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Somebody to Love: The Life, Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury

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For the first time, the final years of one of the world's most captivating rock showman are laid bare. Including interviews from Freddie Mercury's closest friends in the last years of his life, along with personal photographs, Somebody to Love is an authoritative biography of the great man. Here are previously unknown and startling facts about the singer and his life, movin For the first time, the final years of one of the world's most captivating rock showman are laid bare. Including interviews from Freddie Mercury's closest friends in the last years of his life, along with personal photographs, Somebody to Love is an authoritative biography of the great man. Here are previously unknown and startling facts about the singer and his life, moving detail on his lifelong search for love and personal fulfilment, and of course his tragic contraction of a then killer disease in the mid-1980s. Woven throughout Freddie's life is the shocking story of how the HIV virus came to hold the world in its grip, was cruelly labelled 'The Gay Plague' and the unwitting few who indirectly infected thousands of men, women and children - Freddie Mercury himself being one of the most famous. The death of this vibrant and spectacularly talented rock star, shook the world of medicine as well as the world of music. Somebody to Love finally puts the record straight and pays detailed tribute to the man himself.


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For the first time, the final years of one of the world's most captivating rock showman are laid bare. Including interviews from Freddie Mercury's closest friends in the last years of his life, along with personal photographs, Somebody to Love is an authoritative biography of the great man. Here are previously unknown and startling facts about the singer and his life, movin For the first time, the final years of one of the world's most captivating rock showman are laid bare. Including interviews from Freddie Mercury's closest friends in the last years of his life, along with personal photographs, Somebody to Love is an authoritative biography of the great man. Here are previously unknown and startling facts about the singer and his life, moving detail on his lifelong search for love and personal fulfilment, and of course his tragic contraction of a then killer disease in the mid-1980s. Woven throughout Freddie's life is the shocking story of how the HIV virus came to hold the world in its grip, was cruelly labelled 'The Gay Plague' and the unwitting few who indirectly infected thousands of men, women and children - Freddie Mercury himself being one of the most famous. The death of this vibrant and spectacularly talented rock star, shook the world of medicine as well as the world of music. Somebody to Love finally puts the record straight and pays detailed tribute to the man himself.

30 review for Somebody to Love: The Life, Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury

  1. 5 out of 5

    Val ⚓️ Shameless Non-Snowflake ⚓️

    This book offered not only a great background on Freddie Mercury and Queen, but on the western HIV/AIDS outbreak and epidemic of the 1980's and 90's as well. Before I get started though, here's my own personal stock "biography review blurb," so to speak: Any biography is written by a human (who may or may not have their own agenda) and recollected by more humans (whose recollections are skewed by time and perhaps their own ideas of what they want to remember happening and not necessarily what actu This book offered not only a great background on Freddie Mercury and Queen, but on the western HIV/AIDS outbreak and epidemic of the 1980's and 90's as well. Before I get started though, here's my own personal stock "biography review blurb," so to speak: Any biography is written by a human (who may or may not have their own agenda) and recollected by more humans (whose recollections are skewed by time and perhaps their own ideas of what they want to remember happening and not necessarily what actually happened). All these things are subjective and inherently fallible. As a reader, you can never truly attest to the accuracy of any biography (or any autobiography for that matter), merely the enjoyment you garner from reading it. As such, my reviews of biographies and autobiographies are never a review or judgement of someone's life, but simply my own reflection of how interesting I found the work and/or my own gut feeling of how reliable the information therein seemed at the time I read it. Now, with that out of the way... I have always adored Queen and their music and I ADORE Freddie Mercury. I've read a lot of books about them/him before joining GR, but feel like re-reading this one in preparation for the upcoming movie. Something about Freddie Mercury has always intrigued me. He was a true showman in concert, and yet, by his own admission, that was a personality he wore like a cloak just for the stage. And while he (and Queen) were well known for their blatant hedonism, post show parties, and free and gratuitous sex, Freddie was also known to be VERY private, shy, and reserved in many ways also. He rarely gave interviews and he refused to talk about his childhood and life before becoming "Freddie Mercury" to the press and even his close friends. In fact, it could be argued that his being sent away to boarding school and separated from his family at such a young made it veritably impossible for him to ever trust and get truly close to anyone in life as a result. It was also undoubtedly difficult for him to be someone not purely heterosexual in an environment where it wasn't really accepted at that time. In seems foreign in light of the way things are today, but in the 1970's and 80's, a gay rock star just wasn't done. Even David Bowie, who proudly claimed his bisexuality, still went home to a wife, thus making him "straight" enough in the eyes of a populace not yet ready to accept blurry personal sexuality lines the way we are today. And while it's a shame that Freddie was never able to truly be himself, either because of the fear of backlash from the public or backlash from his religiously conservative parents, who knows if he even wanted to. I feel like Freddie was someone who enjoyed teasing people with mystery. He didn't like explaining his song lyrics in the same way he never truly answered questions about his sexuality and, in my opinion, that is a star quality missing from celebrities today. These days, celebrities are TOO accessible. They Tweet their breakfast, they Instagram their workouts, they share personal family photos. And while that IS cool on some level - the fact that fans can connect so readily with their favorite actress or sports her0 - I also think there is something to be said for leaving some things to mystery during your lifetime. But I digress. As I stated at the beginning of this review, while this book told Freddie's story, it also paralleled Freddie's story with a basic timeline and history of how the HIV/AIDS virus went from being a virus affecting only chimpanzees in the African forest to becoming the global epidemic of the 80's and 90's, which I found very interesting. In fact, I might go look for a book on just that subject now. But anyway. All in all, I enjoyed this biography. Oddly enough, it quoted another biography I literally just read before this one quite a bit, which I thought was funny. Either way, reading both was very beneficial. I think I might also look for Jim Hutton's (Freddie's lover at the time of his death) biography, despite it getting poor reviews and being dubbed opportunistic, etc. This is a good read for Mercury fans, although true diehards might already know or have already read about everything in this one. After all, it was published in 2016 and, outside the obviously independent research about AIDS, it pretty much just pulls information from other biographies that came before it. Maybe that makes it more comprehensive? Not sure. I'll you know after I finish reading all the other biographies, ha!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mindi

