On Christmas Day 2016 George Michael died, he was 53 and has had a musical career spanning over 30 years. He was a singer and an accomplished songwriter, and we have since found out a philanthropist, who to his dying day wanted his personal affairs to stay just that.
In our world we love composers who write lyrics that come from emotion. Some of our most celebrated artists do just that, Adele, Amy Winehouse and many others by their own admission are successful because of their heartbreaks, hard times and life experiences as these are what they drew on to write their music.
George Michael was exactly the same, the music that became the soundtrack to my youth was all penned as the result of his heart being broken. When I think of George and the part he played in my growing up he represents all the elements at different points. The rebelliousness of Wham with the Bad Boys attitude and their Wham Rap anthem which screamed to the young people of that era that they had their own minds and could do whatever they wanted.
George tackled key issues of the day as part of Wham talking about unemployment, claiming benefits, young pregnancy, debt and infidelity. Audiences around the world were captivated and this was proven in them breaking through in China a place where no Western band before them had ever been popular.
As he got older and we aged with him his private life and the relationships in it began to influence his music more. He wrote 'Careless Whisper' when he had been sat on the back of a bus after an incident with a girl from school. He penned 'A Different Corner' after realising someone he loved didn't return his love and how many of us can identify with that emotion? The genuine heart aching feeling of wishing you hadn't met someone and you could forget them but actually knowing you never can.
You must have been in space to have not heard 'Last Christmas' every year for the most of your life (or all of it if you are an 80's child like me!) My children sing along to that song now and the vision of George in his furry hood in the snow is so much more moving than more modern offerings, I mean what were East 17 thinking!
His later work came as he lost his mother and partners in his personal life, a lot of this was unknown to us as he was such a fiercely private man however we felt every emotion along with him. 'Jesus to a Child' is one of the most moving songs of the nineties, it talks not only of the pain of losing someone you love but also the happiness at having experienced that love in the first place and how you can take strength from it. How many people can squeeze that kind of gut wrenching emotion into a song that only lasts a few minutes.
George is so often mentioned for his personal life other than his professional one. That life however didn't matter, well not to me. What mattered is that when I was down, broken hearted, grateful, sad, feeling rebellious, needing a holiday or a good old cry his words and music soothed my ears and my mind in ways I don't think any other artist has. There is a lot to be said also in a world of elaborate videos for a man just singing mostly on his own. Many of his videos were just this and the strength of the music and words was enough to keep you enthralled and entertained.
The collaborations he made with other artists are legendary and all with legends in themselves, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Mary J Blige and the mighty Queen. Not to mention he was the original subject of car pool karaoke with James Corden where not only did he sing 'I'm your Man', he was able to make fun of himself.
'Now you fly like an eagle above while I waltz away', from 'Waltz Away Dreaming' 1997.
Rest in Peace George, thank you for the words.
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