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Freddie Mercury almost gave 'Bohemian Rhapsody' another name

A newly discovered working draft of the song reveals he originally called it "Mongolian Rhapsody."
Freddie Mercury in Oakland, Calif., in 1982.
Freddie Mercury in Oakland, Calif., in 1982.Steve Jennings / WireImage

A newly discovered working draft for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" reveals Freddie Mercury, the legendary British singer-songwriter, intended to give it a different name at first: "Mongolian Rhapsody."

The never-before-seen copies of Mercury's handwritten lyrics, along with drafts of other megahits, including "Don't Stop Me Now" and "Somebody to Love," are on display at Sotheby's New York starting Thursday until June 8 and auctioned Sept. 6 in London.

Notable in the personal trove of lyrics found in Mercury's London home was an early draft of "Bohemian Rhapsody" that he had titled "Mongolian Rhapsody" in black and blue ballpoint pen, but "Mongolian" had been crossed out and replaced with "Bohemian."

And instead of the verse "Mama, just killed a man," the page presents an alternative: "Mama, there's a war began."

Some words found in the manuscripts, including “matador” and “belladonna,” never made it into the final version.

"The revelations in these pages include the extensive redrafting which was part of his songwriting process," Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby's books and manuscripts specialist, said in the auction's announcement.

Unsurprisingly, the working drafts are valued at a high price. Sotheby's estimates the "autograph working lyrics" for "Bohemian Rhapsody" will sell for up to $1.5 million.

Manuscripts for "Don't Stop Me Now" are valued at up to $225,000, and "lyrical pages" of "We Are the Champions" are expected to go for up to $370,000.

The collection includes the wardrobe Mercury wore in the promotional video for "Bohemian Rhapsody," including a two-piece stage outfit he commissioned a friend, the designer Wendy de Smet, to create.

Mercury is remembered for his groundbreaking musical and cultural legacy. Five years ago, "Bohemian Rhapsody" broke records as the most-streamed song of the 20th century, with over 1.6 billion streams of the song and the music video at the time, according to Universal Music Group, which represents the band.