    I feel like I could write an entire review and just talk about biographies. Every biography is going to have false information or things that people misremember because they are written by humans based on information from other humans, and that is never going to be a completely accurate and honest portrayal of any person. That being said, every time I read a biography I always take it with a grain of salt. I'm happy if the basic information is presented and written in a compelling manner. I don't I feel like I could write an entire review and just talk about biographies. Every biography is going to have false information or things that people misremember because they are written by humans based on information from other humans, and that is never going to be a completely accurate and honest portrayal of any person. That being said, every time I read a biography I always take it with a grain of salt. I'm happy if the basic information is presented and written in a compelling manner. I don't really care if a biography has crazy rumor confirmations or salacious details, I just want a book about a person that I'm interested in that makes me more informed than I was before I read it, and that is also entertaining and engaging in the process. As far as those criteria go, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even though this book is somewhat flawed (the writing isn't perfect), I still think it was the right choice as far as biographies about Freddie Mercury. I researched which were the best, and I couldn't find anyone who actually really liked or recommended a single one of them. People have high expectations for biographies, especially if they already know quite a bit about the person. I knew the very basics about Freddie, so this book was a good pick for my needs. It was published 2 years ago, so the writers were able to use a lot of source material. It kind of makes me want to read a biography about Freddie that was published a lot closer to his lifetime to see how different it is. This book not only goes into detail about Freddie's life, but it also unflinchingly discusses his death and the origins of AIDS and how the pandemic spread across the world during Freddie's lifetime. So the reader typically gets a chapter or two about Freddie, and then there would be a chapter that goes into more detail about AIDS and what was happening with the virus during Freddie's timeline in the book. The authors are quick to note that most of the timeline for when Freddie contracted HIV and when he knew he had AIDS can only be speculation. Freddie was a very private person, and he told almost no one that he was seriously ill until it was so obvious that he couldn't hide it any longer. He valued his privacy so much that it was only hours before his death that he finally released a statement to the world saying that he had AIDS. I found this book to be informative, entertaining, and incredibly sad. Knowing from the very beginning that Freddie had a limited amount of time to achieve everything he wanted was sobering, and made the entire book rather somber, even when Freddie was at the height of his success. The reader is constantly aware of a ticking clock, and it makes Freddie's story heartbreaking. I've loved Queen and Freddie since high school, so I'm wondering what took me so long to finally read a book about his life. Freddie died when I was a sophomore, so maybe I just needed to spend more time enjoying the music before I finally learned about the life behind the performer. And Freddie was certainly one of the greatest performers of the 20th century.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kyrie

    Well, that wasn't what I expected. A better title might have been "I Really Wanted to Write a Book about the History of AIDS, but I Want a Bigger Audience, So I'll Throw in Some Stuff about Queen and Freddie Mercury". It was an interesting look at the AIDS epidemic, how the disease came about, and what's been done to help the many people who have it. As for Freddie Mercury, I came away with the impression that the people closest to him weren't very forthcoming with this author. It read like he was Well, that wasn't what I expected. A better title might have been "I Really Wanted to Write a Book about the History of AIDS, but I Want a Bigger Audience, So I'll Throw in Some Stuff about Queen and Freddie Mercury". It was an interesting look at the AIDS epidemic, how the disease came about, and what's been done to help the many people who have it. As for Freddie Mercury, I came away with the impression that the people closest to him weren't very forthcoming with this author. It read like he was reduced to digging through old news reports, and some minimal interviews with a couple of people. There was little to explain why he was so beloved, except for a few paragraphs as the very end. As a fan of the man, and of the group, I felt disappointed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lala

    THIS BOOK SUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS I wanna type up a whole rant but I hate typing not on a keyboard. Y'all. -REVIEW TIME- I knew you were trouble when you walked in and asked Did going to boarding school make Freddie Mercury gay? This book had NO timeline. Freddie Mercury comes out to Mary Austin in one chapter, and then the next five reference how tortured he is over lying to her about his sexuality. This happens repeatedly throughout the book with various bits of information. Related to this, was there A THIS BOOK SUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS I wanna type up a whole rant but I hate typing not on a keyboard. Y'all. -REVIEW TIME- I knew you were trouble when you walked in and asked Did going to boarding school make Freddie Mercury gay? This book had NO timeline. Freddie Mercury comes out to Mary Austin in one chapter, and then the next five reference how tortured he is over lying to her about his sexuality. This happens repeatedly throughout the book with various bits of information. Related to this, was there Any editing? It might seem beneficial to include as much information as possible but when that includes a quote from Mr. EMI Whoever being like 'Killer Queen is about me Freddie told me so i was the queen and i was killing him by not being with him,' Come On My Dudes. Names are misspelled, song titles are gotten wrong, punctuation is missing. If this is the final draft, I live in fear of seeing the originals. A lot of reviews mention a lack of speculation in this book. That is not true. I'd pull quotes, but I just wanted to rid myself of this book so badly I didn't copy any down. There was a passage about Rocky Horror Picture Show and how Freddie was a fan that then goes on to say "In 1973, who could possibly have known what was to come, what the price of sexual freedom would cost." I was so baffled by this I thought the book was saying Rocky Horror was a key figure in the spreading of the AIDS virus. I still don't really understand what the book was trying to say. I just think they thought it sounded like a good foreboding line. It's not, though. I appreciated the inclusion of the history of AIDS until the (hopefully accidentally just because this book is so poorly constructed and written) defense of Reagan. I am a big Queen fan, and I didn't come into this expecting to learn anything. I came expecting a nice compilation of interviews and just general facts. Instead I got a lot of "freddie's friends liked apple sauce. freddie went out to sleep with strangers. was this because his friends liked apple sauce? who could have known what dark path apple sauce was headed down..." If you don't know a lot about Queen, or are kinda ignorant in general, you might enjoy this.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Lyon

