Mercury was born in the British protectorate of Zanzibar, East Africa (now part of Tanzania). His parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara, were Parsis from the Gujarat region of the thenprovince of Bombay Presidency in British India. The family surname is derived from the town of Bulsar (also known as Valsad) in southern Gujarat. As Parsis, Mercury and his family practisedthe Zoroastrian religion. The Bulsara family had moved to Zanzibar so that his father could continue his job as a cashier at the British Colonial Office. He had a younger sister, Kashmira.
Mercury spent the bulk ofhis childhood in India and began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1954, at the age of eight, Mercury was sent to study at St. Peter's School, a British-style boarding school for boysin Panchgani near Bombay (now Mumbai), India. Aged 12, he formed a school band, The Hectics, and covered artists such as Cliff Richard and Little Richard. A friend from the time recalls that he had "anuncanny ability to listen to the radio and replay what he heard on piano". It was also at St. Peter's where he began to call himself "Freddie". Mercury remained in India, living with his grandmother andaunt until he completed his education at St. Mary's School, Bombay.
At the age of 17, Mercury and his family fled from Zanzibar for safety reasons due to the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, in whichthousands of Arabs and Indians were killed. The family moved into a small house in Feltham, Middlesex, England. Mercury enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic (now West Thames College) inWest London where hestudied art. He ultimately earned a Diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College, later using these skills to design the Queen crest. Mercury remained a British citizen for the rest of hislife.
Following graduation, Mercury joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in the Kensington Market in London. He also held a job at Heathrow Airport. Friends from the time remember...