Mother’s fond memories of Queen star Freddie
Eighteen years after the death of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, the people of Feltham in west London are preparing to honour him with a commemorative pavement star.
Mercury was born Farrukh Bulsara in Zanzibar, 1946, to parents originally from Mumbai. He went to boarding school in India, and along with his family moved to west London in 1964 where he enrolled in art college and embarked on his musical career.
The star’s 87-year-old mother, Jer Bulsara, spoke to BBC Asian Network’s Dil Neiyyar about her memories of her famous son.
In a bungalow in a quiet Midlands cul-de sac, an 87-year-old year woman looks longingly at pictures of her son. Her eyes moisten and her chest fills with pride as her fingers caress the images. “I’m so proud of him,” she whispers.
The pictures are of Freddie Mercury and the woman lingering over them is his mother, Jer Bulsara.
Jer Bulsara has proud recollections of her superstar son “We were in Feltham for quite some time. Freddie used to come and visit us. So it’s nice that he is remembered by the people there,” she says. “He really wanted to come to England. Being a teenager he was aware about these things in Western countries and it attracted him,” explains Mrs Bulsara.
She says that Freddie was a performer from a very early age.
“He used to love playing records all the time and then sing – any sort of music, folk, classical or Indian music.”
But the youngster’s cheery spirit was put to the test when he was sent to boarding school in Mumbai. At first he was upset at being separated from his family in Africa and was homesick.
But he soon made friends with other students and formed a band called The Hectics. He was an accomplished musician and was even happy to perform for his supper.
“Any sort of music in the school he used to play and sometimes he used to play at the weekend because it was near a holiday resort. So foreigners used to come in the hotel and he was asked to play piano for them, and all just for a free dinner. He used to do that. He used to love it and it was great,” beams his mother.
Freddie was 16 when the family moved to Britain. His mother and father, Bomi, were initially keen for him to continue his studies. He used to write some of the songs down and tuck them under the pillow before going to college
“He knew we wanted him to be a lawyer or an accountant or something like that, because most of his cousins were. But he’d say, ‘I’m not that clever mum. I’m not that clever’“.
It soon became apparent to the family that Freddie wanted a career in music, and at their humble terraced home he composed music that would later make him world famous.
“He used to write some of the songs down and tuck them under the pillow before going to college,” his mother says. “I used to tell him, ‘Don’t you put rubbish underneath or I’ll throw it away!’. He used to say ‘Don’t throw it away, Mum, it’s very important,” she laughs.
But he was soon forced to choose between living with his parents and his love of music.
“The neighbours were elderly and said that it was disturbing them. He was a very conscientious man. He knew it was disturbing them. I was sad when he left but he said, ‘This is the only way to move forward, Mum’.”
Flamboyant Freddie was a Top of the Pops regular in the 1970s
“I just told him to work hard, do his best and we were here to help him,” adds Mrs Bulsara.
Freddie moved to Kensington in central London and from there his musical career took off. But he would continue to visit his parents regularly, even after he’d become a superstar.
“He used to phone me because he used to love home cooking. He’d say, ‘Mum, I’m coming home’ and he’d come in his Rolls Royce and the neighbours were all excited about it. But nobody bothered him, they were all very good and used to respect us and him,” she says.
His mother’s cooking even sustained Queen during long recording sessions which would stretch late into the night.
“When he used to go to studio for his music he loved the cheese biscuits that I used to bake,” his mother says.
Eighteen years after his death, Queen and Freddie Mercury’s legacy continue to go from strength to strength, with The X Factor recently paying homage to the band and their songs.
Mrs Bulsara is particularly proud that his former home town is now going to honour her son.
“I thought that they’d have done it earlier a lot earlier. A long time earlier. But anyway I’m very proud,” she says.