WHERE WERE YOU WHEN: Freddie stole the show at Live Aid?

Billions watched as Queen’s flamboyant frontman strutted his way into rock history on 13 July 1985.

Freddie Mercury 13 July 1985
Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

Freddie Mercury was, without doubt, the rock star born to revel in the spotlight of nearly two billion viewers worldwide. This photograph was taken at the Live Aid concert at Wembley. There were 72,000 in the stadium, another 90,000 watching it on a big screen in Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium, and the event was beamed live to 150 countries. Queen were coming off the back of a nine-month world tour to promote their 1984 album The Works and were rehearsed and ready. They came on at 6.41pm UK time and blew everyone before and after them off the stage.

Nothing like Live Aid – organised to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia – had happened before. It was the first global charity concert, inspiring a mass outpouring of emotion. Most recall its finest hour the same way – Freddie jogged across the stage to whip up the crowd, before sitting at the piano to perform ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. The moment he picked out its opening chords the day was won. Queen played their most anthemic numbers, ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘We Are the Champions’ and ‘Radio Ga Ga’, and Freddie encouraged the crowd to join in, even putting them through their paces with a call-and-response vocal improvisation. It was this connection, made by such a genuinely loved performer, that beamed itself into the hearts of even the most distant TV viewers.

This is the performance at the centre of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, which stars Rami Malek as Freddie and won Best Picture and Best Actor gongs at the Golden Globes, and Best Actor at the BAFTAs. However, unlike in the film, the singer did not reveal he was HIV positive before going on stage, and no matter how perfectly Rami mimics Freddie’s voice and rocks his look, star charisma is impossible to fake. Freddie had it, and the whole world could see.

Also that month…

Photo by Professional Sport/Popperfoto/Getty Images
  • Playboy and Penthouse published naked pictures of Madonna.
  • British athlete Steve Cram ran a world-record mile in 3:46.32.
  • A spokeswoman for actor Rock Hudson confirmed he had Aids.
  • French intelligence agents blew up the Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand to stop it interfering with French nuclear tests in the South Pacific, killing photographer Fernando Pereira.
  • At Wimbledon Martina Navratilova beat Chris Evert to win her sixth singles title and, at 17, Boris Becker became the youngest men’s champion.

Report by Chris Harvey