Some of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury’s most treasured possessions are being auctioned off this week, including the Yamaha C2 baby grand piano that the star purchased in 1975 and remained with him for the rest of his life.
The piano went up sale without a reserve price, and was expected to fetch between £2 and £3m. It didn't quite hit that mark, but still went for the tidy sum of £1.74m.
Discussing how Mercury came to buy the piano, his close friend Mary Austin told auction house Sotheby’s that Freddie had been searching high and low for a high-quality piano that would fit in their shared London flat, eventually settling on the £1,000 Yamaha.
Austin recalls that Mercury enlisted the help of his Queen bandmates to help him move his upright piano into the bedroom to make room for the C2 in the living room, but that he wasn’t quite prepared for how big it was, and spent a long time deciding where it should be positioned.
“Freddie treated the Yamaha with absolute respect,” she recalls. “He considered it to be more than an instrument, it was an extension of himself, his vehicle of creativity. He would never smoke at the piano or rest a glass on top of it and would ensure nobody else did either. The piano was always pristine.”
It’s believed that the C2 was the piano on which Freddie developed Bohemian Rhapsody, a song he was working on in 1975, and he continued to compose on it throughout his career. Indeed, the Yamaha followed Mercury around as he moved to various different houses, eventually coming to Garden Lodge in Kensington, his final residence, in the mid-’80s, where it had remained until earlier this year.
Speaking of Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie's handwritten draft lyrics for the song were also included in the auction, and sold for a whopping £1,370,000. Other lyric sheets to raise big bucks included Somebody To Love (£241,300), Killer Queen (£279,400) and We Are the Champions (£317,500).
Further highlights in Sotheby’s extensive ‘Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own’ sale included items of clothing, jewellery, works of art and photographs.
The auction has attracted worldwide attention, but one person who wasn't watching was Queen guitarist Brian May, who took to Instagram earlier this week to express his sadness at the sale.
Captioning a pic of Mercury playing his homemade ‘Red Special’ guitar, May wrote: “Inescapably thinking so much about Freddie in these strange days. At the time this photo was taken I’m sure it didn’t seem very important to see Freddie’s fingers dancing on my own home-made guitar. Now it summons up waves of affection and great memories. He is so missed.
“Tomorrow while I’m speaking passionately to Welsh farmers about cows and badgers and bovine TB, Freddie’s most intimate personal effects, and writings that were part of what we shared for so many years, will go under the hammer, to be knocked down to the highest bidder and dispersed forever. I can’t look. To us, his closest friends and family, it’s too sad.”
You can view the complete lot collection on the Sotheby’s website.