Freddie Mercury's piano and lyrics to most famous song being sold for millions

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Freddie
Freddie's piano (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

This will be A Kind of Magic for Freddie Mercury fans... they can get a unique glimpse into his life as a mass of memorabilia goes on show from for free.

The items, which will be auctioned after the month-long display, include the cape and crown he wore in 1986 during his final stage appearance with rock band Queen. The ensemble is expected to sell for about £80,000.

There is also his Yamaha baby grand piano on which he wrote some of the group’s greatest hits. It is tipped to fetch up to £3million. Fans can also get to see the draft lyrics of Queen’s 1975 chart-topper Bohemian Rhapsody, scrawled by singer Freddie on a sheet of paper. Experts estimate the item will go for between £800,000 and £1.2m.

David Macdonald, at auction house Sotheby’s, said the Freddie exhibition is a “true celebration of his wonderful life”. He added: “Perhaps never before have we had the privilege of coming so close to illuminating his personal world, something only known until now by his nearest and dearest – a true joy to discover.”

Freddie Mercury's piano and lyrics to most famous song being sold for millions rriddqikeiqtkinvFreddie's iconic cape and crown (AP)

The 30,000 items include Freddie’s costumes, drawings, furniture, ornaments and a 1941 Wurlitzer jukebox set to sell for about £25,000. Other previously unseen artefacts include poetry written when he was 18, shortly after moving to Britain from Zanzibar.

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The collection was left to his friend Mary Austin and remained at Freddie’s mansion in Kensington, West London, for about 30 years after he died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991 aged 45. Mary says of Freddie’s beloved baby grand piano: “He would never smoke at the piano or rest a glass on top of it and would ensure nobody else did either.”

Freddie Mercury's piano and lyrics to most famous song being sold for millionsFreddie in 1986 in cape and crown (Getty Images)
Freddie Mercury's piano and lyrics to most famous song being sold for millionsCrown in glass case (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby's)

As well as the Bohemian Rhapsody draft lyrics, estimated between £800,000 and £1.2 million, there are also early drafts of hits Don’t Stop Me Now ( £120,000-180,000), Somebody to Love ( £150,000-200,000), and We Are the Champions ( £200,000-300,000).

Early drafts such as these are easily lost or discarded, so their rare survival provides a fascinating insight into how his songs were developed and put together. The exhibition will take up all of the 16,000 square foot 15 galleries in Sotheby’s London showcasing costumes, hand-written lyrics, drawings, furniture, and decorative and fine art.

Freddie Mercury's piano and lyrics to most famous song being sold for millionsHandwritten lyrics to band's most famous track (PA)

The 1,400 lots will be sold in six different auctions on consecutive days. The sale includes the red cape and crown that he wore on his very final stage appearance with Queen at Knebworth in 1986 as well as the early catsuits, onto which he sewed his very own ‘Mercury Wings’.

Also on sale are paintings, furniture, Japanese decorative arts, glass, graphic, arts, ceramics and objets d’art that Mercury collected over the years. On buying the piano there was an intensive search lasting many weeks before he finally found what he was looking for, a rare baby grand with an easy keyboard action.

Freddie Mercury's piano and lyrics to most famous song being sold for millionsSeveral of Freddie's stage costumes are part of the auction (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for S)

It had an elegant look and a particularly clean and clear sound, made by the Japanese manufacturer Yamaha, who had only recently started importing their instruments to England. The piano just about fitted into the small apartment he was sharing at the time with Mary Austin.

In the months after its arrival, he used it to develop and hone the band’s iconic track Bohemian Rhapsody, released towards the end of that year. Soon after this, the piano came with Mary and Freddie to their new apartment in Stafford Terrace, and when Mary moved on to Phillimore Gardens, Freddie decided the Yamaha should go there too; thereafter, he would come to Mary’s apartment to play and compose on his beloved instrument.

Freddie Mercury's piano and lyrics to most famous song being sold for millionsThe collection will be sold over six different auctions (PA)

In 1986/7, the piano made its final move, to Freddie's Garden Lodge home, where Freddie and Mary spent a long day deciding exactly where to place it, repeatedly wheeling it around the sitting room from one prospective location to the next. Finally, it was pushed into a prominent spot in his drawing room, out of the direct sun but with light from the glorious bay window falling over Freddie’s shoulder. It served him from Bohemian Rhapsody to his final operatic masterpiece, Barcelona.

The exhibition, which takes up all 15 galleries at Sotheby’s in New Bond Street in London’s West End, runs until September 5. Viewing is on a first come first served basis.

Ashleigh Rainbird

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