Freddie Mercury’s last song was recorded in incredibly rare style
Freddie Mercury: Sister recalls last two weeks of his life
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It’s been over 31 years since Freddie Mercury lost his battle with AIDS at the age of just 45. Despite his HIV diagnosis in 1987, the Queen singer tenaciously continued writing and recording with Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. He may not have been well enough to tour, but helped along by his close bond with the other three, the star worked on two more Queen album in his lifetime – with more being released posthumously on 1995’s Made In Heaven. This final record for the group includes the last song he would write.
Freddie’s final track was A Winter Tale, which he wrote during the Innuendo recording sessions in Switzerland. His last song was inspired by staring out of windows in various places in Montreux, including from his hospital bed in Lake Geneva.
Brian May previously told Mojo: “Freddie wrote the song in Montreux, in a little house on the lake that we called The Duck House. The extraordinary thing is he’s talking about life and its beauty at a time when he knows he hasn’t got very long to go, yet there’s no wallowing in emotion, it’s just absolutely purely observed.”
On recording his guitar part with Freddie’s posthumous lyrics for Made In Heaven, Brian said: “So that’s the way I wanted my solo to be. It was one of those things where I could hear it in my head, long before I actually got to play it. And when I recorded it, at my home studio, in my head I was there with Freddie in Montreux in those moments, even though this was happening long after he was gone.”
Made in Heaven was accompanied by a documentary called Queen: Champions of the World, during which it was shared that Freddie recorded A Winter’s Tale in an exceptionally rare style.
Freddie had insisted that the music be finished before the vocal arrangement begin, but he realised that his time was running out and captured his part in one take live in the studio. As can be seen in the music video, which was produced after his death, his actual songwriting notes are displayed among the imagery.
Brian has also spoken in recent years of the Queen singer’s “unforgettable” The Show Must Go On recording during these sessions, in which he powered through despite his declining health. The guitarist had been worried that his friend might not be able to give the song the full welly it needed but was amazed by what Freddie was capable of.
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Brian said: “I finished mapping out the song, sang the whole thing as a demo, including the added Wings of Butterflies section, which somehow appeared in my head very late one night, and I played it to him when he was next in the studio. The melody called for some very demanding top notes, and I’d only been able to demo them in falsetto. I said to Freddie, ‘I don’t want you to strain yourself – this stuff isn’t going to be easy in full voice, even for you!’” However, the singer gave an unshakable reply.
Freddie asserted: “Don’t worry – I’ll f***ing nail it, darling!’”
Brian remembered: “He then downed a couple of his favourite shots of vodka. Propped himself up against the mixing desk, and… delivered one of the most extraordinary performances of his life. In the final mix of The Show Must Go On, when you get to On with the Show, you are listening to a man who conquered everything to deliver his finest work.”
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