Austin is a name you may not recognize right off the bat, but believe it or not, she had a hand in influencing some of the most recognizable, timeless and revered music of the last couple generations. Still stumped? What if you were to hear the name Freddie Mercury or better yet, Queen? I know you’ve got the idea now, but as a final clue here are the lyrics from Queen’s song “Love of my Life”
“Love of my life, can’t you see
Bring it back, bring it back
Don’t take it away from me, because you don’t know –
What it means to me”
It was Mary Austin that was the inspiration behind this very song (as well as many others, I’m sure.) Though never officially married, Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin shared their life together for six years. Born in Fulham, West London, in 1951, her father was a wallpaper specialist and her mother was a cleaner for a small company. It’s easy to see why Freddie was so drawn to Mary. Growing up, as Mary did, in a modest household is, quite often, enough to make someone humble. Humbleness coupled with deep compassion for people, partly developed from having two deaf parents must have struck a chord for (believe it or not) shy and humble Mercury.
About 6 months into their whirlwind relationship, around the time of Queen’s first record deal, they moved in together. It was then that Mary could sense the life that was to come for Freddie. In an interview with OK magazine, Mary said, “I felt, ‘Here is a star in the making. He’s on his way. I don’t think he needs me any more.’ I didn’t feel tearful or upset. I was happy that it was at last happening for him because of his talent.” Not wanting to hold him back, Mary was ready to walk away. Then one night after a concert, swarmed by a group of girls, Freddie saw Mary not wanting to bother him and about to leave. He left all of the girls to stop her from leaving. She knew then she was meant to be with him on his journey.
Those that know something more about Freddie Mercury than his music, know he was one of the first brave people to break the barrier of secrecy and went public about being homosexual, leading to a great deal of emphasis being placed on his sexuality. So much emphasis, that many people are surprised to learn that he and Mary were so close and lived together for so long.
Though they were still very close and happy, about two years before they separated, Mary could tell there was something bothering Freddie. After Mercury confessed to Mary about what was bothering him, amazingly, instead of being angry at him or holding a grudge against him she was actually relieved. She was relieved at the fact that her suspicions had finally been acknowledged and relieved that he was able to finally be honest to her and himself. More than that, she was happy for him. She was happy that he had finally come back to himself, the person she had fallen in love with. Her acceptance of him and him of her in return, to me, is the most compelling proof of the love they had for each other and what makes her the Queen of muses. (Pun completely intended!) More compelling than the fact that Freddie gave Mary a job, or left most of his worldly possessions to her in his will, or that she stood by him as he fought and succumbed to AIDS.
Without being naïve or doormats, they gave each other the freedom to be completely themselves. In the OK Magazine interview Mary also said,” ‘The more I got to know him, the more I loved him for himself. We knew we could trust each other and we were safe with each other. We knew that we would never hurt each other on purpose.”
If Freddie were still with us today, there would be no surprise if he were to agree that it’s the freedom and love that he got from Mary that gave him the courage to be so raw and freely expressed in his music. I would go out on a limb to say that a big part of what fans of Queen feel and resonate with is actually the love they shared. After all, isn’t a relationship based on complete acceptance and love for who they are, what everyone is searching for? Even those that don’t understand their relationship wouldn’t argue against the fact that that kind of love can only help the world. Freddie and Mary found that love. We should all be so lucky! For those that aren’t lucky enough to have that love for themselves, or don’t feel they do, through music Freddie and Mary gave the gift of sharing some of theirs. And to that I say – Rock on!