    I was (and remain) a huge fan of Freddie Mercury and Queen, and I really thought this book was excellent. At first I was unsure about the medical chapters related to HIV/AIDS, thinking they were rather superfluous, but as I read along I realized that in terms of understanding the political atmosphere of the times, they really helped with context. I found the content to be balanced, and avoided being gossipy. My only wish is that they had been able to get the rest of the band to participate in as I was (and remain) a huge fan of Freddie Mercury and Queen, and I really thought this book was excellent. At first I was unsure about the medical chapters related to HIV/AIDS, thinking they were rather superfluous, but as I read along I realized that in terms of understanding the political atmosphere of the times, they really helped with context. I found the content to be balanced, and avoided being gossipy. My only wish is that they had been able to get the rest of the band to participate in assembling the book, rather than just relying on previously published interviews. Otherwise, it is an extremely interesting history of one of the great rock vocalists of all time and the disease with which he will forever be linked.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    If you are looking for a well-rounded biography of Freddie Mercury, than I cannot recommend this book to you. This book is primarily interested in the most sensational aspects of Freddie Mercury's life, specifically, that he was a gay man who contracted AIDS and died. I found this problematic, and at times uncomfortably homophobic, for a text published in 2016. This book parallels Mercury's story with that of the AIDS virus, and for those interested in the history of AIDS and HIV, there is some i If you are looking for a well-rounded biography of Freddie Mercury, than I cannot recommend this book to you. This book is primarily interested in the most sensational aspects of Freddie Mercury's life, specifically, that he was a gay man who contracted AIDS and died. I found this problematic, and at times uncomfortably homophobic, for a text published in 2016. This book parallels Mercury's story with that of the AIDS virus, and for those interested in the history of AIDS and HIV, there is some interesting material in this book. This does however tend to reduce Freddie Mercury's life, to the fact that he was a promiscuous gay man, who contracted HIV and died of AIDS. Even early accounts of his schooling tend to focus primarily on the question of how gay Freddie was at school. This results in some truly bizarre content, including a pseudo-scientific exploration of whether the trauma of being sent to boarding school turns boys gay. The author appears to be drawing a longbow here, linking Freddie Mercury's eventual death to his early life in boarding school. Frankly, it comes across a bit homophobic in an age when homosexuality is no longer considered a mental illness. In later sections, the book seems to dedicate an uncomfortably long time, trying to pinpoint the exact time, place and even sexual encounter, which likely resulted in Freddie's infection with HIV. I personally found this macabre, sensationalist and exploitative. I also took issue with the author's use of statistics (who knows how accurate or out of date) that seem to reinforce unhelpful stereotypes of gay men and women, as more promiscuous than heterosexual people and less likely to form lasting monogamous relationships. This is the only biography I have read of Freddie Mercury. He appears to have been a very private person in life and perhaps there isn't a truly comprehensive alternative on the market. This book however, is less about Freddie Mercury's life than his death; at times reading more like a history treatise on the AIDS virus with some fun facts about a famous guy thrown in, to add interest and commercial appeal. For me it didn't really work. It left me feeling dirty.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Hobgood

    Well done biography! As much of a great life story as a documentary of the HIV/AIDS crisis. A must-read for any Freddie/Queen fan!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karma♥Bites ^.~

    RIP Freddie Mercury. One of my all-time favs: ‘Under Pressure’ by David Bowie & Freddie Mercury/Queen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoDh_... (altho Annie Lennox killed it, too, when it was her turn 🤩) RIP Freddie Mercury. One of my all-time favs: ‘Under Pressure’ by David Bowie & Freddie Mercury/Queen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoDh_... (altho Annie Lennox killed it, too, when it was her turn 🤩)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    this biography expertly weaves in the narrative of the AIDS crisis with the rise of Freddie Mercury and Queen, which is an innovative approach and really solidifies Freddie's legacy in both music and society. the biographers are detailed and specific, never embellishing or dramatizing anything (more than Freddie already did, that is) and connecting Freddie with the people around him in ways that made me think about the unpredictable shortness of life and the scope of humanity encompassed in one this biography expertly weaves in the narrative of the AIDS crisis with the rise of Freddie Mercury and Queen, which is an innovative approach and really solidifies Freddie's legacy in both music and society. the biographers are detailed and specific, never embellishing or dramatizing anything (more than Freddie already did, that is) and connecting Freddie with the people around him in ways that made me think about the unpredictable shortness of life and the scope of humanity encompassed in one man who liked to dance and wear flamboyant clothes and had an otherworldly voice, but ultimately, just did his best to be himself in a world that wasn't ready for him.

