By Belinda Wilson
In a grim year when far too many talented artists were snatched from us I was saddened to read that “George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period.” With the voice of an angel who some may have considered fallen. Amongst stories of car crashes whilst under the influence, the arrest for a “lewd act” in the “restroom of a Beverley Hills park and the banning of “I want your Sex” on radio stations in the UK and US - the talent would not be denied.
Like Prince, also untimely snatched from us this year, George took issue with the music industry and in particular his record label Sony, refusing to conform to the strict limitations they imposed upon him and the marketing of his brilliant “Listen without Prejudice”. ‘Freedom” remains to this day, one of my very favourite songs and certainly videos – launching Supermodels and catwalk struts from young fans with hairbrushes in bedrooms everywhere.
His evolution can be seen in the photos of his all too short life – especially through the many haircuts ! From Wham with School boy buddy Andrew Ridgely, the bouffant of his ‘Careless Whisper” video and then the altogether cooler images of Faith and his subsequent albums.
There were also the really memorable duets, for example when George introduced his uninitiated young fans to the magical Aretha Franklin with “I knew you were waiting for me” and the best rendition ever of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – how must Elton John be feeling with so many loved ones now departed ? Then “If I told you that” with Whitney and the completely wonderful “As” with Mary J Blige. Just go on You Tuber right now and remind yourself how really great singers sound.
The winner of a multitude of Grammys, Brits, Ivor Novello, Billboard,MTV and American music awards the thoughtful “Older” album was penned after the loss of George’s partner Anselmo Feleppa who died of an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage. In a later interview Michael said "It was terrifying news. I thought I could have the disease too. I couldn't go through it with my family because I didn't know how to share it with them – they didn't even know I was gay.” And "It was a terribly depressing time. It took about three years to grieve, then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed”
In a lighter mood George satarised his arrest by Marcelo Rodríguez who was part of California’s "pretty police/sting operation” with the brilliant “Outside” . This was accompanied by a video featuring George dressed as a policeman in a disco latrine!
He gave much of his time and money to charity with Band Aid, Live Aid, The Nelson Mandela and Freddy Mercury Tributes and substantial donations to many charities in particular helping the Rainbow trust raise 20 million pounds for terminally ill children.
Such a shame that after a period of illness over the last 5 years following his bout of pneumonia and close call at the Vienna General Hospital and just when he was planning a comeback album collaboration with Naughty Boy, that George Michael should be snatched from us.
What a loss ! What a voice !