in this undeniably one-sided memoir has certainly rekindled. To be fair though, Mary Austin aside, he was probably as close to a significant other as Mercury ever got, as the book goes to great pains to regularly point out.
Written partly as a cathartic exercise for Hutton, the details contained within are intimate, especially the passages concerning Mercury’s final days, and the 50 or so intensely personal images also included do shed some additional light on their relationship. Definitely worth a look.
7. Freddie Mercury: An Intimate Memoir by the Man Who Knew Him Best by Peter Freestone
Peter Freestone was Mercury’s personal assistant between 1980 and 1991, and there’s little doubt that this access to the band’s inner sanctum has given him some telling insights – a number of which are recounted here. It’s utterly fascinating to read about the day-to-day workings of a band of Queen’s stature on the road.
The harrowing description of the great man’s very final moments may well be deemed unnecessarily ghoulish, but it’s plain that the two felt a great deal of affection for each other. In addition, if Grand Design-style descriptions of the décor of Freddie’s homes are of any interest, then this is the book for you.
8. Freddie Mercury in New York: Don’t Stop Us Now! by Thor Arnold & Lee Nolan
A personal account of Mercury’s reinvention and his embroilment in New York’s gay scene, marked in public by the appearance of the hated/loved moustache in the video for 1980’s Play The Game single. Thor Arnold and Lee Nolan were part of a group that took Mercury under its wing to show him the ropes, as it were, and the resultant book contains convivial tales of the singer enjoying life away from the spotlight.
Also included are some never-before-seen images taken by Nolan at the time and selective though the audience for such a book may seem, it opens the door to a rarely-seen facet of the man’s life.
9. This was the Real Life: The Tale of Freddie Mercury by David Evans & David Minns
David Minns dated Mercury during the mid-70s when Freddie was still coming to terms with his feelings – especially in the wake of his doomed relationship with Mary Austin, and the book does give an insight into the turmoil he was going through.
First published back in 1992, the revised version features relevant sections from Minns’ unfinished memoir of his life and includes excerpts from letters from Mercury alongside pictures that have never been published before. The past tense of the title is poignant to say the least and this is a tale of a love story painfully innocent in its fuzzy closeness.
10. Freddie Mercury A to Z: The Life of an Icon by Steve Wilde and Paul Borchers
A concept that lays out the pivotal moments and characters from Mercury’s life in, as the title suggests, an A-Z format – C is for Cats, X is for X-Rated, and so on – and, although accompanied by illustrations from Paul Borchers that are pretty ordinary, the dip-in-and-out appeal is undeniable.
However there are a number of glaring inaccuracies that dispel any authority the book may hope to wield and there’s no possible excuse for vouchsafing, as it does, that Bohemian Rhapsody is the closing track of Queen’s second album. Any real fan will know that it is, of course, the penultimate song of their fourth record A Night At The Opera. Fun but flawed.
11. Freddie Mercury: A Kind of Magic by Mark Blake
With each chapter preceded by a timeline of the period of Mercury’s life that it covers, this is a well-designed and excellently-written book from former Q magazine journalist Mark Blake, and is notable for the amount of detail on offer.
We are again drawn to Mercury’s early years and, thanks to a series of exhaustive interviews with former school chums, the reader can easily imagine what life was like at St Peter’s Boys School in Panchgani, India; who knew Fred was an accomplished boxer?
The high levels of minute detail continue throughout and there is something new to discover on almost every page. Great stuff.
Louder – 11 of the best Freddie Mercury books: dive into the life and music of the Queen icon
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February 4, 2021