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Tributes For Rock Singer: Britain’s Most Prominent AIDS Victim

November 25, 1991

LONDON (AP) _ Grieving fans today inundated radio stations with tributes to rock singer Freddie Mercury, Britain’s most prominent known victim of AIDS, who died a day after announcing he had the disease.

″I admired him and I admired his honesty in admitting he had AIDS,″ said singer Phil Collins. ″It is all so sad.″

Fans gathered outside Mercury’s home in west London’s Kensington district, where the 45-year-old lead singer of the rock group Queen died Sunday. His publicist, Roxy Meade, said he died of pneumonia brought on by AIDS.

Radio and TV blared out Mercury hits, such as ″Bohemian Rhapsody,″ the 1975 number which many critics said pioneered the rock-video boom.

Newspapers, from the sedate Daily Telegraph to the tabloids, carried the news on the front pages. Many published interviews quoting Mercury as acknowledging he was bisexual and saying that despite wealth and success, personal happiness had eluded him.

″I’ve tried relationships on either side - male and female. But all of them have gone wrong,″ The Daily Telegraph quoted Mercury as saying.

AIDS groups said they hoped Mercury’s acknowledgement that he had the disease would help remove the stigma and fear surrounding acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Mercury’s death came almost three weeks after American basketball star Magic Johnson announced he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS.

″We’ve had Magic, the basketball star, in the United States, but this is the first major announcement by any British well-known person,″ said Dr. Patrick Dixon, founder of the charity AIDS Care Education and Training.

″It certainly will (help other victims),″ Dixon told Sky television. ″... People haven’t been able to come forward because they’ve been afraid of the reaction.″

Mercury announced his illness Saturday after speculatory stories appeared in tabloid newspapers. His statement said he kept silent to ″protect the privacy of those around me.″

″However, the time has now come 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,″ his statement said.

Mercury’s former girl friend, Mary Austin, who stayed on his staff after their seven-year relationship ended in the 1970s, said she was ″very sad.″

Mercury, who was of Persian descent, was born Frederick Bulsara in Zanzibar, now Tanzania, the son of a government accountant. The family came to Britain when he was a teen-ager.

He gained fame as the bravura singer for Queen, whose elaborate and occasionally bombastic songs made the group one of the favorites of the 1970s.

As well as ″Bohemian Rhapsody,″ the group’s hits included ″We Are The Champions″ and ″Crazy Little Thing Called Love.″ Mercury later released solo albums such as ″The Great Pretender,″ which also sold well.

Mercury joined Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor to form Queen in 1971. Their debut album was ″Queen″ in 1973, followed by ″Queen II″ a year later.

He is survived by his parents and a sister, Kashmira.

A private cremation service will be held this week.

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