Freddie Mercury's manuscripts never presented to the public, first and foremost that of Bohemian Rhapsody, will be exhibited in New York, the first stop of a tour before their auction in London in September, Sotheby's announced Thursday.
After New York until June 8, the manuscripts will stop in Los Angeles and Hong Kong. They will then be exhibited in August in the British capital before their sale during a series of auctions.
Written in ballpoint pen and pencil on paper from a now-defunct airline, British Midlands Airways, the draft of Bohemian Rhapsody reveals on 15 pages the different directions that Freddie Mercury had envisaged for this famous title of Queen, which he originally planned to be called Mongolian Rhapsody. Sotheby's evokes an estimate between 800,000 and 1.2 million pounds sterling (930,000 to 1.4 million euros).
See alsoFreddie Mercury, the legend of Queen at auction
Among the other drafts of the singer who died of AIDS in 1991 are those of Don't Stop Me Now, Somebody to Love, and We Are the Champions, estimated between 200,000 and 300,000 pounds (225,000 to 339,000 euros).
Because such early drafts are "easily lost or discarded," the auctioned pieces offer "a fascinating dive into how Freddie Mercury's songs" were developed and put together," "while reminding us of their musical complexity and sophistication," said Gabriel Heaton, manuscript specialist at Sotheby's. These pages reveal the artist's hard work, his "incredible attention" in creating Queen's iconic vocal harmonies, he added.
Other pieces include a red notebook from the early 1970s, arguably one of his earliest lyrics, whose 42 pages also feature sketches of the band's logo and coffee stains.
A yellow spiral notebook, 24 pages of lyrics for the band's seventh album in 1978, Jazz, which includes the track Don't Stop Me Now, will also be on sale, as well as costumes, including the satin suit worn by Freddie Mercury in the video for Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975. The complete catalogue of the sale is to be unveiled at the end of July and beginning of August.
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When it announced in April the auction of the 1,500 objects, including stage costumes and paintings by Matisse or Picasso that belonged to Freddie Mercury, Sotheby's had estimated that it would reach at least 6 million pounds (more than 6.7 million euros).
Proceeds will be donated in part to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and Elton John Aids Foundation, two organizations involved in the fight against AIDS.