One of those days where it's kind of slow - it's almost end of the week, but not quite Friday. A sweet spot between "I am starting this writing bit, that should take care of Thursday (today)" and "goodness, is it almost Friday already?" while listening to BBC Radio 2's tribute to George Michael. And they have to play the classic Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas" featuring him. So very sad. All the more reason why I needed to write this down.
Unless you've been living under a rock or lost the Internet this past week, you would have known that the incomparable George Michael, the other half of that British boy pop group formerly called Wham! passed away at his Oxfordshire home on Christmas Day 2016. When news of the death broke on my Flipboard, I almost lost it. I couldn't believe that this MAN, this guy that my sister, cousins and myself spent a good chunk of our allowance back when we were growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, singing and dancing to their songs and videos, had passed away. I burst into tears. It was almost like when your beloved pet cat died, but this time worse. MUCH worse. So his death compelled me to write this.
George Michael has never made a bad song. I first heard him from Wham! days on Top of the Pops (TOTP). From those puffed-up bleached blonde hair to those logo T-shirts they sport on TOTP (yes, Wham started that logo shirt craze), to that perpetually fake tanned look up until to his death, he never made (or be part of) a song that I didn't care for. From the 1984 Band Aid Christmas single to Live Aid 1985 with Elton John, and the wonderful AIDS benefit for Freddie Mercury. However, I kind of stopped listening to George Michael after his 1989 "Faith" album period when I went into University and then the post-Uni working days, but started hearing him again mid-1990s after I happened to watch one of the MTV Unplugged videos and it featured him. I thought he sounded phenomenal! I couldn't believe my eyes and ears this is the same George Michael, and how he different he sounded 10 years later!
This was after he admitted to being gay. It didn't really bother me as an idol, because good gracious, he was still so good looking in a very rugged rebellious way. I think even the late Diana, Princess of Wales had some kind of crush on him because, in some of their photos, you could see George looked shy and Diana looked smitten being with him.
Anyhow, I couldn't remember when he wasn't on the radio one way or another that moment on. With one hit after another and his performances getting airtime, I thought "man, this guy's talent has grown so much" and his sound became more compelling. I also started to catch up on his songs, to my delight, all of them worth (buying and) singing to, including the fabulous "Five Live" album, which to this day, I think, one of this best short "live" albums. My only regret is that I never did have the privilege to watch his performance live (closing ceremonies for London 2012 Olympics notwithstanding.) Even with YouTube and Spotify downloads being widely available, it doesn't have the same satisfaction of being able to enjoy your creative output and rapport with the fans that make you an outstanding performer and activist.
However, that will not replace the big loss to the music world and his talent as a songwriter and performer when he passed on Christmas Day 2016. I think the reason why so many of us who grew up with his music are so sad over his death is when you see him grow all these years, he is almost a part of your family that you grew up with. From his early successes to him admitting being gay up to his final decade with his personal problems. And all this while, you wanted him to be loved and take of himself and him to get the help he needed because he is almost like a member of your family. And that hurts.
I pray that you, George Michael, finally found the acceptance and peace you've been craving for and you are okay with all the decisions and choices you've made. And get that the world loves you for being and accepting yourself. Entertain the angels above and know that the world already misses your genius, self-deprecating sense of humor and heart by playing your songs over and over and over again.
Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, you will be sorely missed.