One of the many terribly sad aspects to the news that George Michael has died aged 53, is the poignant knowledge that, after several years of silence, the pop superstar had promised his fans new music was finally on the way, plus a film looking back on some of his most creative times.
George, who passed away at his Oxfordshire home on Christmas Day, had hinted that his new album was almost completed, and would be released in 2017.
His chosen collaborator, Naughty Boy - who’s previously worked with such stars as Beyonce and Emeli Sande - had revealed in a BBC News interview that George had responded to his professional request in the last year.
Naughty Boy told the BBC: “I can’t wait. I don’t know what to expect.
“And, to be honest, he’s more mysterious than anyone else so I’m actually excited.
“I reached out and then he got back.
“He’s got an album coming out next year, and he’s going to be doing something for my album as well.”
In addition, George was planning to re-release ‘Listen Without Prejudice 25’ on his old label Sony Music, with whom he famously battled in court for creative freedom in the 1990s, but with whom harmony has long been restored.
Most poignantly, he was putting the finishing touches to a documentary film to accompany the album. The film is currently slated for release in March 2017, but clearly its future will have to be decided following his death.
The film, which was to be narrated by George, is called ‘Freedom: George Michael’, and tells the story of the making of the album, George’s grief at the death of his lover Anselmo Feleppo in 1993, his frustration over the marketing of his album, and the sensational court case that followed.
When ‘Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1’ was released in 1990, it was extraordinary for many reasons - the fact that it was only the second solo album of a prince of pop yet revealed the maturity of an artist at the peak of his creative powers, the catalogue of hits including ‘Praying for Time’, ‘Waiting for that Day’, ‘Heal the Pain’ and ‘Cowboys and Angels’, but also for George’s decision not to put himself on the cover.
Because he didn’t want to put himself forward in the media to hype up the album either, instead, he gave the label the David Fincher-directed ‘Freedom! 90’ video, featuring five of the most famous, beautiful faces in the world - Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz - all lip-synching along to George’s voice.
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Although the iconic video helped the song to chart success around the world, it didn’t help George’s relations with Sony Music, who had wanted him to play a bigger role in promoting his own music. The scene was set for a dramatic courtroom showdown between record label and star that has had consequences for recording artists ever since.
George admitted in an interview a decade ago that part of his reasons for taking Sony to court to acrimoniously was his anger and grief at losing Anselmo to an AIDS-related virus, after nursing him four years.
A few months ago, the ever-popular star titillated his army of worldwide fans by putting out a public request on social media for any film footage, memorabilia or photographs of himself, plus his musical partner Andrew Ridgeley, during the height of their Wham! fame.
The last time fans saw George in action was in 2012, when he performed on his Symphonica tour across the UK and Europe. Many dates had to be rescheduled when he was afflicted with pneumonia and had to be treated in intensive care in Vienna, hospital care he rewarded with a free concert for nursing staff when he went went back on the road.
He also appeared at the London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony, where he performed his last known self-penned single, ‘White Light’.