A tribute made towards someone, particularly towards someone on their death, should be a piece of prose filled with earnestly put forth sentiment. Sorry to open with the obvious, however it seems that in this case, I will initially ignore my own advice.
What is the impact of George Michael’s death in what feels a year dominated by the relentless slicing of the scythe? 2016 news headlines have been burdened with the passing of prestigious figure after prestigious figure after prestigious figure. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Johan Cruyff, Harper Lee, and most recently Carrie Fisher and her mother (the latter passing away whilst organising her daughter’s funeral).
Perhaps this is the cause to my instantaneous reaction on discovering the death of Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, better known as George Michael, on Christmas Day. My heart barely bowed let alone sank travelling the ocean of my emotions. And if there had been any threat of submersion this was quickly buoyed by the pinnacle of the holiday season. It was only well after the food drink presents and cheer had passed that I, sitting alone watching TV late in the evening, happened upon the BBC’s hastily rescheduled tribute to Michael; George Michael at the Palais Garnier, Paris.
From the black and white cinematography of the Palais Garnier to Michael’s sincere narrative to the symphonica and the stunning stage show, I was instantly hooked. But above all, what stopped this fish from fighting to find some other preoccupation was the music. The moment Michael sung ‘Through’, with its dramatic key changes and plummeting vocals, I came out of my meat/alcohol induced daze and listened resolutely. The orchestra and Michael’s voice complimented each other perfectly. But it was Michael’s voice in particular, which entranced me. Making me begin to comprehend just how good a vocalist he was.
The performance at the Garnier spurred me to find out more about the man who broke on the scene with school mate Andrew Ridgeley in the band Wham! then moved onto a solo career spawning hits including ‘Faith’, ‘Freeek’, and the cheeky riposte to antics involving an undercover LA cop, ‘Let’s Go Outside’. What one discovers reading newspaper articles on Michael and typing ‘George Michael’ into computer search engines is a store of information that creates the image of an exceptionally talented and exceptionally complex man.
Michael was one of the goliaths of British pop music selling over 100 million records worldwide as well as being a somewhat controversial figure who too often found himself in compromising situations. But, as stated before, a tribute is a prose used to put forth sentiment on its’ subject. In this case it is sentiment to a man who, in public became the pin-up boy to countless millions of adoring fans, whilst behind closed doors fell deeply in love with a life partner who contracted AIDs and who Michael himself nursed to his death over a harrowing five year period.
This is just one of the startling revelations showcasing Michael’s copious generosity. It is also being hastily documented in the wake of such sudden death, Michael’s incessant work towards charity and AIDs awareness campaigns, including donating all proceeds of a concert to NHS nurses on the back of the healthcare his mother received in her ill-fated battle with cancer, as well as the heartening discovery that throughout his career Michael had been a private supporter of Childline and Macmillan Cancer Support. I merely highlight the tip of an iceberg of information about a man who was intensely talented, intensely troubled, and, in this narcissistic age of ‘sharing’, was one of the astute specimens who understood the importance of privacy.
In unmasking some of the different facets of George Michael the superstar pop idol, my heart suddenly stops in a moment of unexpected calm found within the high seas of emotion. The winds of Christmas past, New Year present, love, hate, future, resolutions, and all the other conjectures that cross our thoughts, has suddenly dispersed, leaving me floating on a still break. And as I bob up and down, getting a rare moment to reflect, I see the storm clouds have parted and a pink and gold sun is setting on the horizon. The sun is a star, and on this day that star is George Michael. A great artist, a great entertainer, but above all, we’re starting to understand, he was firstly a great man.
Rest in peace.