His father was an accountant for the British Colonial Office in Zanzibar. Freddie was educated at St. Peter's boarding school near Bombay, India, where he had his first musical training (Grade V piano) and also his first experience of performing onstage, with his band, the Hectics. It was at St. Peter's where he picked up the name 'Freddie'; soon even his parents addressed him by that name.
After a revolution in Zanzibar, Freddie and his family were forced to flee to England, where he pursued a Diploma in Art and Graphic Design. This knowledge was to come in useful when he designed Queen's famous crest.
With a wide vocal range and a somewhat operatic technique, he was one of the most versatile and technically accomplished singers to work in the pop idiom, as well as the composer of many of Queen's hits, including Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody to Love and We Are the Champions.
Mercury's songwriting was unique, demonstrating influence from a variety of sources, but a strong individual sense of melody, harmony, and complex orchestration. In several of his most well-crafted and popular tunes he provided all of the vocal tracks, resulting in a smooth controlled sound that was at the time unprecendented.
Queen started using studio overdubs in a serious way with their second album, "Queen II," which features Freddie's music on the entire second side of the LP (or, in CD parlance, tracks 6-11). Many listeners identify Bohemian Rhapsody as the pinnacle of his musical achievement, but it is possible to find the seeds of this mini-opera in his earlier works.
He released two solo albums: Mr. Bad Guy (1985) and Barcelona (1988), this one with Catalan soprano Montserrat Caballé. The latter album was a surprise to critics, being the first collaboration of its kind, but was nonetheless widely acclaimed, even if it was commercially unsuccessful. One of his hits as a solo artist was a cover of the song The Great Pretender (1987), but after his death gained his first solo number 1 Living On My Own, remixed by 'No More Brothers', which was his biggest UK hit.
He was bisexual; however, he did not officially come out until his announcement that he had AIDS, one day before he died. He was a fan of Liza Minnelli and Michael Jackson, the latter of whom he collaborated with on some tracks, which were never published.
He was well known for his extravagance and hedonism, but also for his kindness and generosity. He adored cats and kept several, even writing a song about his favourite (Delilah, on the Innuendo album, 1991). He was a heavy smoker, which contributed to a roughening of his voice in the Eighties.
He died of AIDS on November 24, 1991, in London. Remaining members of Queen founded The Mercury Phoenix Trust and organized The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.
Mercury appears in the 2002 List of "100 Greatest Britons" (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public).
He was a Zoroastrian. His famous overbite was caused by the presence of four extra teeth which pushed his incisors out. He commented early in his career that he wished to have work done on his teeth, but regretted that he didn't have time to do it. He also expressed fears that such an operation might damage his voice.
His voice was three and a half octaves
Mercury left £100,000 to his chef, and left his £18-million house to his friend Mary Austin.