What a year this has been for the passing of true talent. It started in January with a the news of the death of David Bowie, now the latest star to be taken is George Michael, at the age of 53.
The news is particularly poignant having broken over Christmas; a time when Michael’s music is at the forefront of public consciousness due to his widely different – but equally brilliant – festive hits ‘Last Christmas’ and ‘December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas).’
As a big George Michael fan, I have a lot of his albums both as a solo artist and with his band Wham! His was one of the first “grown up” types of music I listened to. Of course, George Michael was an archetypal and inimitable pop star. Alongside his beautifully silky voice and striking good looks he also had a great understanding of music, with political awareness and intelligence. He was the full package.
I love how he could create classics in any type of mood or style. This is particularly evident in the way his greatest hits are arranged in the compilation ’25’, that was released to mark his 25th year in the music industry. One disc is “For Living” and the other is “For Loving”. What comes through in his music is honesty that can really touch your soul. This is particularly evident in ‘Jesus to a Child’, a tribute to his late partner Anselmo Feleppa:
George Michael moved seamlessly from a dance track to a ballad full of sadness. I also enjoyed how he could completely rework and remix works he appreciated and put his own unique stamp on it. Tracks that come to mind are his version of The One’s ‘Flawless’ and how ‘Shoot the Dog’ utilises Human League’s ‘Love Action (I Believe in Love)’ and makes it into a completely different style. Meanwhile, his duet with Mary J. Blige on the song ‘As’ contemporises a Stevie Wonder classic.
Michael’s career shows a musical progression as well demonstrating a wide range of emotions in his work. I think this is one of the reasons why he has had such longevity; his ability to adapt. While writing this blog, I’ve been listening to his interview with Kirsty Young for Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ programme and what strikes is how modern his choice of songs were. He had so much more to give; apparently in the pipeline for 2017 would have been a new album and a documentary.
Alongside George Michael’s copious talent, he was a generous philanthropist. I remember seeing an interview with him saying that he didn’t mind how people accessed his music, as long as they were listening. It’s also the impact he had on other’s lives which adds to this selflessness:
There’s a reason George Michael is one of the most played artists on UK radio, and my own personal collection, because he is one of the the best.
Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou – ‘You Have Been Loved’ and you will be missed.