Bohemian Rhapsody makes its UK premiere on Channel 4 tonight and shows Freddie playing the song on the piano during the recording sessions for A Night At The Opera. He tells Paul Prenter, “I wrote it for Mary,” and receives the snide reply, “If you say so.” The movie later shows Freddie watching footage of the song in South America and telling Mary, “They’re all singing it to you, because it’s true.” But what is the truth behind the iconic love song? They remained devoted throughout his life and she was by his side in the final days but some insist the famous love song was not about her at all.
Like so many Queen classics, the heartfelt ballad has only grown in popularity over the years. Even the band didn’t realise what a global phenomenon the song had become until it was sung back to them at stadium concerts.
First, at a 300,000 capacity show in Buenos Aires in 1980 and then at Rock In Rio in 1985. The band headlined the festival on January 12 and 19 and were astonished to see the whole crowd sing the words back to them.
The film scene uses the moment for Freddie to tell Mary he is bisexual, while she replies that he is actually gay. The biopic, as has been commented elsewhere, takes many liberties with timelines. Freddie broke up with Mary in 1976, but Buenos Aires took place four years later.
Certainly, the mid-Seventies were a complicated time for Freddie, Mary and the star’s burgeoning sexuality. He wrote Love of My Life in 1975 and started dating his first proper boyfriend, David Minns, an American music executive with Elektra Records, the same year.
In the book Somebody to Love: The Life, Death, and Legacy of Freddie Mercury by Matt Richards, Mark Langthorne, it says; “During the writing of this book, Queen’s manager, John Reid, revealed who the song was really about: ‘Freddie actually wrote the song for David Minns. Freddie told me that, ‘Love of My Life was for Minns.'”
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Although they had to hide their relationship from the public, the Queen frontman bought them a flat to live in together. Postcards Freddie sent his lover whenever he was away on tour reveal the depth of his passion and devotion.
In one he wrote: “My dearest and precious cherub, I thought I’d finally get it together and write you my first little card. Hope all’s going well with you and go easy on those business lunches or you’re going to burst before I can get back to you. You’re going to get into one of my coat-suits if it kills you (probably will).
Freddie tells David the tour is going well before ending: “I can’t wait to get back. Love you and miss you madly. My love to everyone back home and take special care of yourself my dear… Oodles of love and kisses.”
But do the dates line up? Love of My Life was composed during an intense period in July 1975 when Queen rented a house near the small town of Kington in Herefordshire.
Freddie said of that time: “I’ll never forget A Night At The Opera. Never. It took the longest time to do. We weren’t really prepared for it…. I had only about two weeks to write my songs so we worked f***ing hard.”
David later described how Freddie told him about recording A Night At The Opera at the start of their relationship: “We met at Rod’s, a club next to the Furniture Cave past World’s End in the King’s Road… he told me mainly about the recordings which were by this time quite well advanced and which [was] Queen’s fourth album, A Night at the Opera.
“I remember him telling me before we said goodbye that night that he often despaired of ever seeing it finished as the recordings had been going on for so long.”
The recording sessions for the album took place from August to September 1975 at Rockfield in Monmouthshire, Wales. If they were “well advanced” this means it is likely David and Freddie met in September.
David added: “It was not until three or four weeks later that I picked up the phone. He was delighted that I’d called.”
This would presumably mean Love of My Life was already written and being recorded by the time Freddie started dating the American. Not only do the dates not line up, closer examination of the lyrics reveals another truth. Despite the themes of undying love, this is a break-up song.
In late 1975, Freddie was in the first flush of besotted love, exploring being in a relationship with a man. The song is bittersweet and melancholy. At the time it was far more appropriate to what was happening with Mary.
In the long term, it would also stay totally true to Freddie and Mary’s relationship. Until the very day he died, Mary was by his side, loving him and loved by him. Even though they were both in relationships with other people, their love transcended everything and lasted the whole of his life.
As for David, most agree that Freddie actually wrote two other songs for him – Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy and You Take My Breath Away.