One of the biggest music stars and icons of the last four decades left us on Christmas day one year ago
The Last Christmas Of George Michael
One of the biggest music stars and icons of the last four decades, George Michael is on that same level of artists such as John Lennon, Elton John, Madonna, Michael Jackson or David Bowie, he crossed generations and was able to maintain for most of his career a coherent musical status always with creativity and well crafted Pop songs, he was born on June 25th, 1963 in London, England, he left us on December 25th, 2016. We look back at his life and career and remember his strong legacy as an artist and human being
When he started his professional career as a young 19 year old on the teen duo Wham! back in 1982, there was nothing that could predict the bright career ahead of him, although the songs on their first album “Fantastic” shown an already young and skilled composer (“Young Guns”, “Wham Rap” and “Club Tropicana”), it was still hard to guess the brilliant artist that would go on to write some of modern music and modern Pop timeless songs. In 1984 George Michael started to establish himself as one of the best musicians and singers of the decade; with Wham!, aside of the music, the duo had to project an image to attract specially teenagers, their target audience, with George’s good looks it wasn’t hard to do it, and he becomes also a fashion and style icon, something that would endure for the decades to come. Wham! had a younger target audience indeed, and both George and Andrew Ridgeley were very young, barely in their early twenties when success stroked, but, the surprising thing about it, was that the music could please to both adults and teenagers, with their second album “Make It Big”, the duo had a string of hits that included “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”, “Freedom”, “Everything She Wants” and the George Michael debut solo single (which was included on the line up of the album) “Careless Whispers”, a brilliant ballad that was composed by George when he was only 17, and his altruism started to show up as he got bigger, even if only was known around the ones close to him; though “Careless Whisper” was written by George only, he also gave credit to his band mate Andrew Ridgeley, proving that friendship it’s a strong bond for those who cherish it, and George did cherished people, both friends, family, fans and even anonymous persons. Perhaps at age only 21, George was already tempted into following a solo career that would rid him of the limited Bubblegum Pop music universe, he knew Wham! was not going to last forever, and whatever happened, he wanted to be sure Andrew had something to hold on to, Even the so-called Bubblegum Pop music that he wrote was not merely that, it was more, but George was always a perfectionist and in constant artistic grew to achieve his own musical maturity. At the same time that “Make It Big” was getting bigger around the world, was also the single “Last Christmas”, one of the band’s most successful songs, an enduring Christmas classic that years later became painfully ironic. With “Last Christmas”, George’s discreet altruism and love benefited countless people in need when he offered the song’s profit and royalties to charity associations. His altruism was a part of his life that he kept as discreet as possible, a genuine caring soul, that never looked for any praise but the one regarding his music.In 1985 Wham! had reached the peak of their popularity with millions of records sold and millions of fans around the world, the duo released more songs together such as “I’m Your Man”, in the music video, black and white, some fans disliked the fact he was now wearing a beard and a more sloppy look, an effort to separate himself for the teen pop idol he had became, a step further into his career that he wanted to be based on music exclusively and not on his looks. In 1986 Wham! comes to the inevitable end, still riding high in popularity, after the release of “The Edge Of Heaven”, George and Andrew go separate ways, amicably. The final concert takes place in a packed Wembley Stadium, George doesn’t looks back and in less than a year, he become one of the most profitable solo artists of all time.
