The 11th Brit Awards were held back on February 18, 1990, and one of the highlights of the night was when the members of Queen were honored with an award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.
What most of us didn’t realize at the time was that this would turn out to be be flamboyant lead singer Freddie Mercury’s final public appearance with the band.
Mercury’s bandmates knew he was seriously ill, but kept this from the greater public, despite persistent rumors flying around the British tabloids.
As we now know, Freddie had been diagnosed with AIDS and appeared gaunt and unusually quiet when the group appeared onstage to accept their award.
Guitarist Brian May spoke on the band’s behalf thanking “everyone in the industry — and, perhaps more importantly, outside the industry — who stuck behind us all these years” with giving the band “a lot of freedom to pursue what we loosely call our art to any extent we felt like at the time,”
May marveled at the way they’d wandered out on “a lot of strange limbs which seemed very precarious at the time, but we didn’t quite fall off.”
With that, and a joke about saying “a special thank you to the British petroleum industry for giving us this magnificent award in recognition of all the amounts of vinyl which we’ve recycled over the years,” the group left the stage.
Leaning briefly into the mic to say simply “Thank you … goodnight,” Freddie exited with his bandmates.
Mercury declined to make any public announcements about his health until November 22, 1991, when he confirmed his diagnosis.
A little more than 24 hours later, Freddie was gone.
Ultimate Classic Rock