An extremely popular event is held each year in the period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in The Netherlands. A radio station, NPO Radio 2, hosts a week-long programme playing what listeners vote to be the best 2,000 songs of all time.
The following article was written by one of the contributors to our Dutch-language ‘Postzegelblog’ website, Randy Koo:
The polling stations are closed. And for the 16th year the six-minute and six-second mini rock opera song Bohemian Rhapsody (1975) by the band Queen is number 1 in the TOP2000. Meanwhile, a film (biopic) with the same title has recently appeared in the cinema. How did Queen come into being and why is Freddie Mercury so important to the music world?
When we analyse the text of Bohemian Rhapsody, we encounter familiar names and events which can be connected to many lands and many postage stamps.
Queen is an English rock group founded in London in 1970 by guitarist Brian May, singer Freddie Mercury and drummer Roger Taylor, supplemented with bassist John Deacon in 1971. With dozens of hits in the seventies, eighties and nineties, Queen is one of the most successful pop groups in the world. The band’s performance during the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, London in 1985 was elected 20 years later as the best live performance of all time.
Queen’s big breakthrough came in 1974 with the singles Killer Queen and Now I’m Here from the album Sheer Heart Attack and one year later the album A Night at the Opera, which contained the number one hit Bohemian Rhapsody, was released. The band has released a total of fifteen studio albums, seven live albums, two EPs, ten DVDs, multiple collection albums and dozens of singles.
Zanzibar and Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara (Stone Town, Zanzibar, September 5, 1946) and died in London on November 24, 1991.
Stone Town is the old town of Zanzibar City, the capital of the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania. Until the 19th century it was an important trade centre for cloves and the Arab slave trade. Stone Town has been on the World Heritage List since 2000.
Zanzibar is an island on the east coast of Africa that belongs to Tanzania. Together with the nearby island of Pemba, the island forms the semi-autonomous state of Zanzibar. The islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia are sometimes called the Spice Islands. The number of inhabitants is estimated at 800,000 (1994). The most important city, also the economic centre, is Zanzibar with its free port and historic city Stone Town. Zanzibar has as its main sources of income spices (including clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper) and tourism. Zanzibar is the only region where the Zanzibar red colobus monkey (Procolobus kirkii) exists.
Zanzibar has a long philatelic history. In 1895, stamps from India were used in Zanzibar.
Zanzibar overprinted British India stamps from 1895.
Selection of Zanzibar stamps 1896-1961.
Zanzibar was a British protectorate until 10th December 1963. Zanzibar subsequently became independent. After a coup in January 1964, Zanzibar became a republic. It then joined forces with Tanganyika on the 26th of April 1964 to become the ‘United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar’, later known as the country of Tanzania.
Freddie became known as the singer and frontman of the Queen group and became one of the best and most popular rock artists and pop singers of all time. He was known for his extroverted stage personality and explosive performances. He also had a vocal range of four octaves, which is extraordinary for a male singer.
England (1999): Freddie Mercury (part of the Millennium issue)
In 1975 Freddie Mercury wrote his greatest hit of all time: Bohemian Rhapsody. The song consists of six parts in which different styles of music are covered and lasts 6:06 minutes. Very long for a single. The song is also different in terms of construction because it has no chorus. Also no couplet occurs a second time and the title does not appear in the lyrics. The title refers to the world of bohemians, more specifically individualism and related creativity. The term Rhapsody comes from classical music and is a piece of music that consists of contrasting parts. In the Dutch Top 40 Bohemian Rhapsody had a number 1 ranking and stayed 24 weeks in the hit parade. In the NPO Radio 2 TOP2000, aside from the song being voted number one 16 times it has also been claimed second place four times.
On the 1994 Madagascar stamp Freddie is not on the stamp but on the middle tab. The ‘show must go on’.
When Queen released the album The Miracle in 1989, there was no tour for the first time. Freddie stated that he and the other band members were too old to tour, but that was not the real reason. The real reason was that Freddie already had problems with his health. In the meantime, the rumours that Mercury was suffering from AIDS became stronger, partly because of the fact that he was rarely seen in public. On November 23, 1991, one day before his death, Mercury officially announced worldwide that he was suffering from AIDS. Mercury died of pneumonia on November 24, 1991 in his London house. He was 45 years old.
To be continued..