In 1987 he duets with the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me”, a big hit worldwide, though not composed by him, the duet of a 23 year old with the respectable and giant Aretha proved that he was not merely a teen idol, on Wham’s latest compositions, already stepping away from the commercial Pop formula were doing just two years before; songs such as “The Edge Of Heaven” or “Where Did Your Heart Go” are not simple Pop songs, they’re good music, well made and well interpreted. 1987 it’s the breakthrough year for George Michael as a solo artist, his debut album “Faith” it’s released, he’s only 24 but composed alone one of the most influential albums of all time. George’s new image it’s more mature, also more reserved, less cheerful, the wide open smile he showed during his Wham! period was over, he was no longer interested in having his music limited to only a niche of people, with “Faith” he obtained that. The album scored several hit singles and No.1 songs worldwide, it included the now timeless classics “Faith”, “I Want Your Sex”, “Father Figure”, “Monkey”, “Kissing A Fool” and “One More Try”, to name a few. The whole album it’s brilliant from a musical perspective and the songs are just perfectly made. And he keeps growing bigger. By 1990 George was starting to shown signs of being tired with the huge success he was able to obtain around the world, he was frustrated that his image was still relevant for people to buy his records, with his next record he would change that. “Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1” it’s a dark album, a somber album with beautiful music drastically different from all he had done before. It’s his peak as an adult artist. No picture of himself on the cover, no promotional music videos starring him, all that was gone. On the music video of “Praying For Time” there are only the lyrics of the song, nothing else, but on the now iconic music video of “Freedom 90”, despite not appearing on it, George was able to make a strong statement about his career and image when some of the objects associated to it, such as the leather jacket worn on the “Faith” music video as well as the Jukebox, burn and blow up in pieces, he sung “sometimes the clothes do not make the man”. The personal tragedy of losing his boyfriend to AIDS was the heavy stroke on George’s life that opened the door for his demons to start taking control; despite being one of the world’s biggest music stars, life was not satisfactory for George Michael, and that was a secret he kept always for himself. The early 1990’s saw George’s music approaching to dance shores with songs such as “Too Funky” and “Killer/Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, but he also made one of his best songs during that period, the beautiful heartfelt ballad “Jesus To A Child”, a sad love song that he wrote for his late boyfriend. that was released on his third album, “Older”, in 1996. “Older” was a new phase on George’s music, always in constant search for the perfection and change, it was again, drastically different from his previous two solo albums, but featured some of the 1990’s most memorable Pop songs, the already mentioned “Jesus To A Child”, “Fastlove””Spinning the Wheel” “Star People” and “You Have Been Loved”. George Michael’s addiction problems developed stronger during this period, the loss of the loved ones, including his mother, puts him in a dark place, one that he would never got out from again.
When in 1998 he’s forced to come out as gay due to his arrest in a public toilet in Los Angeles, George doesn’t see it as a stab in his career, instead, he gives the perfect answer to it by composing “Outside”, an ironic song based on the experience. George Michael was already a discreet person, in all matters, being forced to come out would eventually happen, and the only reason he hadn’t gave that step yet was because of his father, a conservative man, which George thought had to “respect” and not coming out as gay was in fact something he was forced to do. Unfortunately, George Michael’s career suffered enormously, not because of his sexuality, but because of the heavy addiction to drugs, which destroyed a big part of the artist he was. George Michael never asked for help, and during the late 1990’s up until the 2000’s decade, he was more often in the news due to personal scandals rather than for his music. After releasing his fourth album “Songs from the Last Century” in 1999, George only released one more, in 2004 “Patience”. During the 2010’s he struggled hard to fight his addictions, being close to death many times, something he kept private. In 2016, George was finally trying to put back his life on track and working on new music and a documentary about “Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1” to be released in 2017. During a year in which the world saw many of the most beloved artists passing away, including David Bowie and Prince, on December 25th, Christmas day, George finally succumbed to years of drug abuse and depression. He was found lifeless on his bed by his then boyfriend Fadi Fawaz. The world was shocked and the music world suffered a huge blow. George was only 53 and left too soon, too early. His body “decided” to leave during one of the times of the year where his voice his heard the most, George died alone, on his last Christmas. His music and legacy will live on, he left behind a rich body of work, and after his untimely death, details started to emerge of the charitable and caring soul he was. From anonymous people to charity associations that had promised to him not to tell of the good work and donations he done during his lifetime, the promise was broken, because it had to be done, so George could leave his legacy also as human being, and that along with his music, it’s all we need to remember him forever.
Look back at the 1996 music video for “Jesus To A Child” by George Michael
Look back at the 1984 music video for “Last Christmas” by Wham!
Listen to some of the best music from George Michael compiled by Pop Expresso
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