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Happy Birthday to the "Godlike" Freddie Mercury!

There are some singers who possess a special charisma. Then there are those who are theatrically engaging. There's no shortage of vocalists who created their own signature style and imbued it with their special presence. But no one has had it all like Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

Even now, more than 20 years after he succumbed to HIV, the mercurial, charismatic, theatrical genius is thought of as having a singular power unique to himself. Watching videos of Mercury in action, one can't help but be swayed by the power he put into his performances. In the entire history of rock, only Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis come close, and they set the precedent and originally raised the bar.

In writing about the band's landmark performance for Live Aid in 1985, one critic commented, "Those who compile lists of Great Rock Frontmen and award the top spots to Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, etc., all are guilty of a terrible oversight. Freddie, as evidenced by his Dionysian Live Aid performance, was easily the most godlike of them all."

Born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5, 1946, in Zanzibar, the future Mr. Mercury grew up in India prior to moving with his family to Britain while he was still in his teens. Some have called him Asia's first great rock star, but that's a dubious distinction at best simply because Freddie defies such frivolous categorization. For one thing, his four-octave voice set him apart from the competition, regardless of their place of origin. For another, he had the ability to command an audience; his arched stage moves and expressive gestures made him a captivating figure to all. Add to that his skills as a songwriter, a legacy left behind in the form of such Queen classics as "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Killer Queen," "Somebody to Love," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," and "We Are the Champions," all among the most enduring anthems in annals of rock.

After his death, his reputation flourished even more, perhaps due to the fact that, at age 45, he was taken much too soon. In recent years, he's reaped even more accolades than he garnered during his lifetime, placing at or near the top of the list of every great singers' poll. The image of Mercury, with his trademark mustache and gap-toothed smile, regally garbed in his flamboyant skintight costumes at the edge of the stage, still creates an indelible impression, one that guarantees he'll always remain rock's one of a kind.

It's apt, then, that Mercury should be remembered in other ways as well. For the third year in a row, the Freddie for a Day foundation and Rovio Entertainment have joined forces to make Mercury an Angry Bird, one of those popular cartoon characters lately seen starring in their own internet app video games. The highlight of the celebration arrives in the form of an all-new animated short that shows Freddie as an Angry Bird riding his bike to the accompaniment of another Queen classic, "Bicycle Race." Don't laugh; it could have been "Fat-Bottomed Girls."

In addition to the annual fundraising gala that Freddie's former bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor host every year for his AIDS organization, the Mercury Phoenix Trust, Angry Birds is partnering with Bravado to offer a limited-edition Freddie Mercury Angry Bird T-shirt, available online from the Angry Birds and Bravado webstores. Portions of the proceeds will benefit the Mercury Phoenix Trust. Freddie for a Day is also encouraging those who believe in this admirable cause to don a mustache as a way of increasing awareness about the scourge of HIV on what would have been Freddie's 66th birthday. Leotards, biker garb, and aviator sunglasses are welcome but not required.

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Lee Zimmerman

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