Elton John has shared heartbreaking memories from the last few days of Freddie Mercury’s life, proving the Queen frontman put others first until the day he died.
The Rocket Man singer revealed the details in his book Love is the Cure: On Life, Loss and the End of AIDS, where he reflected on his friend’s courageous battle with the disease, which was the cause of his death in 1991.
Freddie was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, though he didn’t announce the news publicly until November 24, 1991, the day before he died.
In his book Elton explains, while Freddie was an ‘an electric frontman’ on stage, he was a very private man in all other situations.
The 71-year-old recalled the moment Freddie told him he had AIDS, writing:
Freddie told me he had AIDS soon after he was diagnosed in 1987. I was devastated. I had seen what the disease had done to so many of my other friends. I knew exactly what it was going to do to Freddie. As did he.
He knew death, agonising death, was coming. But Freddie was incredibly courageous.
Even after his diagnosis, the singer continued making music with Queen, recording the album Made In Heaven, which was released after his death.
freddie mercury and elton john in their natural habitat pic.twitter.com/M28YRbVZVd
— rebeka saw borhap ×5 (@radiofreddie) December 2, 2018
Elton described how Freddie continued to make an effort to be the strong and caring person he was even as he suffered:
He kept up appearances, he kept performing with Queen, and he kept being the funny, outrageous and profoundly generous person he had always been.
The I’m Still Standing singer wrote his book to raise awareness for the disease and to contribute in the fight against AIDS. As such, he offered eye-opening details about how the Queen frontman suffered in his later days.
The excerpt continues:
As Freddie deteriorated in the late 1980s and early ’90s, it was almost too much to bear. It broke my heart to see this absolute light unto the world ravaged by AIDS.
By the end, his body was covered in Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions. He was almost blind. He was too weak to even stand.
Despite suffering with the disease, Freddie still found the time to think about his friends, and managed to organise one last gift from himself to Elton before he died.
Elton went on to describe how devastated he was in the weeks following Freddie’s death, which lead up to Christmas Day, when he learned Freddie had left him a gift, describing it as ‘one final testament to his selflessness’.
elton john about freddie mercury – this makes me so emotional pic.twitter.com/GZOVaGFRHL
— marti 👑 (@wewasglam) November 24, 2018
I was moping about when a friend showed up at my door and handed me something wrapped in a pillowcase.
I opened it up, and inside was a painting by one of my favourite artists, the British painter Henry Scott Tuke, and there was a note on the front from Freddie.
Years before, Freddie and I had developed pet names for each other, our drag-queen alter egos. I was Sharon and he was Melina. Freddie’s note read, ‘Dear Sharon, I thought you’d like this. Love, Melina. Happy Christmas.’
I was overcome, 44-years-old at the time, crying like a child. Here was this beautiful man, dying from AIDS, and in his final days, he had somehow managed to find me a lovely Christmas present.
As sad as that moment was, it’s often the one I think about when I remember Freddie, because it captures the character of the man. In death, he reminded me of what made him so special in life.
Elton’s recollection of Freddie’s final days reminds us of the brilliant man who suffered, like so many others, at the hands of the awful disease.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.