George Michael: The Writer (1963-2016)
By A. Yamina Collins | January 2, 2017 No Comments
I must admit, I hadn’t listened to George Michael in years when I heard he passed on Christmas Day, 2016. Scratch that. I had been listening to him a little bit – I’d been bopping to Last Christmas on Christmas day, before learning that Mr. Michael had already died.
But before then, it had been a while since I played a George Michael tune, and indeed I had long forgotten how irresistible his earlier music was.
Still, when I heard the news, I was shocked (I didn’t cry immediately, not like I did when my other 80’s idol Michael Jackson died) and after a few days of reflection, I found myself in tears.
I told myself I was crying only because of a video of him I saw – an interview he gave to the press around 2011 (?) after he’d been released from the hospital with pneumonia, I think. He was weak during the brief speech he gave, and had difficulty breathing. Even so, he was gracious and wished everyone a very Merry Christmas. He even asked how they were enjoying their mince pies.
But his condition reminded me of my mom’s condition before her own passing in 2010, and the sight of Mr.Michael in his condition brought back terrible memories. It also humbled me, reminding me of the frailty of the human condition, no matter how big of a superstar a person once was.
I wept for my mom, yes. But I wept for George, too.
And then I got to listening to his old music, pretty much everything from Wham! Fantastic to Listen Without Prejudice, Volume 1 (I never liked his music much after that: it was too techno to me, and in my estimation, he lost much of the soul in his music. I don’t say this degrade him; he’s contributed much to popular music. I only say this to explain my waning interest in his work) .
But his early music I just adored. Well, most of it. And when he passed, I start listening again to the album Make It Big (loved me some Credit Card Baby, as well as Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go). I also started watching documentaries and interviews of him during his early days, as well as documentary from 2005 called ‘A Different Story’.
And what stood out to me the most was how much of a writer (and producer) George was.
Who knew? Maybe you knew. But I didn’t know.
All those years I had teeny-bopped to his tunes, I had no idea he had written most of them, too.
In my estimation, this was no small feat, especially considering he was 19 years old when Wham! dropped their first album. And by the time the joyous romp of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, and the sax-drenched ballad of Careless Whisper hit the radio, the dude was only 21.
Twenty-one. Let’s see what you or I contributed to the world at twenty-one years of age (oddly enough, I dare anyone to go back and look at video a him in 1984 and tell me he doesn’t have the look of 27 year old man! And once he grew the facial stubble forget it…I thought he was thirty, not twenty-two and twenty-three).
Nope. During those hey-days, he was just a kid (even during the onslaught hype of the Faith Album, he was all of twenty-four); a kid who had the talent and the vocal chops to send millions of teenage girls into a tizzy over his music.
And it turns out, Mr. Michael wasn’t just a member of Wham! Much like Brian Wilson was the musical genius behind the Beach Boys (another favorite of mine; and don’t go judging me ’cause I’m a black woman who loves Wham! and the Beach Boys), George was the musical genius behind Wham!
Better yet, he was Wham!
Some might debate how good the music was, but I say, in the realm of pure pop musical joy, it was as good as it gets.
And while, as a Christian, I no longer go around buying or listening to songs like “I Want Your Sex” song, I still find a way to appreciate his gift as a writer.
That’s what I admire in him. It’s the writer, see?
It’s the writer in me, admiring the writer in him, evening mourning his loss. I hate to see people die. And I hate to know that beauty and talent don’t last forever. Guess I’m wired that way.
And so I have been crying this past week. Less so because of his actual passing, (53 is awfully young, but I understand he was having some substance and lifestyle problems that attributed to his physical demise), and more so because of what he made and what he once was; a young, bright-faced, song writer,that’s what.
And a brilliant one, too. One whose early music made the world seem bright and hopeful; I could ‘Choose Life’ after watching his videos, or hope for a romantic love so great, that I wouldn’t want my”Freedom” from it. And aside from Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You’, no contemporary Christmas song is as infectious as his “Last Christmas” ditty.
It breaks my heart to know that George had his Last Christmas on Dec. 25th, 2016. Yet for the years of fun-filled and beautiful music he once created, I, for one, am glad he was around.
Rest In Peace, George.
The Music Was The Thing.