Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter weekend gives rise to Queen connections




During this Easter weekend I thought it would be appropriate to call attention to many of the Internet discussions which draw Queen into Christianity as well as other religions.

As a body of work, their music has garnered both favour and derision from those religious voices seeking a poster child for their scorn or for their ideals. Freddie, with his incredibly complex but shy persona, is a frequent target for these groups. If it’s not his music itself that is the point of entry into a debate about religion, it was his decadent lifestyle that led to an early death which seems to be fair game for symbolizing all that is wrong in the world.

Since it is Easter, let’s start with Christianity . . .

Christianity

With Catholicism, convergence with Queen doesn’t get more literal than comparing Freddie to the Pope and that’s exactly what this Washington Post panelist chose to do with his article called What the Pope and Freddie Mercury Have in Common. What I find interesting is that the journalist appears to be of Indian descent himself but is discussing a Catholic issue — condom usage. Does he have street credibility in covering this topic? I think so since he is merely observing and commenting on a world event and drawing upon Freddie’s reputation as a high profile AIDS victim was a good one given the recognition factor he could tap into. And the fact that both Mr. Singh and Freddie were of Indian heritage brings a refreshing perspective to the story.

A random visit to a demoted Catholic cathedral in a French seaside locale gives a tourist (and Queen fan) an unexpected surprise when a group of three people break out into a gospel hymn and followed that up with Somebody to Love. Interesting. Were the visitors Catholic themselves? Did their leader think that singing STL was apropro in a church given the song’s gospel underpinnings? Whatever the case, it would appear that most if not all visitors to that church at that moment were Queen fans.

Judaism

Since Jewish Passover is also being observed (April 6-13, 2012), check out this Bohemian Rhapsody spoof that’s been reworked as Bohemian Passover. I take it that the song’s layered reference to Allah didn’t cause the parody writers to reconsider another less culturally sensitive song. Everyone knows this song, though, so if it’s good enough for the Muppets to spoof, why not the Jewish community. 



Islam

Boy, Freddie gets pulled in both directions with Islam. On one hand, he is a trailblazer for pop musicians in Iran when Queen became the first government-sanctioned western musical act to be openly marketed in that country. This is particularly intriguing because an Iranian stamp of approval for the music is also a tacit approval of homosexuality. Even Elton John got the nod in Iran, so maybe Ahmadinejad’s administration is not as socially conservative as we’re led to believe — or they’re merely oblivious to that side of the artists’ lives.

Another Islamic group that wasn’t so accommodating to Freddie’s legacy was Zanzibar’s Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation which successfully shut down a Freddie celebration scheduled for his birthday in 2006. Wait a minute. Shouldn’t there be mutual agreement on these things within such a high context culture? Either accept the music due to the odd Allah-inspired lyric, or condemn Freddie because of his lifestyle. If not, there’s some picking-and-choosing of moral absolutes going on (which seems very Western, I must say). This cartoon sums up the silliness of the situation.

Zoroastrianism

When Freddie was cremated after a formal Zoroastrian funeral service, I think many fans were surprised to learn he wasn’t Christian, or even a Muslim by association. He wrote songs about Jesus, for Christ’s sake (pardon the pun). He wrote songs that referred to Allah, for God’s sake. But we never heard a song that featured Ahura Mazdā (or maybe he did, I’ll have to go back and give everything a close listen!).  Freddie warrants an appearance on this site about cremation rituals within various religions, which includes an entry on Zoroastrianism. I suspect one of the reasons Freddie and/or his family opted for cremation, which is typically forbidden in Zoroastrian burial tradition, was to intentionally avoid his burial location being turned into a shrine, a la Jim Morrison at Père Lachaise  Cemetery in Paris.

Mormonism

With GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney making the news almost daily as he inches closer toward the Republican candidacy in the U.S., his family, Mormonism, and slick hair were bound to attract media attention outside of his political views. His son, Craig, is being compared to Freddie as they share similar physical characteristics and now the gay community is pre-declaring him one of their own, as this anonymous group member posted:

“With no disrespect to Freddie Mercury, this guy is a Queen Mercury clone. Has anyone looked more gay than him??!!! A sixth-generation member of The Church of Lady Divine & Latter-day Cockettes.”
Mormons, by and large, seem to have a tremendous amount of respect for Freddie; at least from what I could find online. Many Brigham Young University alumni seem fond of him to a point that I didn’t expect to find that level of recognition. In one issue of Marriott Magazine, the quarterly periodical of the Marriott School of Business at BYU, a feature story on Carine Clark, a 1993 MBA graduate, cites Freddie and BoRhap as a metaphor in her quest to be a rock star in addition to being CMO at Symantec. What’s not clear in the article is whether the Freddie reference came from Ms. Clark herself, or was introduced by the writer as part of the rock ’n’ roll theme throughout the story.

In the brief biography on her website, novelist Linda Paulson Adams, a 1990 BYU graduate in English, mentions Freddie, Brian, and Roger as three of her favourite songwriters. Why would a novelist mention favourite songsmiths? Well, the site also states that she’s a “. . . singer-songwriter, she performs under the stage name Linda Phoenix.” Hey, maybe there’s a tie-in to the Mercury-Phoenix Trust? Probably not. You can follow her blog here which frequently includes Queen in her posts.

This poorly drawn rendering of Freddie was posted as a reply to a subject line of “Your heart will definitely be beating fast” on a discussion board for the BYU Cougars sports fans. I’m not sure why it was posted but someone in the group named “BYUBandfan” recognized it as Freddie.

Salt Lake City itself even seems to be in the mood to celebrate Queen’s music. Their annual Deer Valley Music Fest is billed as “Classic, symphonic music meets jazz, Broadway, and even Freddie Mercury with this very accessible set of performances that are set to electrify the Deer Valley Snow Park Amphitheater . . . The music of the Eagles and Queen get the classical treatment . . .”

Even a few New World Mormons have fondness for Freddie. One discussion board contributor called Going Slightly Mad is a frequent poster on topics related to ex-LDS members. This person’s tagline is a Freddie quote: “Oh, I was not made for heaven. No, I don’t want to go to heaven. Hell is much better. Think of all the interesting people you’re going to meet down there!”

Unfortunately, not all Freddie occurrences in the LDS community are so positive. The controversial Mormon practice of baptism for the dead has generated unsavoury comments about post-mortem baptisms and many people have taken pot shots at the religion as a whole. One particularly harsh critic decided that no less than the founder of the LDS church, Joseph Smith, deserved to be mentioned in the same sentence as Freddie.

“. . . so here are some facts about some dead Mormons: Joseph Smith Junior. Founder of the Mormon Church: Gay – Raped by a cowboy at age 15, Joseph Smith Junior found that he loved it up the arse and was gayer than Freddie Mercury. Had gay sex right up to the week of his death, and leading theories suggest that he and his brother (also gay, also Mormon, Hyrum Smith) were actually shot for starting a gay paedophile ring in Illinois.” 
Good, bad, or otherwise, I’d like to see Rock Hudson or Liberace used as the poster-child for being the epitome of gayness. Why does this burden always fall on Freddie’s shoulders?

Scientology*

I would be curious to know whether John Travolta or Tom Cruise are Queen fans. Whatever the case, Scientology got a beatdown by some L. Ron Hubbard haters when they decided to redo Death on Two Legs but this time it wasn’t dedicated to Queen’s ex-manager . . . it was dedicated to Scientology.



Astrology

Hey, it’s not a true religion, per se, but we might as well throw in all of the horoscopes associated with Freddie’s astrology charts while we’re at it. What a surprise . . . the metal ascribed to him is hydrargyrum, better known as mercury.

Freemasonry

It’s true that Freemasonry is not a religion either but it seems that any high profile personality from any point in history has been a mason at some point. So how does Freddie factor into this scenario? He appears in a few online discussions of the topic such as this one. And this one which claims BoRhap is an allegory for a masonic conspiracy.

Finding spirituality in Queen’s music

M.V. Ahundova goes to great lengths to explain every spiritual aspect of Queen’s musical oeuvre. The problem is, he (she?) claims that pretty much every Queen song has a religious basis to it, which is patently untrue. Why analyze the song ’39 through a religious lens when Brian himself has already explained the motivation for the song being a Hermann Hesse poem.

God loves Freddie

A local pastor with the New Hope Church here in Calgary actually had a sermon back in 2006 that incorporated Freddie and Queen as an entry point into understanding God’s love.

God hates Freddie

Not all religions are as progressive as the New Hope Church is, I guess. Just take a look at the venom spewed towards Freddie by David J. Stewart here

So which is it . . . does God love or hate Freddie? It doesn’t really matter because Freddie’s cosmology didn’t include an Abrahamic God anyway. He acknowledged many forms of spirituality which, in my mind, made him an even more exceptional human being.

Postscript (August 30, 2012) — Well, I guess we know how Tom Cruise feels about Freddie . . . at least as it pertains to promoting his movie, Rock of Ages.











Freggie Mercury pic - http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/photos/jowhiley/5828/14#gallery5828
Craig Romney pic – http://www.gay.net/entertainment/2012/02/09/hey-gurls-internet-turned-mitt-romney’s-son-fully-grown-meme
http://www.thecityofsaltlakecity.com/salt-lake-city-local/salt-lake-city-festivals-shows.html
http://www.immortality.co.nz/lds.html
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