  10. 5 out of 5

    *Bohemian*

    A fabulous biography of a trully inspirational and brave soul. A legend I learned to love in my early childhood. Can’t believe that world still goes on without Freddie Mercury. A true legend. Long live the Queen!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carli

    One of the best Freddie Mercury biographies I've ever read! One of the best Freddie Mercury biographies I've ever read!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leah K

    I've been a Queen fan since I was a tot. I remember my dad and I sitting around listening to their greatest hits albums. It's a nostalgia thing for me. But I didn't know much about Mercury - he'd pass away when I was 6 years old and not only did I not know who he was but his illness meant very little to me because you know...I was 6. I'm glad I finally got around to reading about Freddie and his life. Not only does this book delve into Mercury's life but it is sprinkled in with chapters discussin I've been a Queen fan since I was a tot. I remember my dad and I sitting around listening to their greatest hits albums. It's a nostalgia thing for me. But I didn't know much about Mercury - he'd pass away when I was 6 years old and not only did I not know who he was but his illness meant very little to me because you know...I was 6. I'm glad I finally got around to reading about Freddie and his life. Not only does this book delve into Mercury's life but it is sprinkled in with chapters discussing the AIDS epidemic. I enjoyed the back and forth and the further information on the epidemic - it would obviously play an important part in Mercury's story. I listened to the audio book and the narrator did great. I think my main qualm is the author seems to focus a bit much on Freddie being gay. It's good information to know how the singer struggled so much with his homosexuality in a time where prejudices were high and the need to keep it secret was often necessary for safety reasons. But there were times where the author makes it seem like being gay was Freddie's whole life, his only focus, the everything. And I think he, along with all other humans, would want to be remembered for more than their sexuality. If somehow you missed the memo that Mercury was gay, don't worry, the author will remind you on every other page. But otherwise, an informative look into this amazing singer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Baiba Suseja

    Mix of Mercuries bibliography and development if HIV was very appealing first, but somehow by the end of the book it just felt a bit too much - it gave me a feeling that I know all Mercuries lovers :) But besides that I really enjoyed the stories about the whole band and Freddy himself. Made me find all songs and listen to them after listening to the stories how the songs were written.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Danielle N

    A fantastic glimpse into the life of Freddie Mercury and Queen. Surprisingly, this biography also thoroughly explored and discussed the HIV and AIDs epidemic and origins adding even more value to my time spent with this book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    In a book meant to be focused on Freddie Mercury, his life, his music, and his lasting impression on the world, it is my opinion that the author spends far too much time writing about the history of AIDS; the book starts with AIDS, half of the writing remains centered on it, and he specifically writes, "However much it might not be palatable to most fans, it is impossible to write about Freddie without the story of his HIV and AIDS. It was, and would be more so after his death, a defining aspect In a book meant to be focused on Freddie Mercury, his life, his music, and his lasting impression on the world, it is my opinion that the author spends far too much time writing about the history of AIDS; the book starts with AIDS, half of the writing remains centered on it, and he specifically writes, "However much it might not be palatable to most fans, it is impossible to write about Freddie without the story of his HIV and AIDS. It was, and would be more so after his death, a defining aspect of what he was" (445). While, obviously, this disease was a major part of his life, leading to his death, I wanted this book to be more about his life as an artist, his relationship with his band-mates, and the lasting impact of his music. It felt that the author insisted to hyper-focus on his sexuality and disease, going so far as to insert his own theories regarding analysis of lyrics and style/life choices and presenting those theories as facts. While I did learn quite a bit about a band that I have come to appreciate and admire, this book was rather disappointing overall.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kathlyn

    Excellent book. The directors of Bohemian Rhapsody should have read this before creating the fiction they plastered across the big screen in the name of a 'biography'. Also a fascinating and objective look at the history of HIV / AIDS. The massive contribution of right wing policies and colonialism in the spread of AIDS and the horrendous death toll is frequently overlooked as is the mercenary profiteering of the pharmaceutical industry. I would add that the authors missed a rather more poignant Excellent book. The directors of Bohemian Rhapsody should have read this before creating the fiction they plastered across the big screen in the name of a 'biography'. Also a fascinating and objective look at the history of HIV / AIDS. The massive contribution of right wing policies and colonialism in the spread of AIDS and the horrendous death toll is frequently overlooked as is the mercenary profiteering of the pharmaceutical industry. I would add that the authors missed a rather more poignant symbolism of Mercury's final resting place....particularly given his love of anything Japanese. The cherry tree is a symbol closely associated with the samurai - because the flowers fall at the height of their youth and beauty.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    An interesting concept but lots of cut and pasting from previous autobiographies, weird amounts of repetition and way too much time given to tasteless and voyeuristic speculation regarding when Freddie became infected / knew he had HIV.

  18. 4 out of 5

    A.O.

