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Freddie Mercury’s handwritten “Bohemian Rhapsody” reveals alternate title for song

Queen Music Ltd / Sony Music Publishing UK Ltd

Personal items belonging to Queen’s Freddie Mercury are set to go up for auction at Sotheby’s in September, and a preview exhibit in New York has revealed some interesting info about the band’s classic hit tune “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The exhibit will feature some of Mercury’s previously unseen handwritten working drafts of songs, including that of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which spans 15 pages. The draft shows that Mercury originally planned to call it “Mongolian Rhapsody,” before crossing it out and replacing it with “Bohemian.”

The sheets also reveal possible alternative lyrics to the second verse, which begins “Mama, just killed a man.” The lyric sheet reveals Mercury originally intended to sing, “Mama, There’s a war began, I’ve got to leave tonight.” And, in addition to the well-known chants “Galileo,” “Fandango,” “Scaramouche” and “Thunderbolts and lightning,” the pages reveal the words “Matador” and “Belladonna” were almost included, as well.

The estimated value of those lyrics is between about $1 million and $1.5 million.

Also on display will be lyrics for such Queen classics as “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Somebody to Love,” which spans 19 pages, “We Are the Champions” and more. Many are autographed by Mercury. 

The lyric sheets, along with early notebooks of lyrics, costumes and more, will be on display at Sotheby’s New York June 1-8, before moving to Los Angeles June 14-18 and Hong Kong from June 26-20. The full collection will be on display in London from August 4 to September 5.

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