A baby grand piano that once belonged to QUEEN frontman Freddie Mercury sold for over £1.74 million ($2.2 million) at a Sotheby's auction Wednesday (September 6).
Bought in 1975 and imported to England from Japan, the Yamaha G2, which was used to complete the band's iconic song "Bohemian Rhapsody", was among dozens of items to go under the hammer in the first of six auctions dedicated to the late singer private collection of some 1,400 possessions.
A handwritten draft of "Bohemian Rhapsody" that revealed Mercury initially titled the song "Mongolian Rhapsody" was sold for $1.7 million.
The items, which were put up for sale by Mary Austin, Mercury's close friend and former partner, fetched a total of £12.2 million ($15.4 million). They included stage costumes, jewelry and paintings from Mercury's extensive art collection.
In a Sotheby's press release prior to the sale, Mary said about the piano: "Freddie treated the Yamaha with absolute respect. 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."
Other QUEEN songs Mercury used the piano to write include "Don't Stop Me Now" and "Somebody To Love", according to Sotheby's.
When Freddie died in 1991, he left both the house and its contents to Mary. For three decades, Austin kept the house and its contents almost exactly as they were when Mercury died, but she has now decided to sell the collection.
In an interview with BBC News, Mary said the pages of lyrics and musical notes are particularly difficult to part with. "You're looking at the process of the artist, of work in progress," she explained. "The crossings out, the rethinking, the reformatting. ... I decided that it wouldn't be appropriate for me to keep things back. If I was going to sell, I had to be brave and sell the lot."
In addition to draft song lyrics, the items in the sale include: pink, star-shaped glasses similar to the dark pair Mercury wore in the music video for his band's 1977 classic "We Will Rock You"; his tiny Tiffany & Co. mustache comb; his guitar, believed to have been used to write and record "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"; the waistcoat Mercury wore in his final music video, "These Are The Days Of Our Lives", in 1991; and a Pablo Picasso linocut titled "Jacqueline Au Chapeau Noir".
David MacDonald, the head of single owner sales at Sotheby's London, said: "Freddie Mercury's collection is a manifestation of one extraordinary man's creativity, taste and unerring eye for beauty, presenting so much more than just an exquisite selection of the very best examples by artists across centuries and countries. Like a Russian doll, Garden Lodge has revealed its layers of treasures over recent months, with the rich tapestry of objects we have discovered there taking us all on a glorious adventure through his imagination. Opening the door to the very special place that was Freddie Mercury's home offers us the ultimate backstage pass into his world."
Austin will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sales to HIV/AIDS charities the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation.