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Somebody to Love

The Life, Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury
Narrated by: Tim Bruce
Length: 15 hrs and 5 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (42 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For the first time, the final years of one of the world's most captivating rock showmen are laid bare.

When Freddie Mercury died in 1991, aged just 45, the world was rocked by the vibrant and flamboyant star's tragic secret that he had been battling AIDS. That Mercury had even been diagnosed came as a shock to his millions of fans, with his announcement coming less than 24 hours before his death.

In Somebody to Love, biographers Mark Langthorne and Matt Richards skilfully weave Freddie Mercury's incredible pursuit of musical greatness with Queen, his upbringing and his endless search for love with the story of a terrible disease that swept across the world in the 1980s, as medical treatment fought to catch up with it despite underfunding, social ignorance and homophobia.

With brand-new perspectives from Mercury's closest friends and fellow musicians, this unique and deeply moving tribute casts a very different light on both his death and the origins of AIDS itself.

An intimate listen, like Freddie and his art, it will stay with you for a long time.

©2014 Matt Richards & Mark Langthorne (P)2017 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Left me feeling dirty.

If you are looking for a well-rounded biography of Freddie Mercury, than I cannot recommend this book to you. This book is primarily interested in the most sensational aspects of Freddie Mercury's life, specifically, that he was a gay man who contracted AIDS and died. I found this problematic, and at times uncomfortably homophobic, for a text published in 2016.

This book parallels Mercury's story with that of the AIDS virus, and for those interested in the history of AIDS and HIV, there is some interesting material in this book. This does however tend to reduce Freddie Mercury's life, to the fact that he was a promiscuous gay man, who contracted HIV and died of AIDS. Even early accounts of his schooling tend to focus primarily on the question of how gay Freddie was at school. This results in some truly bizarre content, including a pseudo-scientific exploration of whether the trauma of being sent to boarding school turns boys gay. The author appears to be drawing a longbow here, linking Freddie Mercury's eventual death to his early life in boarding school. Frankly, it comes across a bit homophobic in an age when homosexuality is no longer considered a mental illness. In later sections, the book seems to dedicate an uncomfortably long time, trying to pinpoint the exact time, place and even sexual encounter, which likely resulted in Freddie's infection with HIV. I personally found this macabre, sensationalist and exploitative. I also took issue with the author's use of statistics (who knows how accurate or out of date) that seem to reinforce negative stereotypes of gay men and women, as more promiscuous than heterosexual people and less likely to form lasting monogamous relationships.

This is the only biography I have read of Freddie Mercury. He appears to have been a very private person in life and perhaps there isn't a truly comprehensive alternative on the market. This book however, is less about Freddie Mercury's life than his death; at times reading more like a history treatise on the AIDS virus with some fun facts about a famous guy thrown in, to add interest and commercial appeal. For me it didn't really work. It left me feeling dirty.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Provided all sides of Freddie’s life

Really enjoyed the narrator, the story and the facts surrounding his life.

Would recommend to both Queen’s fans as someone who never heard about them nor Freddie.

Reflective story about his legacy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good story.

at first I wasn't taken in with the mix of the aids story in it because I was only interested in queen. but after a while it moves to be an interesting piece of information along side with the way it ended up such an integral part of the queen story. the read is s little flat and when he quotes people like deacon I couldn't imaging him speaking in that tone. it sounded as though everyone was always angry. Very enjoyable though and if you're a fan you'll love it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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eye opening

greatly in depth story of not only the Great Showman but of the terrible progress of AIDS

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  • zico
  • christchurch
  • 11-08-2018

Narrator did not appeal

Excellent interwined story of Freddy Mercury and the arrival of Aids. Let down by the Narrator in my view. Could have been shortened without losing its impact

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • tru britty
  • 19-07-2018

Stunning dual biography of Freddie and AIDS

Freddie Mercury's history has become inextricably linked with the AIDS epidemic, but he was so much more than that. It's his music that has become his legacy. His performance at 1985's Live Aid was merely the crowning glory of this charismatic performer.

Still, authors Matt Richards and Matt Langthorne made the decision to tell Freddie's story at the same time they unfolded the story of AIDS, which from the most recent evidence seems to have passed from chimp to human via an animal bite sometime around 1908 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Both stories are fascinating in the extreme. But it's Freddie's that takes up the largest chunk of the story, as the authors follow him from his birth in Zanzibar to Indian parents of Persian descent. There's the Indian boarding school, the move to London, the art school and the first band. (You can find an unearthed home movie of Freddie with his college pals on YouTube. What's amazing is how reserved and camera shy he is.)