    This review originally appeared on aomonk.com. Bohemian Rhapsody grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide and touched off increased sales, and interest, in Queen’s music. The broader cultural effects are harder to quantify, but I’ve certainly felt them. I can’t go three days without stumbling across a reference to Queen or Freddie Mercury: a line from “Bohemian Rhapsody” in an editorial, a Queen song over the store speakers, their songs in other films, a mention of Mercury in a stand-up routine This review originally appeared on aomonk.com. Bohemian Rhapsody grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide and touched off increased sales, and interest, in Queen’s music. The broader cultural effects are harder to quantify, but I’ve certainly felt them. I can’t go three days without stumbling across a reference to Queen or Freddie Mercury: a line from “Bohemian Rhapsody” in an editorial, a Queen song over the store speakers, their songs in other films, a mention of Mercury in a stand-up routine. DVDs are still on display on the endcaps at my local Target, long after Instant Family, The Crimes of Grindelwald, and other November 2018 releases have faded away. Maybe these random exposures led me to read Somebody to Love, an interesting but flawed biography of Freddie Mercury. The book draws heavily from other biographies and memoirs about its subject, press interviews of the band, and interviews with some of Mercury’s inner circle. The book intertwines the singer’s story with the broader, sociological narrative of HIV/AIDS’ spread from the Congo to the entire world. Both stories are fascinating and tragic. The authors show how recklessness and ignorance led to the spread of HIV/AIDS, from the Congo to Haiti and then to the Americas. They don’t sugarcoat the promiscuity that supercharged the disease’s spread, or the mass indifference, even celebration, of the disease’s impact on gays, Haitians, and drug addicts (211). They distill a complex subject into a readable narrative, walking us through misstep after misstep that led to the epidemic. Through this book, I learned about the Hemo-Carribean plasma clinic, which exported thousands of liters of blood from Haiti to the United States, long after HIV had already reached Haiti. I also learned about the first doctors to notice the rise of an unknown, new disease around 1980. Contrasting these chapters with Mercury’s individual story brings home the impact of the disease. Richards and Langthorne also do well in writing about Queen’s first years. This is the most interesting part of the book, an “anti-montage” that shows all the band’s struggles before their first big hit. The band searched for a bass player for a year, played gig after gig in small clubs across England, refined their set and their look without attracting much attention. They turned down a record deal and held out for one that would give them more creative control; there was no guarantee they’d get one. Their first big hit, “Killer Queen,” came from their third album. At any point, Queen might have foundered, but they didn’t. Unfortunately, after the release of A Night at the Opera, the book centers on Mercury’s personal life at the expense of his music. Some of the book’s claims are hard to trace, e.g. that Mercury once had a conversation, in a nightclub, with Gaetan Dugas, an early HIV/AIDS case wrongly identified as Patient Zero (241). How do the authors know about this conversation? Was its content notable? Who saw them talking? They never tell. Things get worse when they detail Mercury’s various one-night stands. How can you know that two random men slept together forty years ago, especially when they’re both dead? How do you know it’s not a boast? If you could credibly claim to have slept with him, wouldn’t you? Your coworkers might stop stealing your lunch, if nothing else. The book raises a few issues that it doesn’t have enough time to even mention, much less address. In one chapter, they include a long quote from Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor and AIDS as Its Metaphors. If AIDS remained in Africa, Sontag says: It would be one of those ‘natural’ events, like famines, which periodically ravage poor, overpopulated countries and about which people in rich countries feel quite helpless. Because it is a world event, which afflicts whites too, and because it affects the West, it is no longer a natural disaster. It is filled with historical meaning. (374) Early victims of “slim” and “junkie pneumonia” didn’t attract any attention; it was only when American dermatologists started noticing new Kaposi’s Sarcoma cases, concentrated among gay men, that anyone realized a new disease was present (181-91). Mercury was a gay man in the West, a group which Sontag describes, in the same quoted passage, as “almost all white, many of them educated, articulate, and knowledgeable about how to lobby and organize for public attention and resources devoted to [AIDS].” Many of them were affluent, even rich, as Freddie was, and well-connected in political and cultural circles. The authors of Somebody to Love fail to connect this passage to Mercury’s story, or draw out some of the deeper implications. They go to great lengths to show how ubiquitous shockingly anti-gay and anti-AIDS sentiments were at the time. How do these sentiments tie in to Sontag’s concept of “historical meaning”? Were gay men really “almost all white,” or were white gay men most likely to come forward and lobby on their own behalf—unlike Freddie Mercury, a Parsi immigrant who never publicly came out as gay, only revealed his AIDS diagnosis the day before he died, and kept his sexuality a secret from his parents his entire life? These questions may be beyond the scope of the book, but then why include the quote? Before HIV arrived, Western medicine facilitated the promiscuity of men like Freddie Mercury, Wilt Chamberlain, Gaetan Dugas, Mick Jagger, and nameless others. A four or even five-digit notch count was not a sentence to death, disfigurement, or delirium. STDs were nuisances, not devastating ailments. Was this super-promiscuity possible in “poor, overpopulated countries” without access to modern medical care? How is sexuality expressed and treated in places without ready access to antibiotics, prophylactics, vaccines, and other modern treatments? Any one of these questions could be a dissertation or two, but to include Sontag’s quote, without at least mentioning them, makes the book