Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury
By Lesley-Ann Jones
“In November 1996 I was invited to a cocktail party and private preview of the Freddie Mercury Photographic Exhibition at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It was to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his death. Everyone in the room that night had a direct link to Freddie and Queen – from Marje, Freddie’s cleaning lady, and Ken Testi, the band’s first-ever manager, to Denis O’regan, a regular Queen photographer. Freddie’s frail old parents were also there. When I introduced myself, they greeted me warmly. His father Bomi Bulsara held my hand.
“It is wonderful to see all these photographs displayed, and to see all these people here in honor of our dear son. We feel very proud” he said.
The exhibition would tour the world, visiting numerous relevant cities including Paris, Montreaux, and Mumbai. After the London opening, a number of fellow journalists chose to “out” the Great Pretender for having “hidden his Indian roots.” Under headlines such as “Bombay Rhahapsody” and “Star of India,” Freddie was “exposed” as Britain’s first Asian pop star. Despite the fact that there was less than a sentence of truth in it, the yarn made several sensational page leads. Freddie’s Persian origins were thus disputed. Widespread discussion ensued. This caused offence within London’s Persian Parsee community. Not that Fleet street’s finest gave a toss about that.
“Just because our people have not lived in Persia since the ninth century, that does not make us any less Persian,” declared a spokesperson for the Parsee community in London.
“While Parsees are described as “Indian Zoroastrians,” we descend from the Persian Zoroastrians who fled to India in the seventh and eight centuries to escape Muslim persecution. The fact that we migrated to India does not make us Indian. If you are Jew, but your family have not lived in Palestine for the past two thousand years, does that make you less Jewish? There is a great deal of difference between race and nationality. Between roots and citizenship. The Persian Parsee may not have a place to call home [the land which was once their territory being modern-day Iran]. Nonetheless, he remains Persian in his heart.”
As far as Freddie was concerned, you only had to look at him. His classic Persian looks were indisputably at odds with what is commonly considered “Indian.” Every picture, those extra teeth notwithstanding, tells the tale.
Page 28, Lesley-Ann Jones