‘He was completely focused': Queen’s Brian May remembers Freddie Mercury’s brave final days

Even as Freddie Mercury was fighting for his life, he worked on Queen music. The hope was always, it seemed, that something could be made of these final musical moments. But, as Brian May remembers, it wasn’t always easy.

At the turn of the 1990s, Mercury had become noticeably thinner as he battled AIDS. By 1991, he was gone — but Mercury was determined to give all that he could, right up until the end. That moment finally came as the duo was at work on one last unfinished song. May fed lines to a struggling Mercury, who would stop only for a moment of liquid courage before battling on.

“I would write a verse down, and sing it to him,” May tells Herman Grech, “because the song wasn’t really written at that time. And for each line, he did four takes. And then we’d write another verse. And he would be like, ‘Give me a vodka.’ That gave him his strength. After another shot, he’s say: ‘Give me more lyrics. More, more more. I want to do this.’ He was completely focused. He knew that he wouldn’t be there that long.”

This session was about one month before Mercury succumbed. The resulting track, titled “Mother Love,” would eventually appear on 1995’s posthumous Made in Heaven.

“That was the last thing we ever did together,” May says. “Freddie was really quite ill. He would only have moments where he was OK, and he could prop himself up and sing. But he was eager to work. He loved to work. It was the thing that really made him smile.”

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