'Mongolian Rhapsody'? It Could Have Been, Apparently

Apparently alternate title appears in papers of Freddie Mercury's to be auctioned off
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2023 1:00 AM CDT
'Bohemian Rhapsody' May Have Originally Been 'Mongolian'
FILE - Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury performs, in Cologne, Germany, on Sunday, July 20, 1986 file photo.   (AP Photo/Marco Arndt, File)

It seems "Bohemian Rhapsody" may have almost been "Mongolian Rhapsody." An early draft of the epic, iconic Queen song shows the words "Mongolian Rhapsody" written near the top by Freddie Mercury, who then crossed out "Mongolian" and replaced it with "Bohemian." The page is among 15 pages of early drafts for the song that are among a massive collection of Mercury's belongings being auctioned off by Sotheby's in September, the New York Times reports. Other drafts include Mercury doodling words and phrases, some of which ended up appearing in the operatic section of the song, including "fandango," "belladonna," and "thunderbolts and lightning." Mercury's friend and heir, Mary Austin, told the BBC in April that it's time for her to let go of the Mercury collection "because I need to put my affairs in order."

The singer left his home and its contents to Austin; the 1,500 items to be auctioned off include costumes he wore on stage; artwork and other "exquisite clutter," as he once put it, that he collected; and, of course, handwritten notes and lyrics—including alternate lyrics for "Bohemian Rhapsody" in which Mercury writes about having to "stand and fight" in a war instead of the line in the final version about killing a man. Austin, 72, says she will keep only a few "personal gifts" from Mercury and photographs of the two of them together, though she is sad to see everything else go. As for "Bohemian Rhapsody," the page with the apparently alternate title, which has never before been publicly mentioned and was not previously known by the Queen experts who spoke to the Times, will be on public view at a Sotheby's New York exhibition Thursday through June 8. (More Freddie Mercury stories.)

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