Original lyrics to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ scrawled on a 1974 calendar page, stage costumes and mustache comb to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London.
Part power ballad, part operatic aria, then heavy metal again, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is loved around the world as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. But would it have been so successful under the name “Mongolian Rhapsody”?
The previously unpublished 15-page original text of the song has now been found in the estate of Freddie Mercury, the singer and author of this marvelous work who died in 1991. Written by hand on a calendar from 1974, instead of “Mama, just killed a man/ Put a gun against his head” at the beginning of the song, it says “Mama, there’s a war began / I’ve got to leave tonight”. Above all, however, it is titled “Mongolian Rhapsody”.
Queen guitarist Brian May recalls that Mercury played the band drafts of what would become Bohemian Rhapsody back in the early ’70s. “I remember Freddie came home from work with a bunch of papers and started banging on the piano,” May said in 2008. “He played the piano like most people play the drums.”
The song he played was full of gaps “to which he explained that something operatic was going to happen here and so on. He already had the harmonies in his head.” At the time, Mercury called the song “The Cowboy Song”. “Bohemian Rhapsody” as we know it today would not be released until several years later, in 1975 on the album “A Night At The Opera”.
Auction at Sotheby’s
Along with the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the lyrics to “We Are The Champions” and other Queen songs will also be auctioned, as well as stage costumes, art, furniture and Mercury’s mustache comb. The expected price of the original text of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is estimated at around 1.2 million euros.
Before the approximately 1,500 objects in the auction series “Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own” can be bought, they are to be exhibited in London between August 4th and September 5th, the singer’s 77th birthday. The exhibits will first be on view in New York from Thursday and then in Los Angeles and Hong Kong until June 8, Sotheby’s said in London.
Other gems from Mercury’s estate include stage outfits, works by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and a copy of the Edwardian crown, the original of which was presented to King Charles III. worn at his coronation on May 6th. According to the catalogue, Sotheby’s has estimated a price of between 70,000 and 93,000 euros for the jeweled imitation crown and the accompanying cape made of dark red velvet and faux fur.
The crown worn by Mercury on stage during the 1986 Magic tour is currently on display at Sotheby’s in New York. The auction house estimates the total proceeds from the estate at 6.78 million euros. Mary Austin, a close friend of Freddie Mercury who has previously taken care of the collection, intends to invest part of this sum in the fight against AIDS.
To this end, the money will go to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which was founded by former band members Brian May and Roger Taylor and Queen manager Jim Beach after Mercury’s death, and to Elton John’s AIDS Foundation.
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