I was first introduced to Freddie Mercury—a paradoxically shy yet flamboyant young man—at the side of the stage at one of our early gigs as the group “SMILE.” He told me he was excited by how we played, he had some ideas—and he could sing! I’m not sure we took him very seriously, but he did have the air of someone who knew he was right. He was a frail but energised dandy, with seemingly impossible dreams and a wicked twinkle in his eye. A while later we had the opportunity to actually see him sing … and it was scary! He was wild and untutored, but massively charismatic. Soon, he began his evolution into a world-class vocal talent, right in front of our eyes. Freddie was fully focused, never allowing anything or anyone to get in the way of his vision for the future. He was truly a free spirit. There are not many of these in the world. To achieve this, you have to be, like Freddie, fearless—unafraid of upsetting anyone’s apple cart. Some people imagine Freddie as the fiery, difficult diva who required everyone around him to compromise. No. In our world, as four artists attempting to paint on the same canvas, Freddie was always the one who could find the compromise—the way to pull it through. If he found himself at odds with any one of us, he would quickly dispel the cloud with a generous gesture, a wisecrack or an impromptu present. I remember one morning after a particularly tense discussion he presented me with a cassette. He had been up most of the night compiling a collage of my guitar solos. “I wanted you to hear them as I hear them, dear,” he said. “They’re all fab, so I made them into a symphony!” To create with Freddie was always stimulating to the max. He was daring, always sensing a way to get outside the box. Sometimes he was too far out … and he’d usually be the first to realise it. With a conspiratorial smile he would say “Oh … did I lose it, dears?!” But usually there was sense in his nonsense—art in his madness. It was liberating. I think he encouraged us all in his way, to believe in our own madness, and the collective mad power of the group ''Queen''. Freddie would have been 65 this year, and even though physically he is not here, his presence seems more potent than ever. Freddie made the last person at the back of the furthest stand in a stadium feel that he was connected. He gave people proof that a man could achieve his dreams—made them feel that through him they were overcoming their own shyness, and becoming the powerful figure of their ambitions. And he lived life to the full. He devoured life. He celebrated every minute. And, like a great comet, he left a luminous trail which will sparkle for many a generation to come. Happy birthday Freddie! - Brian May Freddie, you are the best. Happy birthday.