feel frustratingly half-baked. What of the quote’s relevance to other “‘natural’ events, like famines,” outside the West? Live Aid was a benefit for the Ethiopian famine, yet people mostly remember Queen’s set; the famine, not so much. How does that set, the pinnacle of Queen’s career, fit into Sontag’s thesis? The authors don’t make the connection—they only mention the famine once, on page 251—so the question goes unanswered. This book goes into granular, frankly excessive detail about Freddie Mercury’s sex life, but it sidesteps his culpability in exposing others to HIV while he knew or suspected he was infected. The authors pinpoint his likely date of infection to the summer of 1982, describe symptoms he experienced that summer and afterwards, and chronicle his alleged positive HIV tests from 1985 on. There’s no way to know his thoughts, but the authors make the case that Mercury knew he had HIV/AIDS for years before he told those close to him. Yet they gloss over how he knowingly exposed his partner, Jim Hutton, to HIV, and how he might have knowingly or half-knowingly exposed others as well. Late in the book, Freddie Mercury reveals his AIDS diagnosis to Jim Hutton. “[N]ot only was Jim his partner, but they had been having unprotected sex throughout their relationship and it was impossible to ignore the fact that Freddie had exposed him to the virus.” It’s just after Easter, 1987, two years into their relationship. Hutton “refused to accept the news, suggesting Freddie get a second opinion, unaware that he had already had a second opinion and had failed 12 HIV tests over the past few years.” (303-4) At this point, the two men lived together and even exchanged rings. In late 1986, Mercury denied taking an HIV test, to the press and to Hutton, and apparently kept further tests a secret from his partner (292-5). At this time AIDS was a death sentence, yet the singer held back this vital information, despite their relationship, their shared lives, their rings. Imagine not telling someone you love that you have a fatal, incurable, transmittable disease, and continuing to expose them to it for over a year. This is what the authors allege Freddie Mercury did. If this is accurate, it must be one of the most evil things he ever did, yet the authors don’t address it, except to state the bald facts. Why? They might fear sounding anti-gay. In the 1980s, AIDS was considered a “gay disease”; patients were often abandoned by family and friends, reviled by the public, and treated as plague vectors, not human beings. You deserved AIDS, you didn’t suffer from it. The press’s treatment of Rock Hudson, after his AIDS diagnosis was revealed in July of 1985, deeply affected Mercury. According to a friend, “if it came on the news he would watch it intently and not speak afterwards.” (280) He may have feared that telling other people would push them away, leaving him to die alone. Maybe they would tell the press, end his career, make him a pariah. Maybe telling would make it more real somehow. This might explain his actions, but they don’t excuse them. Nor does fear of anti-gay prejudice absolve him. It would not be better if he only put women at risk. This issue goes beyond what Freddie Mercury did or didn’t do. Should a man face censure, even prosecution, for not telling his partner that he’s HIV-positive? Critics of anti-transmission laws say no. Prosecuting HIV transmission could become an excuse to crack down on gay sex. It may keep people from getting tested. Since it’s difficult to prosecute, HIV therapies are more effective than they used to be, and prosecution may increase infection rates, then it isn’t an issue. Except it is. Lying about your HIV status can alter your partner’s life, even end it. Pulled the trigger, now he’s dead—or spending $20,000 a year on medications, suffering from exhaustion, heart disease, opportunistic infections, medication side effects, and much else. What if your erstwhile partner doesn’t get tested? HIV can incubate for up to ten years, with steadily increasing health problems or a steep drop-off at the end. Ten years for him or her to infect others, who also don’t know they’re at risk. All because of you. Neither the left nor the right have really grappled with this issue. On the right, they tried to turn this into a religious issue, and…I guess it is, just as drunk driving is a religious issue. I think it’s even worse if you’re not religious. If death is the end, if you’re just gone, then “pozzing” someone cuts short their only conscious experience, their entire inner universe of thought, feeling, memory, ideas, dreams, all so you can feel pleasure, avoid a hard conversation, or pretend that you’re not sick. On the left, it’s just absolute denial. Any criticism is “blaming the victim” or anti-gay. But the issue isn’t having HIV or AIDS, it’s spreading it. You can lament the Reagan Administration’s slow response to the AIDS crisis, the institutional corruption that let it spread, and the people who knowingly and half-knowingly infected others. Each group made the epidemic much worse than it had to be. I wish I didn’t read this book. Before I read it, I only knew that Freddie Mercury was the lead singer of Queen, he was gay, and he died of AIDS. Now, instead of thinking about his music as music—first hearing it as a teenager, listening to Jazz on my Dad’s record player, singing their songs Wayne’s-World-style with friends, school dances, parties, playing the songs for my kids—I now think of some of the issues I’ve raised in this review. I don’t want to think about these heavy subjects every time “Killer Queen” plays at Barnes & Noble, which is often, or whenever some acquaintance raves about Bohemian Rhapsody, which is doubly uncomfortable. This book made me “fall out of love” with Queen’s music; though I still recognize its merits, the emotional connection isn’t there anymore. Part of me still wishes it was. This is not to demonize Freddie Mercury, or split him black. All people are capable of horribly selfish, dangerous acts, however generous or sweet they are at other times. Good deeds don’t blot out out the bad ones, or vice versa. It’s also possible that Richards and Langthorne are badly wrong, that someone remembered incorrectly, that the early tests didn’t happen, that Freddie suspected nothing. If they’re not wrong, this is another reminder how important it is to do the right thing, especially when it’s difficult.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Clarissa

