Published On: Sun, Jan 30th, 2022

Brian May and Roger Taylor on keeping Freddie Mercury’s legacy alive at Mandela concert | Music | Entertainment

Back in 2003, Brian May and Roger Taylor were phoned up by Nelson Mandela asking the two active Queen if they could save his concert for AIDS awareness in Cape Town. Named after his former prison number 46664, the charity show was set up by the South African president to promote awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Queen had already established the Freddie Mercury Phoenix Trust for the same reason following the singer’s death in 1991 of the disease, so it made a lot of sense for them to take part. Although Mandela wasn’t just asking them to perform.

Speaking in this week’s episode of Queen the Greatest, Brian said: “We answered the call to Madiba. Nelson Mandela is suddenly on the phone saying, ‘Can you rescue my concert’, and we produced it for him, and we went out there and we really didn’t imagine that the by-product would be that we would be re-engaging with an audience. [It was] something to tell your grandchildren I think. To be in the presence of such greatness, and to be a part of this whole venture, I just feel incredibly privileged.” 

The launch of the campaign would be the first 46664 concert, which took place at Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium on November 29, 2003 to an audience of 40,000 and millions around the world.

The AIDS awareness concert included some incredible performances alongside Queen, who were joined by the likes of Beyonce, Bob Geldof, Bono, Oprah Winfrey and a number of South African stars.

Roger said: “You know, we’re not politicians, we’re just musicians using what we do as a platform to just raise awareness effectively, and if you can get on TV in most of the countries in the world, that’s quite a good way of raising awareness, I think.  So this is really a way of pressurising politicians and pharmaceutical companies to make the drugs cheaply, or freely available.”

Brian May added: “We’ll be looking for a sustained commitment and I think we’re making it ourselves, I mean we certainly feel that we would like in some way to continue this wonderful club that has come together, the 46664 banner if you like, the trademark.  And we’d like to continue on, and keep hammering away and make sure this isn’t just a little puff in the wind.”

In the years that followed, Queen would be involved in more 46664 concerts in Norway, South Africa once again and a final UK concert in London’s Hyde Park on June 27, 2008 attended by 46,664 people, which also celebrated Mandela’s 90th birthday.

Next week’s episode of Queen The Greatest will take an in-depth look at Brian and Roger’s collaboration with Paul Rodgers.

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