British rock journalist Lesley-Ann Jones, who has written a definitive biography on Parsi rock star Freddie Mercury, decoded the psychology behind the reclusive icon for her audience at the NCPA's Literature Live festival on Wednesday.
In conversation with columnist and radio jockey Vinod Advani, Jones, who travelled on four tours with Mercury's band Queen, spoke about the rise and fall of the band, how it dealt with Mercury's confused sexuality, and why he was a flamboyant performer, but a shy person.
“When we were on tour, I would be interviewing the band, and Freddie would sit in a corner, with his knees curled up, rushing to cover his mouth when someone made him laugh,” said Jones. “He had no confidence, but he would imagine what it would be like to have it, and projected that on stage.”
Jones wrote the first version of the biography 15 years ago, and in 2010, when there were talks of a film, her publisher wanted to reprint the book. “I said I'd have to rewrite it because there was new information I had now,” she said. She interviewed 102 new people in Zanzibar, India and England, where Mercury had lived, for the new version. Mercury was bisexual, and although he never publicly came out, his relationships with men and women were well-known. “He thought his sexuality would embarrass his conservative Parsi parents, who he was devoted to,” said Jones. “Among his band members, it was an accepted fact, and no one minded.”
According to Jones, a biographer's greatest challenge was to not be judgmental about the subject. “I had interacted with Freddie, and spoke to so many people about him,” she said. “Sometimes, I would get five versions of a story. My job was to tell all five so the reader could form his own opinion.”
Speaking about Queen's current frontman choice, American Idol finalist Adam Lambert, Jones said, “He's Queen's greatest fan, and works to pay homage to Freddie, using his wide vocal range and his performance style.”