On this boxing day, I have learned that George Michael has left us. Another one gone who might have had more to offer yet, but who made the world a better place by being in it, certainly in his philanthropy, but also through his canny music craft and an intelligence of heart. The man had a way with a pop hook, for sure, but it was his lyrics, as he matured, that intrigued me.
I grew up steeped in pop pablum, but I was dismissive of empty pop by the time he emerged as the implausibly handsome half of Wham! And certainly there was a gloss and glib to their songs. But even those early hits had something irresistible (or at least forgivable) to them: The shameless abandon (and pun) of “Wake me up before you Go-Go,” the articulate contrition of “Careless Whisper,” etc….
And when he outgrew the gravy train, he bit the hand that fed him. Though he lost the battle with his record company, maybe he kept his integrity. I doubt he regrets it now. Ain’t no walls in Heaven to hang gold records on.
I own precious little pop music from the 80’s, but I have ended up with George Michael’s Best of, and solid handful of those songs still stop and hold my attention, even stir my heart, my admiration, and my gratitude that his soul had the craft to communicate them.
Never really got George Michael? That’s okay. But if you haven’t recently, you might try giving songs like “Father Figure,” “Praying for Time,” “Freedom 90” (and others) another listen. It is not empty pop.
So, I’m feelin’ the swell in my heart this evening, the twinge of grief that is a celebration, that bathes us in remembrance and gives a good soul his send off.
Just for fun. There is a video on Youtube of James Corden’s original inspiration for his now mega-popular carpool karaoke. It’s an extended Comic Relief Sketch (a British cameo fest that has pay off toward the end), which early on features Gearge Michael clearly not holding himself sacred. If it doesn’t play here, google it.