November 24, 2021
Freddie Mercury, the late frontman of the legendary band Queen, died almost 25 years ago. But he is still considered one of the best rock singers of all time.
What exactly made him so great? A research team in Europe set out to answer that question and investigated the science behind his voice. Professor Christian Herbst was part of that team, which just published its study on Mercury. A vocal coach and biophysicist, Herbst says he was fascinated by Mercury's technique. According to his research, the key lies in Mercury's vibrato, which is slightly different from that of other classically trained singers.
"Normally you can sing a straight note, but opera singers try to modulate the fundamental frequencies," he says. "That's how they make the tone, if you will, a little more lively. Normally, an opera singer's vibrato has a frequency of about 5.5-6 Hz. Freddie Mercury's vibrato is higher and also more irregular, which creates a very typical vocal fingerprint."
The bony structure of the singer's face, which had one more tooth, guaranteed not only the characteristic teeth, but also an above-average amplitude and a vocal range of 37 semitones, or four octaves.
In the study, the songs "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Love of My Life" were analyzed in more detail. And concluded that Mercury's vocal cords "simply move faster than most people's." Normally, a vibrato, a vocal technique, vibrates between 5.4 Hz and 6.9 Hz, while Queen's leader sang at 7.04 Hz.
In the 70s, glam rock had a firm grip on the world, and no one was more extravagant than the Queen legend. "It's not a concert, it's a fashion show," Mercury once quipped, and his stage wardrobe, most of it designed by Zandra Rhodes, was out of this world. With his penchant for catsuits and an exposed chest, some of his costumes have become absolutely iconic.
According to rock history, Mercury's voice spanned four full octaves, and his distinctive croak is one of the many reasons Queen has a permanent place in the pantheon of rock music. His primal performance on "Tie Your Mother Down" and his distinctive vocals on the iconic rock opera "Bohemian Rhapsody" might give you goosebumps.
Throughout his career, especially in the 80s, the singer helped redefine masculinity. He was popular with all genders and became a sex symbol due to his fondness for peacocks, and he relished this role. Freddie set new standards with the drag video for "I Want To Break Free," and yes, we are still extremely envious of his pins.
As one of the most versatile rock bands of all time, even the pickiest critic will find tracks that appeal to them. A big part of Queen's versatility was Mercury's wonderful voice. Check out his vocals on the tongue-in-cheek "Fat Bottomed Girls" or his effortless delivery on the stadium racer "Radio Ga Ga" for proof.
Where did Freddie Mercury come from? His sultry looks and exotic appearance hinted at a fascinating backstory that captured the imagination of fans. He was born the son of Parsi in Zanzibar before moving to India and then England. His exotic looks meant he always looked like a star. And he was.
On Freddie's tombstone, his bandmate Brian May had the simple epitaph "Lover of life, singer of songs." In truth, Mercury lived 45 wonderful and often reckless years. He was a hedonist and hotshot who knew no half measures, and his extravagant lifestyle provided a whole library of stories. Our favorite is how he dressed up the former Princess of Wales and smuggled her into a gay club.
He may have been the ultimate showman, but Freddie was also a brilliant musician. Mercury had many sleepless nights over his piano playing, and - such were his standards - he eventually abandoned the instrument during live performances to focus solely on his singing. But his musicality was central to Queen's greatness.
No reflection on the man, the myth, and the legend that is Freddie Mercury would be complete without mention of his glorious mustache. Slash has his top hat, the Beatles had their mop tops and the Queen frontman had his terrific tea strainer that, if the band were still around today, would probably have its own Twitter account.
What is your opinion of Freddie Mercury? Do you think he is the best singer?
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