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George Michael


5 January 2017 Blog The Queen Street Observer

2016 took a phenomenal number of people from the world of entertainment prompting much hand wringing and cries of “Oh my God, what’s happening? The world’s gone crazy!” Well, no. Not really. Let’s be brutally honest here, the vast majority of those who died were actually elderly, in their late 60s or 70s. It doesn’t make their loss any less sad but it is a stark reality nevertheless. George Michael was different, aged just 53 is shockingly young.

Just like it is now the early 80s were filled with glossy young pin ups who’d come along with a hit song or two and just as suddenly vanish into the ether but even in those early days of “Club Tropicana” and the like I certainly had a sense that Wham! Were somehow different. For a start the singer actually wrote the songs, a bit unusual even then and boy could he sing. His sidekick was there primarily to be little other than a source of eye candy but you didn’t need to be Mensa material to recognise George Michael as a real talent.

And he was. Good and all as most of the Wham! hits were – and they were, no shame in admitting to liking them – George really came into his own when he went solo, a more adult sound to the music and deeper, considerably more thoughtful lyrics to boot.

Much has emerged in the days since he died of his extraordinary generosity, helping out at soup kitchens, the £5,000 tip to a student nurse working as bar maid and struggling to pay her fees, the woman on a TV show saying she needed £15,000 for IVF treatment who receives a cheque for same the following day from a mysterious benefactor. All of these good deeds and more done on condition of strict anonymity. There’s even a story which may or may not be apocryphal, that George gave Andrew Ridgley a writing credit on “Careless Whisper” thus ensuring that Ridgley would pick up handsome royalties from the song forever more. If true a nice gift to bestow as Wham! were coming to an end.

The papers have been in overdrive reporting all of this of course, a spectacle which leaves me more than a little nauseous. These are the same papers after all, particularly the tabloids, the redtops, who hounded George while he was alive, gleefully reporting his every indiscretion. There were many of those, from the toilet incident in LA to various episodes of being arrested for driving under the influence of whatever; the list goes on and on. Call me old fashioned if you will but I’ve always believed that even somebody of megastar status is entitled to a private life away from the spotlight unless they actively court the publicity no matter what – Hey Kim! What’s up, Kanye?!

I must mention the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley in 1992. I was watching the broadcast that night, admittedly not overwhelmed by the show until George came on, then I was transfixed. Looking like the proverbial million dollars, Ray Ban Aviators, black shirt, black pants and salmon coloured jacket (Wouldn’t we all love to be able to carry off a look like that, eh?) the sheer power of his voice soaring through “Somebody to love”, well it’s a clip I’ve frequently gone back to over the years on YouTube, whenever I have five minutes to spare. Truly a performance that burned the house down. Then there’s that bit in it where the camera pans to Brian May and his face is a picture – lit by a beaming broad grin because he knows just like the rest of us that this is something very special indeed.

And yet, and yet….. his fame seemed to have sat very uneasily with him from the outset. One of the more fascinating things to come to light since George’s death is an open letter written to him by Frank Sinatra no less, in response to an interview George gave to the LA Times’ Calendar magazine in September 1990. Sinatra’s letter was published in the same magazine the following week and it’s wonderful. Worth your while looking it up, it’s easily found on the internet. Here’s just a little of it…….

“Talent must not be wasted. Those who have it – and you obviously do or today’s Calendar cover article would have been about Rudy Vallee – those who have talent must hug it, embrace it, nurture it and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you.

Trust me, I’ve been there. Frank Sinatra.”

Farewell George Michael thanks for the music.

As it’s Valentine’s Day next month a blog about love songs, the flowers of romance! Positive! Uplifting, even! Talk to you then…..

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