This year in particular has been uniquely harsh when it comes to pop icons and people who mean something to folks of a certain age (which would be my age). We had Prince, Gene Wilder, David Bowie. Recently, we had Alan Thicke and Florence Henderson, who were among my generation’s favorite TV parents. We lost John Glenn, Sharon Jones, the sublime Lady Chablis. We had a scare with Carrie Fisher (and we still can’t be too careful there). And now, 2016 has decided to strike deep into my heart and rip out yet another source of strength and encouragement for me with the death of George Michael.
As for most pop stars, your mileage will vary. All I can say is that George Michael wrote nearly all of his own songs – including “Careless Whisper” which was penned at the tender age of seventeen! – and wrote tender ballads, club bangers, straight up sex anthems, you name it. One of my favorite songs of all time is “Father Figure,” and of course there’s the incredible pop masterpiece of “Freedom ’90”, which might possibly be one of the least “pop” pop hits that has ever been. This song is nearly seven minutes long, introduced some house rhythms, R&B bass grooves, gospel choir realness, and lyrics that basically was the journey that a young British-Greek kid took towards music superstardom, but in another way called out to anyone who were struggling to be their most authentic selves in a world that requires conformity:
But today the way I play the game has got to change oh yeah
Now I’m gonna get myself happy
I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I stopped the show
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone I forgot to be
I’ll hold on to my freedom
May not be what you want from me
Just the way it’s got to be
Lose the face now
I’ve got to live
There isn’t a moment in my life that I can’t find a George Michael song that I can’t equate to it. The crazy times, the sexy times, the moments that I needed to just have fun, and the moments that hurt more than I could ever express.
The only thing I can say is that George Michael taught me more about sexuality and sensuality than any other person on earth. His music opened my eyes and my heart and I owe a debt of gratitude to him.
I leave you with my all time favorite George Michael moment; one of the few songs he sang that he didn’t write himself. But he took this song and turned it upside down, he turned it from a song that I didn’t really care about so much into one that I listen to, with tears streaming down my face, like I’ve been touched by the Holy Ghost in church.
This year sucks.