“I’m not going to be a star, I’m going to be a legend.”~~ Freddie Mercury
Zanzibar. The name just sounds exciting and exotic, so it is only natural that it is the birth place of the undisputed Ruler of Rock and King of Queen, Freddie Mercury. Born in Stone Town (the old section of Zanzibar) to a Parsi-Indian couple and given the name Farrokh Bulbar in 1946, he had four extra teeth in the back of his mouth. These extra teeth pushed his other teeth forward, resulting in his buck-tooth grin. Farrokh’s nickname as a kid was Bucky. He attended boarding schools in India where he studied piano and started writing music. The family fled to England in 1964 during the Zanzibar Revolution. In England, he pursued a degree in art and graphic design at Ealing College of Art. He teamed up with Brian May and Robert Taylor to form Queen in 1970, legally changing his name to Freddie Mercury around the same time. Freddie’s voice had a four octave range and he attributed that to his extra teeth and refused to even consider getting his teeth “fixed.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Even people who don’t love rock music know the name and the sound of Queen, probably because the music transcends the genre and often crosses over into opera, heavy metal, and other styles. He was a big fan of opera and actually made some recordings with a Spanish opera singer named Montserrat Caballé. I watched the YouTube video of their song, “Barcelona,” with my sweet grandson Sullivan. It must be pretty good music if a four year old stops his busy-ness to watch. Also, you just gotta love Freddie’s cover of Elvis’ “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” No doubt, people of all ages and walks of life recognize Freddie’s inimitable performing style which can be summed up in one word: flamboyant. His on-stage style was pure theater and he had a way of engaging with the audience like no performer had before or has since. I’d be embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve sat spellbound watching Queen on the YouTube video of the 1985 Live Aid concert at London’s Wembley Stadium. I ran a 5K around that stadium in 2016 – not nearly as much fun as being at that concert had to be! Elton John said after the concert,”That day Freddie Mercury stole the show from everyone.” Queen’s performance was judged to be the best performance of the event.
Zanzibar is the name of the archipelago about 35 miles off the coast of mainland Tanzania. Unguja is actually the name of the largest island, but it is known informally as Zanzibar. The capital of Tanzania is Dodoma, a centrally located city, but Dar Es Salaam was the capital city up until 1974, when it was decided to move the capital to Dodoma. For some reason, the move has not been completed as of today and Dar Es Salaam remains the capital in many ways. Zanzibar is actually a semi-autonomous area of the country of Tanzania. I don’t know why I am going into all these details. Things change either very rapidly or very slowly in Africa and all this could be old news by the time I finish this post. Let’s get back to Freddie.
Zanzibar is very proud to be the home town of His Honor, Freddie Mercury. There is a museum dedicated to him, so we took the opportunity to pop in for a visit. The men who founded the museum are huge fans and one of them, Javed Jafferji, is a professional photographer. He autographed copies of his books for all of us. He said that people come from all over the world to the museum. Some break down and cry; some bring flowers. He said it has been quite a journey since they started the museum to see the reaction people have to seeing the collection.
Since we are newbies on this ship, we are in the minority. Probably close to 250 people are about half way through a Silversea world tour. There are some seventy of us who are just here for a segment or two. The world cruisers have all sorts of special events and perks. We, on the other hand, are the red-headed stepchildren. OK, that’s an exaggeration. But it is true that they have events exclusively for them. For example, tonight the world cruisers are going to a special dinner and musical tribute to Freddie Mercury in Stone Town. I begged and pleaded to be included but to no avail. I even scanned our fellow passengers searching for a pair of doppelgängers that we could tie up in a closet for the evening while we use their ID cards. When it was obvious that we were not going to get to go, I told the cruise director that I hoped it wouldn’t be any fun. She roared with laughter and thought I was joking. I wasn’t. Well, OK, I hope the evening is a success. It wouldn’t surprise me if we are able to hear the music from our veranda. We will look for Bohemian Rhapsody on the television or at least watch the YouTube video from Live Aid one more time. I am sure we will be FINE!