Freddie Mercury’s unseen handwritten working drafts for Queen’s biggest hits are being exhibited and sold at auction.
They will be unveiled for the first time on Thursday (01.06.23) at Sotheby’s New York before being taken to Los Angeles and Hong Kong and the manuscripts will then return to London as part of a month-long exhibition in August before their sale in ‘Freddie Mercury: A World of his Own’ in September, nearly 32 years after the singer’s death on 24 November 1991 aged 45.
Sotheby’s said: “These sensational pages reveal the genesis of a roll call of Queen songs – most created during a burst of great creativity in the mid-1970s – which, almost fifty years on, continue to resonate throughout contemporary culture.
“They include ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘Somebody to Love’, ‘We are the Champions’, and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which spills its secrets over 15 extraordinary pages of lyrics and melodies, even revealing a possible alternative title to the song.
“In scope, quality and exceptional provenance, the collection of lyrics together afford an unprecedented glimpse into the creative mind of one of the 20th-century’s most influential song-writers.”
The pages come from Freddie Mercury’s personal collection, which has been preserved and treasured at his beloved former London home of Garden Lodge. Sotheby’s added: “Together, they take us on a journey of discovery right to the heart of Mercury as a creative artist, providing glimpses of the alternative forms these most celebrated songs may have taken, and even – in the case of one unpublished early notebook pre-dating Queen’s first record deal – revealing ideas for songs that were never released.”
Dr Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s books and manuscripts specialist said: “Freddie Mercury’s spectacular performances and songs are rightly remembered and celebrated around the world. However, thanks to the emergence of this extraordinary group of early handwritten lyrics we can now also fully appreciate the absolute skill as a lyricist which complemented his consummate showmanship, cementing his standing as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation – and beyond.
“Early drafts such as these are easily lost or discarded, so the rare survival of these manuscripts provides us with fascinating insights into how his songs were developed and put together, as well as reminding us of their musical complexity and sophistication. The revelations in these pages include the extensive redrafting which was part of his songwriting process, and his astonishing detailed attention to plans for the vocal harmonies that are such a distinctive feature of Queen’s sound.
“The care and detail of these drafts is all the more remarkable when they relate to a man who so often downplayed his composition process.
“The pages bear witness to the many hours he put into perfecting his craft, as he experiments and plays with language, and hones and shapes the lyrics and harmonies for these songs which, for many of us, have simply always been there in our lives. While the working lyrics of several great rock and pop songs of the 20th century have come to auction before, to see so many hits presented together and all coming directly from the collection of the artist themself, marks a truly special and unequivocally rare moment.”