Elton John, who is celebrating his 75th birthday today, was close friend with Freddie Mercury and one of the few people allowed to see the legendary Queen frontman in his final days
Elton John was one of the few people that Freddie Mercury saw during his final days.
The legendary Queen frontman kept a tightknit circle of friends before he tragically lost his battle against AIDS in 1991, including the Rocketman singer.
Elton, who turns 75 today, described the agony of watching his friend deteriorate before his eyes as the cruel illness ravaged his body.
“I’d seen what the disease had done to so many of my other friends,” Elton explained in his 2013 book. “I knew exactly what it was going to do to Freddie. As did he. He knew death, agonising death, was coming.”
The pair were incredibly close pals and Elton credits Freddie with saving his life at the height of his drug problems – with the Queen singer begging him to go into rehab as his cocaine addiction spiralled out of control.
Freddie had been diagnosed with AIDS in 1987 but kept it secret for as long as possible because he wanted to protect his fans and loved ones – only announcing it publicly just one day before he died aged just 45.
Get the news you want straight to your inbox. Sign up for a Mirror newsletter here .
Devastated Elton could only spend limited time at the Queen frontman’s bedside because he found what was happening to him so upsetting.
In his memoir, Elton wrote: “He was too frail to get out of bed, he was losing his sight, his body was covered in Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions, and yet he was still definitely Freddie, gossiping away, completely outrageous.
“I couldn’t work out whether he didn’t realize how close to death he was or if he knew perfectly well but was determined not to let what was happening to him stop him being himself.”
But Elton was determined the Bohemian Rhapsody star would feel loved as his health declined against the disease.
The extent of his illness was known only to those closest to him and back in 2017 bandmate Brian May revealed it had actually cost Freddie his foot.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, May said: “The problem was actually his foot, and tragically there was very little left of it.
“Once, he showed it to us at dinner. And he said, ‘Oh Brian, I’m sorry I’ve upset you by showing you that’.
“And I said, ‘I’m not upset, Freddie, except to realise you have to put up with all this terrible pain’.”
For the final two years of his life, Freddie lived in almost total seclusion and looked visibly thin and frail in his final appearance in a Queen video.
He did finally tell his bandmates about his diagnosis but one person he refused to tell was his best friend and fellow singer, Peter Straker, and even cut him out of his list during his final years so he wouldn’t find out.
Even in his final days, Freddie was determined to think of others and spent his last days recording Queen’s final album, Made In Heaven, which was released following his death.
Freddie also bought thoughtful Christmas presents, which were delivered after he passed away, including one for his close pal Elton.
Elton opened his front door to find a friend carry a gift from Freddie wrapped in a pillowcase.
It was a painting by Henry Scott Tuke, one of the Candle In The Wind singer’s favorite artists, and was accompanied with a heartbreaking note.
It read: “Dear Sharon, I thought you’d like this. Love, Melina. Happy Christmas.”
This was an adorable nod to the pair’s nicknames for one another as they had given each other drag queen names.
Elton admitted he was overcome with emotion and started “crying like a child”.
He said: “By all rights, Freddie should have spent those final days concerned only with his own comfort. But that wasn’t who he was. He truly lived for others
“Freddie had passed on November 24, 1991, and weeks after the funeral, I was still grieving. On Christmas Day, I learned that Freddie had left me one final testament to his selflessness.
“I was moping about when a friend showed up at my door and handed me something wrapped in a pillowcase. I opened it up, and inside was a painting by one of my favorite artists, the British painter Henry Scott Tuke. And there was a note on the front from Freddie.
“Years before, Freddie and I had developed pet names for each other, our drag-queen alter egos. I was Sharon and he was Melina. Freddie’s note read, ‘Dear Sharon, I thought you’d like this. Love, Melina. Happy Christmas. ‘
“I was overcome, 44 years old at the time, crying like a child. Here was this beautiful man, dying from AIDS, and in his final days, he had somehow managed to find me a lovely Christmas present.
“As sad as that moment was, it’s often the one I think about when I remember Freddie, because it captures the character of the man. In death, he reminded me of what made him so special in life.”
Do you have a story to share? E-mail[email protected]