    Interwoven with a history and stigma of HIV/AIDS, this is an in-depth biography of Freddie Mercury. Of course, every biography contains false information as it is written based on human recollection which can never be entirely accurate. That being said, the book goes into detail about Freddie's life and does not shy away from his rock star lifestyle and the dangers, and, eventually, devastating disease it brought to his life. I knew most of this but it was an interesting view into how private of Interwoven with a history and stigma of HIV/AIDS, this is an in-depth biography of Freddie Mercury. Of course, every biography contains false information as it is written based on human recollection which can never be entirely accurate. That being said, the book goes into detail about Freddie's life and does not shy away from his rock star lifestyle and the dangers, and, eventually, devastating disease it brought to his life. I knew most of this but it was an interesting view into how private of a person Freddie was and the huge persona he would present on stage. The authors immediately state that what they present about his contracting HIV and death is just speculation, but they do a good job of laying out the story behind the greatest performer in rock history. We love you, Freddie!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Colin Garrow

    When Freddie Mercury died in November 1991, the world lost one of its most talented and flamboyant rock stars. But only hours before his death, it was revealed he had been battling AIDS. Biographers Mark Langthorne and Matt Richards tell the story of the superstar who was Queen’s charismatic frontman, from his birth in Zanzibar through his years with the band, solo projects and his endless search for love. Like many people, I became a fan of Queen following the release of Bohemian Rhapsody in 19 When Freddie Mercury died in November 1991, the world lost one of its most talented and flamboyant rock stars. But only hours before his death, it was revealed he had been battling AIDS. Biographers Mark Langthorne and Matt Richards tell the story of the superstar who was Queen’s charismatic frontman, from his birth in Zanzibar through his years with the band, solo projects and his endless search for love. Like many people, I became a fan of Queen following the release of Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, immediately buying all their albums up to that date and for several years afterwards. Though it was always the band’s early work that attracted me, in particular Brian May’s inimitable guitar sound, I was spellbound my Mercury’s amazing vocal talents and song-writing abilities. The sheer range and variety in Queen’s music seemed so different to that of other groups around at the time, that they always stood out as a unique and highly gifted group. And while May, Taylor and Deacon contributed hugely to the band’s success, it was Mercury who dazzled audiences with his virtuoso approach during Queen’s live shows. Against the backdrop of the spread of AIDS, the authors chart the musician’s rise to fame, detailing his early life and musical development, his many relationships and his contribution to rock music. Though there are many biographies about Freddie Mercury, this one presents his life in all its glorious (and sometimes not so glorious) detail. A must for all Queen fans.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    It's not an exaggeration to say that I would cheerfully sell my soul to be able to travel back in time to see Queen live in their original line-up, with the marvel that was Freddie Mercury inhabiting the stage he was born to conquer. But alas, if wishes were horses, and so on. This book was at the same time an excellent biography of Freddie Mercury himself and a history of the AIDS epidemic that was to take his life in 1991 - and it succeeded wonderfully at weaving these two parts of the narrativ It's not an exaggeration to say that I would cheerfully sell my soul to be able to travel back in time to see Queen live in their original line-up, with the marvel that was Freddie Mercury inhabiting the stage he was born to conquer. But alas, if wishes were horses, and so on. This book was at the same time an excellent biography of Freddie Mercury himself and a history of the AIDS epidemic that was to take his life in 1991 - and it succeeded wonderfully at weaving these two parts of the narrative together. Now excuse me while I go listen to a lot of Queen and cry a little.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liberty

    "He was a loveable rogue, and very costly to be around, always bumping into expensive things and demanding champagne..." 🤭 Looking past the fact that this book was a grammatical nightmare, often misspelling the same name twice within the same paragraph and getting dates wrong, I was nevertheless hooked on every detail. The history of HIV|AIDS has been the catalyst of some deeply thought provoking conversations this week. I appreciate a book that digs itself into my dreams and hangs about in my mind. "He was a loveable rogue, and very costly to be around, always bumping into expensive things and demanding champagne..." 🤭 Looking past the fact that this book was a grammatical nightmare, often misspelling the same name twice within the same paragraph and getting dates wrong, I was nevertheless hooked on every detail. The history of HIV|AIDS has been the catalyst of some deeply thought provoking conversations this week. I appreciate a book that digs itself into my dreams and hangs about in my mind. ******************** And honest to goodness, even though I know how the story ends, I had to read it multiple times to make myself believe it. Freddie is gone, and it wasn't really that long ago. He died in 1991 and I met my husband in 1992. ********************* "I kinda like it... crazy little thing called love..."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ararita (Okretačica stranica)

    5 stars, without any doubt. Loved the way two main stories intertwined in this book. First story is about Freddie, from his birth until the day he died. Authors covered in great detail almost every single part of his life and by the end of the book, I fell in love with Freddie even more. Second story is about AIDS and history of this devastating dissease. It's hard to imagine what was like to live in that time when the virus roamed the world without anybody knowing about it. If you love Queen and F 5 stars, without any doubt. Loved the way two main stories intertwined in this book. First story is about Freddie, from his birth until the day he died. Authors covered in great detail almost every single part of his life and by the end of the book, I fell in love with Freddie even more. Second story is about AIDS and history of this devastating dissease. It's hard to imagine what was like to live in that time when the virus roamed the world without anybody knowing about it. If you love Queen and Freddie, you'll love them even more after this book. So many emotions are waiting to knock you down.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Throughout all my schooling I don't believe I ever learned about the AIDS crisis. I don't know what people my age know about this disease that not so long ago claimed the lives of thousands in the LGBT community, devastating the equal rights movement that had just begun to gain real momentum. I want to ask them, I want to educate them. This incredibly well researched book alternates between the development of HIV and the life of Freddie Mercury, with the unfortunate convergence of the two in 1982 Throughout all my schooling I don't believe I ever learned about the AIDS crisis. I don't know what people my age know about this disease that not so long ago claimed the lives of thousands in the LGBT community, devastating the equal rights movement that had just begun to gain real momentum. I want to ask them, I want to educate them. This incredibly well researched book alternates between the development of HIV and the life of Freddie Mercury, with the unfortunate convergence of the two in 1982. Although the writing could be clunky and repetitious at times, I found it to be an incredible insight into a disease about which I knew so little, and the band which I love more every day; and the extraordinary impact of both on history as we understand it today.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    It’s hard not to become engrossed in anything associated with Freddie Mercury. This book is no exception. Jam-packed with details of Freddie’s life and musical career, the authors did exactly what I want from all non-fiction writers: they laid out all of the information in front me in what seemed to be an unbiased manner. While telling Freddie’s story, the authors also educated the reader about the very disease that deeply effected and eventually took his life: AIDS. Knowing little about AIDS be It’s hard not to become engrossed in anything associated with Freddie Mercury. This book is no exception. Jam-packed with details of Freddie’s life and musical career, the authors did exactly what I want from all non-fiction writers: they laid out all of the information in front me in what seemed to be an unbiased manner. While telling Freddie’s story, the authors also educated the reader about the very disease that deeply effected and eventually took his life: AIDS. Knowing little about AIDS beforehand, I now have a better understanding of this often misunderstood disease, and for this education, I am grateful. I am a better person for reading this book, and that is not something I say lightly.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lizpixie

