'Mongolian Rhapsody': Unseen handwritten drafts of Freddie Mercury's Queen lyrics up for auction

One draft of Mercury's lyrics is expected to fetch between £800,000 and £1.2 million at auction. Credit: AP/Queen Music Ltd/Sony Music Publishing Ltd

A never-before-seen trove of Freddie Mercury's handwritten song drafts are set to be auctioned, unveiling vastly different lyrics for Queen's biggest hits.

Revealing photographs of Mercury's notes, written across British Midlands Airways stationery, show the singer originally penned a tune called Mongolian Rhapsody, before he crossed out the first word and replaced it with "Bohemian".

On another page, the famous second verse “Mama, just killed a man," was instead "Mama, there's a war began, I've got to leave tonight" - an entirely different narrative to the iconic melody released in 1975.

The draft is estimated to fetch between £800,000 to £1.2 million at the September auction in London.

Freddie Mercury's draft lyrics for Killer Queen and Somebody to Love. Credit: Queen Music Ltd/Sony Music Publishing Ltd

Some manuscripts will be shown in New York on Thursday before travelling to Los Angeles and Hong Kong, then returning to London for a month-long exhibition in August.

The sale of over 1,500 items in September will also include drafts of Don't Stop Me Now, Somebody to Love, and We Are The Champions.

All have come from Mercury's personal collection which was preserved and treasured in his London home after his death of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS in 1991.

"Early drafts such as these are easily lost or discarded, so the rare survival of these manuscripts provides us with fascinating insights into how his songs were developed and put together, as well as reminding us of their musical complexity and sophistication," said Sotheby's Books & Manuscripts Specialist Dr Gabriel Heaton.

Working lyrics, written by Mercury, for Queen's Dont Stop Me Now. Credit: Queen Music Ltd/Sony Music Publishing Ltd

Written in black and blue ballpoint pen and pencil, Mercury's scribbles would go on to make Queen one of the bestselling artists of all time.

Also going under the hammer is an unrecorded red notebook of Mercury's, dated from the 1970s, a yellow A4 notepad with working lyrics and chords for songs from the album Jazz, and even Mercury's ivory satin catsuit made for Bohemian Rhapsody's 1975 music video.

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