Every morning, Freddie Mercury tells us, he wakes only to feel a part of his soul die. Isolation and profound loneliness, he mourns, haunt him at every hour. He is alone and cut off from the world—an ugly loveless world which has dismissed his divine and incessant longing as mere insanity. Yearning for relief, weeping on his knees, Freddie prays in desperation to be set free from this solitary hell. But just what, exactly, is the nature of his prison cell? It’s simple. He has no one to love. If you listen closely, “Somebody to Love” might just be the saddest song you’ve ever heard. How is it, then, that any listen results in pumping fists and rocking joy? How did Freddie manage to transform his social and political isolation into a trapdoor for victorious, strutting, liberation?
Celebrated for his vocal abilities and flamboyant stage presence with the band Queen, Freddie Mercury is widely accepted as a rock god—perhaps the rock god—of the twentieth century. Yet, contained within this one human life, we find so much more than music and rock bravado. Indeed, scholarly interest in Mercury continues to grow, even as his life recedes farther into the past. Spanning the years of the sexually repressive Cold War, through the early decades of gay liberation, and culminating in a tragic death at the dawn of the AIDS crisis, Freddie’s life and the unique agency by which he lived are pure goldmines for feminist theory and radical queer politics. It’s difficult to imagine a body less bound by identity politics, or a man less concerned with prevailing norms of gender, sex, and love. Though he spent most of his adult life sexually and romantically involved with men, his life-long love was a woman named Mary. Gay, straight, bisexual, repressed? To the confused skeptics so desperate to put him into a recognizable category, Freddie responded: “Go fuck yourself.”
Please join us for this Olio in celebration of the miracle Freddie Mercury. We'll discuss, analyze, and experience the transcendence of Freddie’s prison, his freedom, and his music. We will talk about whether identity categories provide strength and solidarity, or do they limit the radical and creative possibilities just beneath the surface of political life? Finally, we will discuss the possibilities for resisting the sexual shame produced by our hetero-normative culture. This Olio is for anyone who has ever struggled with the questions: What am I? What do I desire? Who should I love? Who will love me? Is my loneliness a source of pain or liberation? And of course, this one is for Freddie.