Freddie Mercury (centre) with his mum Jer and dad Bomi Bulsara. Pic courtesy/Freddie mercury: The great pretender, a life in pictures
The world may never have had Freddie Mercury or the rock band Queen, had it not been for his mother, Jer Bulsara, who was his first and greatest champion.
Jer Bulsara leafs through photos of her son, Freddie. Pic courtesy/queenonline.com
The 94-year-old quietly passed away in her Nottingham home in the UK on November 13, more than two decades after her beloved son and British rock icon died of AIDS in 1991. Freddie’s friend and fellow band member Brian May broke the news his Facebook this Saturday, paying homage to the “warm and devoted mum to Freddie, who always had a twinkle in her eye.”
Born in Gujarat on October 16, 1922, Jer married Bomi, a cashier for the British Colonial Office, and moved to Zanzibar. A few years later came Freddie, who was then known as Farrokh Bulsara. Jer was heartbroken when they had to send him to St Peter’s boarding school in Panchgani, when he was eight.
But the boarding school created the foundation for Freddie Mercury, the rock star, as he formed his first band, The Hectics. Jer encouraged her son in his pursuit of music from that tender age, enrolling him for piano lessons as well.
Political upheaval in Zanzibar prompted the family to flee to London in 1964. Jer and her husband took jobs at departmental store Marks & Spencer, and settled in Feltham in West London, which has a sizable Asian population. In September this year, the house, 22 Gladstone Avenue, was commemorated with a blue plaque that bore Freddie’s name.
Freddie went to an art school but was confused about his career path. She remembered how he would watch Elvis Presley and say, “I’m going to be like him one day.”
Jer even accepted his change of last name to Mercury, based on his ruling astrological planet. When the rock band Queen was formed in the 1970s, a nervous Jer and Brian May’s mother went to watch them play and knew that the boys were going to make it. Jer, a strong Zoroastrian by faith, accepted his hedonistic lifestyle, often saying that “a performer had to please his audience.”
Freddie became terminally ill after being diagnosed with AIDS and passed away in 1991. Unaware of his sexuality or his terminal illness, the death of Freddie when he was only 45 took a huge toll on Jer. In her last meeting with her dying son, she remembers how worried he was about the media troubling her. Like her son, she kept her distance from the press.
In 2012, when a photo album with rare photographs of Freddie was released, Jer described how hard his death had been for her. “No mother wants to see her son die, but he has done more for the world in his short life than many people could do in 100 years,” she said. After his death, the couple moved to Nottingham to be closer to their daughter Kashmira Cookes.
In interviews to the press, Jer would speak about her son’s devotion to his family, and recount the story behind every song that was composed, as well as the initial struggles of the band. Jer’s favourite song is ‘Somebody to Love’, but she also recalled how the band had found it difficult to sell the iconic track ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ — because it was too long.
She has seen the ‘We Will Rock You’ musical in London six times, and enjoys the ‘Freddie for the Day event’, where people dress up as Freddie and raise money for AIDS charities across the globe.
In 1999, Jer travelled to India to attend an exhibition in honour of her son. She was asked by an excited airhostess if she was “Mrs Mercury.” She smiled and replied that Freddie Mercury was her boy, but she was Jer Bulsara.
Like son, like mother
Jer, like Freddie, is loved by many. Her funeral and memorial service will be a private affair but the Internet finds many paying her a tribute.
Jer might have not known it, but her undying support to her unconventional son and his memory, has been a tale of inspiration to many.