The death of Queen singer Freddie Mercury due to AIDS-related complications on Nov. 24, 1991, left his legions of fans and fellow members of rock’s ruling aristocracy thoroughly shell-shocked.
But over the ensuing months, the surviving members of Queen put all of their considerable resources towards organizing a massive concert at London’s Wembley Arena that would feature some of the era’s biggest superstars, performing together to honor Freddie’s larger-than-life memory and immortal influence.
A concert fit for a king…or a Queen, as circumstances would have it.
So on April 20, 1992, there were 75,000 fans gathered at Wembley, while an estimated 2 billion more tuned in via TV or radio (no, there was no Internet back then!), to pay tribute to this rock and roll monarch – a tribute which began with a jaw-dropping selection of world-conquering bands performing mini-sets, including Extreme, Def Leppard, Guns n’ Roses, Metallica and even Spinal Tap!
But to everyone’s amazement, these were merely the opening acts before Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor took the stage to revisit some of Queen’s best-loved songs alongside legendary classic rock peers like Roger Daltrey, Tony Iommi, Robert Plant, David Bowie, Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson and Elton John – not to mention numerous pop stars, to boot.
By the time the remarkable event culminated, hours later, with all of the stars assembled on stage to the strains of ‘God Save the Queen’ (Queen’s traditional, show-ending background music), it’s fair to say that all those who attended or watched remotely had been treated to something much bigger than a star-studded rock show.
Indeed, what came to be known as “A Concert for Life: The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness” raised generous donations for AIDS research and incalculable awareness about the disease across the globe.
At the same time, Freddie’s public send-off doubled as much needed musical therapy for millions of Queen and rock fans, in general – many of them members of an entire generation that came of age under the shadow of AIDS, and, in Freddie, found a fallen champion to rally behind.