They say the music you listen to as a teenager remains with you for the rest of your life, and that’s certainly true in my case, growing up in the 1980s in Australia, where my entire life was turned upside down by the so-called “British Invasion”.
Regular readers would know that my teen years were dominated by David Bowie, whose obituary I had heartbreakingly to write at the start of this year. Now I have the almost equally sad duty of writing about the death of George Michael. I would be lying if I said that I was a huge fan of George as a teenager. My friends all loved him, while I however preferred his bandmate, Andrew Ridgeley. Nonetheless, the music of Wham! – and George’s subsequent solo releases – had a lasting impact with the opening chords of many of those songs taking me instantly back to my teens and early twenties.
The news therefore of George Michael’s death on Christmas Day shook me. Only that morning my family had, as one of our traditions, listened to my seasonal YouTube Playlist, which includes Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’, and Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’. While watching the latter, we commented as we saw Status Quo’s Rick Parfitt, who himself died on Christmas Eve, that every year there would be less and less people still alive from that group. Never did I expect that there would be one less even that day. I want to put a ring fence around the remaining.
George Michael was only 53 when he died, and yet he lived a more full life both in the public eye and in private than most of us will if we live for a hundred years. Quite apart from being a supremely talented singer and songwriter, he was a very funny man who could quite as easily have gone into acting if it had been his wish. His cameo performances with James Corden for Comic Relief, and with Ricky Gervais in ‘Extras’ are just two examples:
George Michael was a very generous man throughout his life and supported many charities – it’s come out since his death that he even worked anonymously in a homeless shelter, as well as set up a trust providing grants for disabled children and adults, and gave cash donations to strangers in need. It’s believed he has left in his will a large amount of money to various charities, including ChildLine, The Terrence Higgins Trust, and Macmillan Cancer Support.
Apart from his music – George Michael was probably most widely known for his fervent support of LGBT issues, and was and still is, very much a gay icon, and quite rightly so. His unabashed declarations of his homosexuality were a bright light in the lives of so many LGBT people – he was a brave, proud, and defiant man.
I’ll finish with his song, ‘Jesus To A Child’. Originally written in tribute to his lover Anselmo Feleppa, who died in 1993 of an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage, George donated the royalties for the song to UK charity ChildLine, the fact of which was only revealed after his death.
I could say lots more, but you’ll probably read about it elsewhere, and written much better. So I’ll say this: thank you George Michael for the brief time you walked on this earth. You made the lives of many so much better: with your music, your charity, and your life itself. Thank you George.
If you’d like to donate to ChildLine, The Terrence Higgins Trust, or Macmillan Cancer Support, or any of the other charities George Michael supported, including the Rainbow Trust, and the Red Hot Foundation, please click on the links.