FREDDIE MERCURY, Zanzibar-born singer and songwriter (Queen) (d. 1991) Widely regarded as one of the great singers in popular music, Freddie Mercury possessed a distinctive voice, with a recorded range of nearly four octaves. Although his speaking voice naturally fell in the baritone range, he delivered most songs in the tenor range.

Biographer David Bret described Mercury’s voice as “escalating within a few bars from a deep, throaty rock-growl to tender, vibrant tenor, then on to a high-pitched, almost perfect coloratura, pure and crystalline in the upper reaches.” On the other hand, he would often lower the highest notes during live performances. Mercury also claimed never to have had any formal training.

Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé, with whom Mercury recorded an album expressed her opinion that “the difference between Freddie and almost all the other rock stars was he was selling the voice.” Despite the fact that he had been criticized by Gay activists for hiding his HIV status, author Paul Russell included Mercury in his book The Gay 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present. Other entertainers on Russell’s list included Liberace and Rock Hudson.