This Was Freddie Mercury's Last Public Appearance

Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was known for his larger-than-life personality both on and off the stage. The legendary superstar died far too young at the age of 45 on November 24, 1991 of AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia. Per Biography, Mercury kept the fact that he had AIDS private right up until the day before he died, when he released a statement confirming the rumors about his health that had been circulating for some time. He said that he had "felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me."

By the time he died, Mercury's health had been a source of speculation and innuendo in British tabloids for a while. According to Ultimate Classic RockThe Sun was particularly aggressivefirst alleging that Mercury had been tested for HIV in the fall of 1986. While it's apparently possible that he received his AIDS diagnosis as early as spring of 1987, Mercury continually denied the Sun's stories and kept the truth from most people he knew, including his bandmates. Queen guitarist Brian May later shared, "We never talked about it and it was a sort of unwritten law that we didn't, because Freddie didn't want to." Mercury had told the band he wasn't up to touring behind their 1989 studio album The Miracle, but gave no explanation. According to May, "[I]n the last year and a bit, it became obvious what the problem was, or at least fairly obvious. We didn't know for sure."

Thank you ... goodnight

In February 1990, Queen won Outstanding Contribution to British Music, presented at the Brit Awards. The band had been working on their album Innuendo, recording for three weeks, and then taking two weeks off, so Mercury could recover. That onstage appearance onstage at the Brit Awards would be their last time together in public as a band, as well as Mercury's last public appearance. As reported by Ultimate Classic Rock, Mercury looked gaunt and was uncharacteristically reserved with the audience, giving a wave as he walked out and saying a quick "Thank you ... goodnight," upon exiting the stage with the rest of Queen after Brian May's acceptance and thank-you speech.  

Tabloids continued their speculation and harassment. The last paparazzo shot of Mercury was taken on September 3, 1991, outside his house. The Mirror noted that he appeared "appeared frail but in good spirits as he avoided the camera lens," and Brian May later confirmed that in the midst of all the attention from the public, Freddie "just wanted peace and quiet, to be able to get on with what he did." Fortunately, Mercury reportedly enjoyed a final, private photo shoot in his garden on August 28, 1991, during which his partner, Jim Hutton, took some pictures that "showed Freddie at peace with the man he loved, smiling as he stood then crouched down on the lush green grass next to a ginger cat."