Freddie Mercury at 70: Exclusive candid photographs show the Queen frontman loved a party both on stage and at home

Celebrity photographer Richard Young opens his A Kind of Magic exhibition in Kensington today 

Jess Denham
Monday 05 September 2016 16:06 BST

Seventy years ago today, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was born. To celebrate, a new exhibition is opening in London showcasing never-before-seen photographs of the fabulously flamboyant rocker.

Kensington’s Richard Young Gallery has given us a first glimpse at the shots, showing Freddie playing stadiums with the band; in full party mode; and at home trying on silly hats.

The exhibition, titled A Kind of Magic in a nod to their chart-topping 1986 album, documents the most sparkling moments of the late music legend’s life. Celebrity photographer Young became friends with Freddie after first meeting him at Maunkberry, a small club in Jermyn Street, on New Year’s Eve in 1978.

“First in the door was Keith Richards, Ron and Jo Wood, followed by Roger Taylor, Freddie, Rod Stewart and Britt Ekland,” he recalls. “Although I had shot Freddie at various parties around town, this was the evening that cemented our relationship.”

Young’s irrepressible sunny nature gained him access into Queen’s inner circle and he began to record brilliant behind-the-scenes moments. Many of these feature in the exhibition, including shots of Freddie’s extravagant 39th birthday party.

“The parties were always wild, full of laughter and unique,” Young says. “When you were in Freddie’s inner circle you would always be given a nickname, mine was Muriel Young. This was after the TV presenter from the fifties, and Freddie would always say, ‘Come on Muriel!’ I loved it. I felt I was part of his family.”

Freddie regularly invited Young to capture intimate portraits and, in October 2013, one of his candid photographs was inducted into the National Portrait Gallery. Young’s archive contains an impressive number of images of Freddie that have only recently been uncovered, making this landmark birthday commemoration a significant time to exhibit them.

“This year Freddie would have been 70, I am a year younger and we are both virgos,” Young says. “I have the most wonderful memories from my time with Freddie. It was a unique part of rock and roll history and I feel so honoured that I was able to capture so many wonderful, fun and also poignant times over a 13-year period. He left us far too early.”

Freddie died aged 45 from bronchial pneumonia in November 1991, just over 24 hours after issuing a public statement confirming that he had been suffering from Aids.

A Kind of Magic: A Celebration of Freddie Mercury’s 70th Birthday is on until 5 November at the Richard Young Gallery in Kensington, London W8 4LT. Entrance is free, with the gallery open from Monday to Saturday 11am-5pm. For more information, visit the website here

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