So there it is. We end 2016 in the same shock and sadness we started it with. Another legend leaves. George Michael, an artist whose songs were like our friends, has gone.
Given that I wrote earlier this year about the icons I grew up witih, I guess the death of George Michael shouldn’t have come as such a shock. Frankly, it did. I am stunned and quite bereft, just as I was – just as we all were – over the death of David Bowie and Prince a few months later. On the death of George Michael, Hubster said – and I kind of get where he is coming from – nothing surprises him anymore. But as I type the words: ‘death’, ‘George Michael’ in the same sentence, I find myself struggling to process it. He wasn’t much older than me. 53…it’s no age to go is it? On Christmas Day of all days too. What a way to end the day in fact…three happy kids fast asleep after the excitement of opening their gifts, a fine festive meal eaten and a couple of films watched…only to check my phone and see my friend Neil’s Facebook post sharing the sad news. Boom. Total astonishment.
The following morning, watching the news again and seeing the tweets of various celebrities, the shock gave way to utter sadness and tears. Hubster’s reaction was a thing of mystery (as ever); just as I will never understand the man’s response to…erm…most things, he can’t understand why somebody would react emotionally or shed tears “over somebody they didn’t know”. But that’s just it isn’t it?
We kind of feel like we
do did know these legends in a way, though. Maybe not so much know them but we know the lyrics to their songs word for word.
We know that guitar riff, the break right there where that stonking chorus comes in, you know the one…the one where you have to make sure the car windows are up because you ARE going to belt out the chorus to that classic tune they created, the one you used to listen to during Sunday night’s Top 40 (yes I’m that old people). That anthem that used to fill dance floors is your familiar friend that still pulls you onto the living room floor. That ballad in which you indulged your broken heart (way more times than was actually healthy) still – all these years later – makes you pause in the middle of washing the dishes as heartbreaks of the past flash across the surface of your heart in fleeting melancholy, no matter if decades after you cried yourself stupid over that ballad, you’ve found happiness.
I can’t remember which entertainment legend had just died (the roll call of people who’ve left us this year is just astonishing) prompting my aforementioned friend to post on Facebook: “2016, you can stop now”.
That wasn’t even half way through the year and so many have gone since then. If it wasn’t so sad, I’d have laughed at that post from my friend. Which leads me on to the focus of this post… 2015 tried my patience in my personal life. 2016 has been trying in other ways; I honestly didn’t think we’d be saying goodbye to George Michael this year. I don’t know about you but I’m thinking…if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry (again).
So shall we have a laugh instead? Not at the late great George Michael but an affectionate look at what the man and his music meant to me.
..a slightly light-hearted but ultimately respectful tribute to him with a fond smile (even though my heart is weeping).
1) Thank you George for breaking my heart. Every December. There will probably never be another festive heartbreaker that matches Last Christmas for me. Ever.
Do you even KNOW how many of us have sung this song physically sick with heartache and reaching for the kleenex?! I was in my mid teens living an ultra sheltered Indian girl existence when this song was a hit. Translation: at that point in my life, the only heartbreak I’d suffered was the one over losing the rather detailed love letter I’d written to John Taylor of Duran Duran and not being able to tame that alarming forest that was forming on my upper lip (#BecauseAsian) Four years after you released it, however? Different. Story. I could relate to Last Christmas…e-v-e-r-y word of it…as I suffered the first instance of my heart being shattered into a trillion teeny tiny pieces. At Christmas! Pfft. I then spent about six Decembers barely able to listen to that song every time I heard it, finally got over it and lo and behold circa mid 90’s got my heart broken again. In December! AGAIN! It was a like sick joke. All these years later, despite having one of those husband things and three of those kid things and being blessed blah blah, I still feel my tummy clench a bit when the familiar chords of Last Christmas kick in. But I do thank you for it George. It’s a great tune and will probably still be playing after I celebrate my last Christmas (excuse the pun but like I said, if I don’t laugh, I’ll bawl).
2) Thank you for proving that just because you’re a man, you don’t have to have a man’s hairstyle. No man will ever rock the Princess Diana haircut the way you did. I honestly salute you.
Does it get any better than this? I actually remember when you first came out with that new do. All that hair. Goodness me George, you Greek Adonis you. I swear at one point, I honestly thought you looked better than Diana did. Now, that is some achievement. Seriously, I hope you find each other in heaven, go to the best salon of them all and sit in adjacent chairs having a damned good giggle and a chat about all you’ve achieved in this life, one icon to another.
3) Thank you for one of the best intros ever to a song.
Yep, the ridiculously catchy summer anthem that is Club Tropicana. I’d love to say I have memories of steamy Club 18-30 holidays with friends or first crush stories with this as the soundtrack. But see above (sheltered upbringing etcetera etcetera). I fantasised about holidays in the sun watching that video (although watching it just now just brings a lump to my throat over how young you were in it, now you’re gone). I don’t think I actually realised what an absolutely perfect piece of pop this song was til years later. I mean that intro! Genius. Oh and guess what George? I’m one lucky girl. Now I don’t just have holidays in the sun; I actually live in the Med not far from where your family is originally from and the sound of the crickets in that intro…we hear that sound every summer. Funny how life works out huh my lovely?
4) Thank you for being one of the signature sounds of my carefree days in Hampstead, in a flatshare with friends, in a crummy job but in total music heaven.
Where do I begin? Well to be honest that whole album, Listen Without Prejudice, is one of the albums that saw me through my time working at Harrods after university. Everyone needs that time in their life; living with a bunch of mates, not a care in the world, staying up far too late, crawling bleary-eyed into work the next day, enduring bad bosses and terrible pay and living through all of it with great music. I actually feel ashamed to say I’d forgotten Cowboys and Angels but playing your tunes as I write this, I’m reminded of how much I loved it and am amazed to see it never even made the Top 40. Let’s talk about another tune that will forever be one of my absolute faves of yours: Freedom: oh ma Laaaaaad! Musically, what a COLOSSUS of a song. Visually, tick tick tick, because of the video with all dem models innit?
5) Few artists incite that sense of anticipation in me when I know they’re about bring out a new tune as you used to. Fast Love…epiphany of the mid 90’s!
Maybe it’s just tied up in a wistfulness over my younger days that are never to return. Maybe it’s simply because it takes me back to my little apartment in Paris, with its view of Sacré Coeur, where this song kept me company on many a lonely night. Or maybe (and probably more accurately) it’s just because it’s was bloody ace. Fast Love…I’m playing it right now George. God it takes me back. So ahead of its time when it was released, you just BLEW my mind. And that video…couldn’t get enough! Genius you were. (And I still want that chair in my house.)
6) Thank you for coming out in a very backwards coming forwards sort of way – self sabotage so to speak – but then somehow rising above the whole sorry mess to produce one of the bravest most tongue in cheek videos of the 90’s (something that wold have most of us).
7) Thank you for the tacky white 80’s tshirts with their huge black writing which I refused to buy because of my hard core Duran Duran loyalty.
8) Thank you for the slightly cheesy Village People-esque dance moves that you just managed to make look cool.
9) Thank you for providing my husband with some sweet anecdotes (of how he met you) to the delight of our kids.
10) Thank you for being the kind of musical icon I just don’t think we’re lucky enough to see these days.
Just like the legends who’ve gone before you George, you possessed a talent that was almost incomprehensible (no really, how on earth does someone craft such perfect songs from start to finish?) and it was a privilege watching you as you adapted your style to the times. Thank you for writing – yes writing not just mouthing someone else’s words – some of the most famous songs ever; the soundtrack to the lives of so many of us.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you Mr George Michael. For all of it.
I loved you even more than I realised.