The story gets into Queen territory when Freddie becomes a dedicated follower of Jimi Hendrix and a local London group called Smile, with Brian May on guitar, Roger Taylor on drums, some guy on bass (eventually to be John Deacon) and a lead singer, whom Freddie would eventually replace, rechristening the band Queen.

The chapters are a good mesh of band and music history along with glimpses of Freddie's personal life. Freddie dated girls, and had one long-term girlfriend (Mary Austin) in particular. But he seemed to begin identifying almost exclusively as a gay man in the mid-70s. That brought him into contact with the gay scene in New York, where AIDS was already making inroads, though no one knew it because the retrovirus has an incubation period of up to 10 years.

The authors try to pin down Freddie's infection to 1981 or 1982 and cite a Saturday Night Live performance in 1982, when Freddie was battling a throat condition, a possible indicator a person has been infected, showing up within weeks of the original infection though the virus otherwise remains dormant.

There is information about Freddie's boyfriends (including his last Jim Hutton), the Live Aid performance, the leaking of Freddie's HIV test to the British tabloid press, the last concert tour in 1986, Freddie living with full-blown AIDS (with the press hounding him for a confession), Freddie throwing himself into studio work, his final recordings and music videos with Queen, his death in November 1991, and the Freddie tribute concert organized by May and Taylor.

Narrator Tim Bruce does an excellent job. His voice is well-suited to the story.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Trystin Figel
  • 24-01-2019

Beautifully written

After seeing Bohemian Rhapsody two times in theaters. It reignited my passion for queen and made me want to learn more about them and Freddy as a whole. There were so many books to choose from and I’m glad I picked this one , the origin of HIV was fascinating , and the accounts of such a wonderful man’s life was pieced together seamlessly. This book brought out so many emotions , happiness , wonder, inspiration , sadness , and hope . Highly recommend ... Still can’t get over how great of a read it was .

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Rabid Mongoose
  • 18-11-2018

Great story, but the NARRATOR -- yikes!

I wish the author had gone a bit more into the history of HIV, but that's only because I'm in the medical field. Probably it was enough for the average person. I have to say, though, that the narrator really grated on me. It reminded me of a smarmy BBC nature commentator -- you just want information on the magnificent creatures you're watching, but you have to put up with a kind of arch, almost camp narration style that gets on your nerves. The narrator also has a habit of "upspeaking," where his tone rises at the end of sentences, almost as though he's asking a question, instead of making a statement.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • mizeryluvkompany
  • 20-05-2018

Queen Freddie Mercury.

best Queen book ive ever read or heard. tons of insight in this book. recommend.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Beecher
  • 13-11-2018

Excellent biography, with context

I loved this biography in part because it placed Mercury's life and death in the context of the overall history of the beginning of the HIV/AIDs pandemic and the world events surrounding the initial discovery of HIV/AIDs as well as the politics of the time vis-a-vis gay men and the stigma around HIV/AIDs. This aspect of the historical context of Mercury's life is not covered in other biographies and I think it's a critical part of understanding Mercury's life choices, such as his decision not to reveal publicly that he was suffering from HIV/AIDs until the day before his death. This biography includes interviews and facts not found in the Mercury bio by Lesley-Ann Jones (although I recommend that one as well, because it likewise contains interviews and facts not found here).

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-03-2018

Very good!

Interesting and fascinating look on his life, society/world state of mind and origin of HIV. Narrator sounding a bit like Freddie made for a pleasant listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jane Ciau
  • 07-01-2018

Amazing book

The narrator was amazing and Freddy will live on for ages to come. Greatly told story of his life.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Garry S. Garrett
  • 28-11-2018

Worthwhile, a wee bit heavy on AIDS history

The timeline presented in this book was appreciated in light of the recent movie which oddly compressed things that didn't need compressed. The telling was difficult to follow as the authors quoted many folks and it was perplexing as there was no change of voice or tone for different speakers. I would recommend a female voice for female quotes, for example. While the book was rich with insight into Freddie's crazy little life, it was too detailed on the history and diaspora of AIDS, imo which caused it to drag on.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Jonathan Scott Allen
  • 14-02-2019

Well sourced

Very detailed description of the origin and spread of HIV/AIDS which parallels really well, if not tragically, with Freddie’s life and career. As a huge Queen/Freddie fan, I’d say this is a must read. It’s very informative and does not sensationalize Freddie’s life, but tries to explain things as they were, in so far as history and people’s memories allow.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Calicat
  • 23-08-2018

Extraordinary Biography of Freddie Mercury

As a lifelong fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury in particular, my heart truly took an emotional ride guided by the narrator’s excellent interpretation of the text. The inter splicing of the rise and fall of AIDS and the medical history interwoven with Mercury’s personal history both enlightened me and increased my respect of Mercury through both his professional contribution to modern popular music and his posthumous contribution of money to the research of a cure for AIDS. No doubt if you’re not even a huge fan of Queen you will enjoy this book for its complete and complex look into the life of a true musical genius. When I was in Montreaux I saw the bronze statue of Freddie with his arm raised and index finger pointing upwards towards heaven - and that’s where he belongs if there is a heaven indeed.