    I loved this book! This was fabulous for two reasons, it was a celebration of the life & career of one of the best frontmen in rock history, but it was also a story about the AIDS crisis from when a hunter in the Congo was bitten by an infected chimp, to its burn across Africa before it hops to Haiti & then into the US in infected blood products and in immigrants before it breaks out into the rest of the world. It's frustrating to read that there were so many opportunities to stop this disease f I loved this book! This was fabulous for two reasons, it was a celebration of the life & career of one of the best frontmen in rock history, but it was also a story about the AIDS crisis from when a hunter in the Congo was bitten by an infected chimp, to its burn across Africa before it hops to Haiti & then into the US in infected blood products and in immigrants before it breaks out into the rest of the world. It's frustrating to read that there were so many opportunities to stop this disease from gaining a foothold in the human race, if syringes had been made readily available during vaccinations in Africa so there were no needle sharing, if the blood products had been screened or stopped altogether coming from Haiti, if the safe sex message had been seriously adopted from the start, if governments had given more of a damn instead of just writing it off as the "gay plague". So many missed moments. But ultimately, this book is about a musical genius named Farruck Bulsara who was born in Zanzibar, schooled in India before moving to the UK and following his dream to be in a band. He was on the outskirts of the music scene for a long time before he was given his break & it took him a long time to fulfill his promise, join two other musicians, a guitar prodigy called Brian May & a drumming genius called Roger Taylor, went through a few bassists before finding John Deacon & Queen were born. Mercury wrote a large number of their hits, had a 3 octave range, played most instruments and had such stage presence that it was easy to overlook the others. He worked hard but partied even harder, which is how he met his end. In the end, he may have been extremely famous & very wealthy, but the feeling you get is that he was an intensely lonely man who went looking for love in all the wrong places.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Helen Favreau

    wow! couldn't put it down. so much i didn't know, and now i wish i had been paying more attention when he was still here. what an incredible performer! wow! couldn't put it down. so much i didn't know, and now i wish i had been paying more attention when he was still here. what an incredible performer!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    Poorly written, terribly edited and, quite frankly, homophobic.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rich

    Every life is interesting—there is no such thing as a life uninteresting, all things are interesting if we pay them proper attention—However, not all lives are extraordinary. To be extraordinary is a rare event. It requires uniqueness and talent, brilliance and charisma. And moreover fate. Freddie Mercury possessed uniqueness, talent, brilliance, charisma; and fate twice over, both in the fortune of his upbringing: right place, right time, right friends, right era. And in his misfortune. The unlu Every life is interesting—there is no such thing as a life uninteresting, all things are interesting if we pay them proper attention—However, not all lives are extraordinary. To be extraordinary is a rare event. It requires uniqueness and talent, brilliance and charisma. And moreover fate. Freddie Mercury possessed uniqueness, talent, brilliance, charisma; and fate twice over, both in the fortune of his upbringing: right place, right time, right friends, right era. And in his misfortune. The unlucky timing of embracing the gay life just as the wall of prejudice and shame was beginning to crack, and simultaneously, as HIV was silently spreading and growing in the bodies of millions throughout the world. Playing the long game, as people focused on the things that matter: love, life, friends, family, career, and chasing down our ever elusive and mercurial dreams. Somebody to Love: The Life, Death, and Legacy of Freddie Mercury, manages to capture the extraordinary story of Freddie Mercury, his rise, his thoughts, his fears, his personality, and his defeat, while weaving on a macro level the tragic story of AIDS, as it crept into the world, slowly and surely but not inevitably from the jungles of the Dark Continent And how that epic event in the history of mankind collided with the lone extraordinary life of Freddie Mercury. As we are engaged by Freddie’s life and death and the legacy of Britain’s greatest rock band Queen. One cannot help but see the parallels to lives just as interesting, but not quite extraordinary, colliding with the AIDS epidemic and the destruction it has wrought. Somebody to Love—Helped me draw close as a friend to a person I’ll never know, while gathering awareness that behind the statistics of this plague, are millions of stories and countless lives experienced, snuffed out, and faded in the mist of time. We must never forget them, even though we never knew them—as we fight for a better world free from tears.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    After seeing Bohemian Rhapsody, I needed more information about Freddie Mercury. I was fascinated by his life as portrayed in the movie and wanted to go a little more in depth. I did a lot of research when picking this biography and found out that there are a lot of serious...and I mean serious...fans of Queen out there with a lot to say about pretty much every biography. I chose this one because it also includes a history of the aids virus and how it came to be spread so rapidly across the glob After seeing Bohemian Rhapsody, I needed more information about Freddie Mercury. I was fascinated by his life as portrayed in the movie and wanted to go a little more in depth. I did a lot of research when picking this biography and found out that there are a lot of serious...and I mean serious...fans of Queen out there with a lot to say about pretty much every biography. I chose this one because it also includes a history of the aids virus and how it came to be spread so rapidly across the globe. And because I am new to the history of the band (but having had their music around me all my life. 80's baby, here :P), I didn't need to be overly picky in choosing a book. What I really loved about this book was that nothing was dramatically sensationalized. There wasn't a gossipy tone to the narrative, nor did I ever get the sense that the authors were thinking, "And then, you won't even believe what happened next. Freddie did...". The information was presented in a straightforward, yet very readable, way. Even the mentions of Freddie Mercury's private lifestyle, which was pretty extravagant, were reported as just facts of his life. The authors did not describe in explicit detail the private, sexual encounters in Mercury's life, which was also something I really appreciated about this book. The book begins with when HIV first crossed from animal to human and how it unwittingly spread from there. This history is interspersed throughout the narrative of Freddie Mercury's life in a way that was not tedious and actually brought understanding to what was happening in the time period. I felt like all of this was really well done. The only things that bothered me about this book was that (1) there were some instances of poor editing, especially toward the end. There's some interesting comma usage that made me have to re-read a few sentences containing lists and there would be random typos, and (2), I really felt there could have been more pictures included. I had to look up a lot of the people mentioned in the book because I wanted to find out what they looked like. But neither of these things detracted too much from my overall enjoyment of the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who, like me, is new to the history of Queen and Freddie Mercury. I really enjoyed this book from beginning to end. The history it describes is actually quite different from the movie, but both were pretty awesome.

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