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Private funeral service held for Freddie Mercury

LONDON -- Family and close friends, including Elton John, gathered Wednesday for the cremation of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen, who died of AIDS during the weekend.

Wreaths lined the entrance of the West London Crematorium where a 25- minute private service was conducted by two Parsee priests.

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A single red rose was placed on top of the coffin which was carried into the chapel as Aretha Franklin's rendition of 'Precious Lord Take My Hand' was played, followed by 'You've Got a Friend,' said Queen spokeswoman Roxy Meade.

The ceremony ended with Mercury's favorite aria, 'D'amour sull 'ali Rose' composed by Verdi and sung by Montserrat Cabelle, who joined Mercury in a duet on his 1980 solo album 'Barcelona.'

Fellow Queen members Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon attended the funeral along with pop stars Elton John and Anita Dobson. Queen had described the flamboyant Mercury as the 'most beloved member of our family.'

Flowers sent to Mercury by fans were carried in five hearses to the service, which was attended only by family and close friends, Meade said. The flowers were later distributed to AIDS wards in London.

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Mercury, 45, died of AIDS Sunday, a day after admitting publicly that he had the disease.

Queen announced Wednesday it planned to re-release its best selling hit 'Bohemian Rhapsody' next month and donate the profits to charity.

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