Last night my wife and I finished watching Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie. It ends with a re-creation of Queen's famous performance at the 1985 Live Aid event at Wembley Stadium in London.
A New York Times story about the performance says, "Freddie Mercury’s set in July 1985 is often called one of the greatest live performances of all time." For sure.
You can view it via the video below, which has gotten over 211 million views. Mercury performs for about 21 minutes. I found watching him to be both highly entertaining and deeply inspiring.
Mercury was a gay man at a time when homosexuals mostly were expected to stay in the closet. Watching Mercury's struggles with his sexuality in the movie made me appreciative of how far society has evolved in its acceptance of LBGT people, who are, of course, almost certainly born that way.
The New York Times story speaks about how Mercury sent a message to the audience, estimated at 1.9 billion people in 150 countries.
Mercury’s pinnacle bow at “Live Aid” was charged by a poignant sense of subversion. Here was a gay man stuck in a pop culture moment that continued to insist his identity remain shielded in code. But what glorious code he chose! Through his balletic gait and florid presentation, Mercury rubbed the nose of Live Aid’s global audience in a powerful brand of effeminacy, seducing them into adoring something they might otherwise view with contempt.
Such is the power of authenticity, being who you really are.
Freddy Mercury had an amazing amount of talent. But he wouldn't have been able to captivate the 70,000 people in Wembley Stadium, and almost two billion watching on TV, if he hadn't possessed the courage to show the world who he was -- albeit in code, as the NYT story observes, given the backwardness of society in 1985 as regards homosexuality.
Queen's performance was a secular "miracle." Likely few people who saw it live will ever forget the experience. There's so many ways other than religion to be uplifted, transformed, touched by a higher power, feeling one with the world.
Here's one of them.