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‘I can’t do this any more’: Queen’s Brian May recalls Freddie Mercury’s words after Knebworth gig

Queen singer Freddie Mercury shocked his bandmates in 1986 when he told them after their famous Knebworth gig that he did not want to perform live any longer due to his ailing health, a new documentary reveals.

Guitarist Brian May says in the upcoming Freddie Mercury: The Final Act, which airs on Saturday, how his friend told him and fellow bandmates Roger Taylor and John Deacon that he wanted to stop live performances.

At the time of the gig, which was performed in front of a sell-out 200,000-strong crowd at Knebworth Park, in Hertfordshire, May and Taylor were unaware that Mercury was suffering from AIDS, which there was no treatment for at the time.

‘We had done the biggest tour ever of our lives and it was a great success and we were very happy. And Freddie said, “I can’t do this anymore, after this.” And we went, “oh”,’ May says. 

Taylor adds: ‘He was fairly firm at that point about the fact that he didn’t want to do anymore live shows, which sort of told us that there was something wrong.’

The BBC programme also hears from others who were closest to Mercury, including his sister Kashmira Bulsara, long-time friend Anita Dobson and personal assistant Peter Freestone to recount their recollections of the singer’s final years.

Mercury, who was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar in September 1946, passed away due to complications from AIDS 30 years ago yesterday, at the age of 45.

To mark the anniversary, fans left flowers outside his former home in Earl’s Court – an echo of how floral tributes piled up outside the residence in the days after he passed away on November 24, 1991.

Queen singer Freddie Mercury shocked his bandmates in 1986 when he told them after their famous Knebworth gig that he did not want to perform live any longer due to his ailing health, a new documentary reveals

Guitarist Brian May says in the upcoming Freddie Mercury: The Final Act, which airs on Saturday, how his friend told him and fellow bandmates Roger Taylor and John Deacon that he wanted to stop live performances. Above: Taylor (left), Mercury, May (second from left) and Deacon pose for a publicity photo to promote their tour of Japan in 1975

Guitarist Brian May says in the upcoming Freddie Mercury: The Final Act, which airs on Saturday, how his friend told him and fellow bandmates Roger Taylor and John Deacon that he wanted to stop live performances. Above: Taylor (left), Mercury, May (second from left) and Deacon pose for a publicity photo to promote their tour of Japan in 1975 

Queen’s Knebworth Park gig was the final date of the band’s successful Magic Tour. 

The stars performed greatest hits including ‘One Vision’, ‘Radio Ga Ga’, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love,’ ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’.

In line with Mercury’s wishes, the band did not perform live with Mercury after that.

Mr Freestone, who cared for Mercury at his Garden Lodge home in his final weeks, tells in Saturday’s show how the singer refused any more drugs that would keep him alive.

‘The only thing that he would take would be painkillers. And for those last two weeks, he slowly let go,’ he says.

Despite persistent rumours about his state of health, the writer and performer of much-loved anthems including We Are The Champions and Bohemian Rhapsody did not confirm that he had AIDS until the day before his death. 

'We had done the biggest tour ever of our lives and it was a great success and we were very happy. And Freddie said, "I can't do this anymore, after this." And we went, "oh",' May says

‘We had done the biggest tour ever of our lives and it was a great success and we were very happy. And Freddie said, “I can’t do this anymore, after this.” And we went, “oh”,’ May says

The BBC programme also hears from others who were closest to Mercury, including his sister Kashmira Bulsara (pictured), long-time friend Anita Dobson and personal assistant Peter Freestone to recount their recollections of the singer's final years

The BBC programme also hears from others who were closest to Mercury, including his sister Kashmira Bulsara (pictured), long-time friend Anita Dobson and personal assistant Peter Freestone to recount their recollections of the singer’s final years

Queen's Knebworth Park gig was the final date of the band's successful Magic Tour. The stars performed greatest hits including 'One Vision', 'Radio Ga Ga', 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love,' 'We Will Rock You' and 'I Want To Break Free'

Queen’s Knebworth Park gig was the final date of the band’s successful Magic Tour. The stars performed greatest hits including ‘One Vision’, ‘Radio Ga Ga’, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love,’ ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’

In a statement relayed to Queen’s manager Jim Beach and released to the public, Mercury said: ‘Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS.

‘I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me.

‘However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.

‘My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.’

Mercury first began to show symptoms of having HIV – which causes AIDS – in around 1982.

At the time, the disease had only recently emerged among the gay community in the United States and there was no effective treatment for it.

It went on to spread across the world and has now claimed the lives of 33million people.

Journalist David Wigg, who became a close friend of Mercury, says in the BBC show that, when on holiday with the star in Ibiza in 1987, he first noticed a sign that the singer could be suffering from HIV.

‘We were sitting around the pool and it really sent a chill through me because Freddie had a mauve mark on his cheek, and I knew that people get a sort of mauve mark anywhere on their body, it is a sign they could have HIV,’ he says.

Two hours later, Wigg interviewed Mercury, who claimed that he had ‘stopped going out and ‘almost become a nun’ due to the treat posed by AIDS.

Wigg says that, after he had turned his recording machine off, Mercury opened up about the state of his health.

Mercury is seen with his bandmates at the 1990 Brit Awards, at which Queen won the Outstanding Contribution to British Music award

Mercury is seen with his bandmates at the 1990 Brit Awards, at which Queen won the Outstanding Contribution to British Music award

Mercury, Deacon, Taylor and May are seen posing for a publicity photo in 1978. The band became globally successful

Mercury, Deacon, Taylor and May are seen posing for a publicity photo in 1978. The band became globally successful 

To mark the anniversary, fans yesterday left flowers outside Mercury's former home, Garden Lodge, in Earl's Court

To mark the anniversary, fans yesterday left flowers outside Mercury’s former home, Garden Lodge, in Earl’s Court

The moving echoed how floral tributes piled up outside the residence in the days after he passed away on November 24, 1991

The moving echoed how floral tributes piled up outside the residence in the days after he passed away on November 24, 1991

The black Rolls-Royce carrying the coffin of pop star Freddie Mercury arrives at West London Crematorium in Harrow Road on the day of his funeral

The black Rolls-Royce carrying the coffin of pop star Freddie Mercury arrives at West London Crematorium in Harrow Road on the day of his funeral

‘Well if I tell you as a friend David, will you promise me you will not put it in the article?’ and then I thought I know what’s coming, so I said “if you don’t want to then of course not, but I just hope it’s not what I think it is,”‘ he says.

‘And he said, “well I’m afraid it is, but I’m going to fight it and we are going to find a cure”. End of subject.’

Mercury’s final studio performance, in May 1991, was the music video for the Queen song ‘These Are the Days of Our Lives’, in which he appeared frail and gaunt.

Actress Ms Dobson, who became a close friend of the singer, says in the show that Mercury told her soon afterwards: “Darling, when I can’t sing anymore, then I will die, I will drop dead, that’s it.”

She added: ‘And I think, that when he had sung as much as he could sing, he withdrew and he got ready to die’.

His sister adds: ‘I felt that it was a waste of a lovely talented life.

‘But also for those people who died in the same period as Freddie, it was such a bad stigma and shame behind it all, that a lot of families didn’t understand.

‘People died on their own, which I thought was such a shame.’


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