Thank you to the authors for treating his life with respect and with brutal honesty. He would have loved the book, I’m certain!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Colin Smith
  • 22-11-2018

One of the best audiobooks I've ever listen to

I'm not a massive Queen fan and always found the story of Freddie Mercury a bit depressing if honest. I listened to this on a whim and glad I did. This is genuinely one of the best audiobooks I've ever listened to. This really is 2 stories, the story of Freddie from his emigration to rockstar and untimely death and the history of the HIV virus from origin to eventual medical detection. It's an odd combination, but is a captivating listen. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • david healy
  • 04-11-2018

highly recommended

loved it. Very detailed and accurate. everything I've read or seen about Freddie Mercury was in here, and more.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. Adam Mclaughlin
  • 22-01-2019

Excellently narrated and very interesting

I nearly didn't purchase this based on some negative reviews, however it was excellent throughout,

A necessary focus was given to AIDs/HIV and I must admit to being much greater informed as a result.

During listening to this, many times I paused the book and then using the voice activation in the car was able to get Spotify to play many tracks just discussed, several of which were not familiar to me. It was a really neat way of complimenting this.

Recommended from me.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Helen Morris
  • 03-04-2019

No holds barred

Though partial as all records are there is a good balance of admiration and disappointment in the way Freddie loved. The educational link between the history of Freddie and AIDS is brilliant. Glad I am better informed on both accounts.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • ANDY GALLAGHER
  • 19-01-2018

Excellent

A brilliant, informative and moving account of the life of on of the greatest frontmen the world has ever witnessed.

RIP Freddie!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris Christo
  • 15-06-2019

Who’s history is this?

I felt that the history provided in this book was a collection of articles stitched together and there wasn’t much new or exclusive information. It was an interesting history though and I did enjoy the book but the narration was kind of flat and robotic. I wound up listening to some parts on double speed or it would have put me to sleep. In the end it was like I’d listened to the worlds longest magazine article being read to me by a computer. The actual story makes it worth a listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • David M.
  • 21-10-2017

Interesting

What a great insight to Freddie’s life .. he was the true pretender, a great showman, and the greatest singer,songwriter of all time ..
We will rock you !!

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Squeaky Joe
  • 08-05-2019

A must for all Queen fans

When Freddie Mercury died in November 1991, the world lost one of its most talented and flamboyant rock stars. But only hours before his death, it was revealed he had been battling AIDS. Biographers Mark Langthorne and Matt Richards tell the story of the superstar who was Queen’s charismatic frontman, from his birth in Zanzibar through his years with the band, solo projects and his endless search for love.

Like many people, I became a fan of Queen following the release of Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, immediately buying all their albums up to that date and for several years afterwards. Though it was always the band’s early work that attracted me, in particular Brian May’s inimitable guitar sound, I was spellbound my Mercury’s amazing vocal talents and song-writing abilities. The sheer range and variety in Queen’s music seemed so different to that of other groups around at the time, that they always stood out as a unique and highly gifted group. And while May, Taylor and Deacon contributed hugely to the band’s success, it was Mercury who dazzled audiences with his virtuoso approach during Queen’s live shows.

Against the backdrop of the spread of AIDS, the authors chart the musician’s rise to fame, detailing his early life and musical development, his many relationships and his contribution to rock music. Though there are many biographies about Freddie Mercury, this one presents his life in all its glorious (and sometimes not so glorious) detail. A must for all Queen fans.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul Glendenning
  • 05-05-2019

What a revelation

As someone born in the 70's who grew up in 80's UK and considering themselves a Queen fan for nigh on 40 years I was blissfully unaware of the story and facts of the band and Freddie. Like some reading this review i became more interesred following the entertsining but chronologically inaccurate movie Bohemian Rhapsody in 2018. I chose this particular book due to the reviews citing the chapters on HIV and Aids adding additional benefit; those reviews were not wrong. The chronological, geographical and cultural journey of HIV presented in this audiobook is a fascinating, sobering and at times upsetting listen, still massivley relevent today. I cannot recommend this audiobook highly enough to anyone wanting to learn about Freddie or Queens journey

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs F.
  • 14-03-2019

So interesting

I really enjoyed this book. I appreciated the insight into the spread of aids and felt it was an important part of the story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful