But I guess I ‘gotta have faith.’ It’s no goodbyes from me.
When I was a little girl living in London I came across the most amazing group called Wham.
They were lively, they were totally rad, they were trendy and trailblazing. They mesmerized both the youth and adults alike.
The group consisted of two beautiful girls who danced synchronized and sang back up for the two front men – George Michael and his side kick Andrew Ridgely.
They held us spell bound. They had us at ‘hello.’
They were absolutely adorable. The voice of the youth, the voice of the future. They gave us hope. They echoed our thoughts, dreams, desires and even our anger.
Our anger and rebellion came across through songs like ‘Wham rap.’ I still watch that video anytime I want to feel good about myself. (Even older generations appreciate the music)
Our youthful exuberance came across through songs like – ‘Wake me up before you go-go.’ It’s still one of the most played ‘feel good’ songs at most parties (old skool music time)
Our emotional side was appealed to through songs like ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ and ‘Last Christmas.’
I grew older and apparently so did Wham because George Michael went and got himself a ‘Careless whisper’ in the arms of some other woman.
I swear to you, that song has been recited word for word by millions of listeners by heart.
I must’ve listened to that song only like a million times.
And then, just when we ladies began to swoon over the amazing, new and sexy look of George Michael without Wham, he went and got ‘Faith.’ (and then the sales of levis jeans suddenly went up. Wonder why?…and that famous backside wiggle we all tried on for size was born)
George stunned us all and made our faces pink with songs like ‘I want your sex.’
Step aside Prince and Madonna.
All the women I know nearly ran mad.
The men – green with envy, secretly longing to be like him.
And then there was ‘Freedom 90’ where George had the good grace to step aside from his music video and let models like Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and others take centre stage instead.
He wanted to be seen as more than just a sex symbol. How cute was that?
And then came ‘Fast love’ ‘Too funky’ and ‘Shoot the dog’ in his racy days.
Then along came ‘As’ with Mary J Blige which totally blew our minds. We copied the dance steps, AND tried (in vain) to get suits that were as close as we could get to the fab ones that the duo wore in the video.
Not to mention all the in-betweens hits like ‘don’t let the sun go down on me’ at the Wembley stadium – his duets with Elton John and even greats like Freddy Mercury before the latter died. Or ‘I knew you were waiting’ with Aretha Franklin.
Here’s one song of George’s that I haven’t mentioned yet. I’ve been saving it for last.
I have so many favourites but this one – it’s really something special to me.
I have loved this particular song since I was a little girl and I didn’t quite understand the intrinsic meaning of the song. I held unto that song till adulthood, still in love with it as the deep meaning grew even clearer to me.
It brings tears to my eyes whenever I play it, whenever I sing it. It’s called ‘I don’t want your Freedom.’ It is so emotional, it’s so touching, so loving, so vulnerable. It moves the core of your soul. It’s about loving someone who wants to set you free but you don’t want that kind of freedom to play around because this thing going on here means much more to you than anything you’ve ever felt before. You want to be fully committed and you don’t want that kind of relationship where you can see other people. You’re so neck deep that you’re not even embarrassed to bear it all and be so transparently vulnerable. It’s a cry for attention. It’s about real love. Real, real love. For those who understand what I mean. Not everyone will.
The freedom video shoot was taken in China where George Michael and Andrew Ridgley were acting as ambassadors of sorts and representatives of pop culture and of the western world at a time of political significance.
The video opens with about a minute of the band talking under clips of the Chinese people and the countryside. Wham! was one of the biggest acts on MTV at the time, but the network, fearing the short attention spans of their viewers, wanted to cut out the intro (this was before Michael Jackson changed the game with “Thriller“). The band’s manager, Simon Napier-Bell, refused, and MTV ended up airing the full video. Napier-Bell apparently found the negotiations with MTV much easier than those with the Chinese government.
This is a quote from George Michael about this song:
In an interview with the Christmas 2009 issue of The Big Issue, Michael said of this song, that when he wrote it he knew he had arrived: “When I was 19, I wrote ‘Freedom’ – the original version – and I thought, ‘I can’t believe I’ve just done that!’ I was absolutely thrilled. Because until then I had no real understanding of my abilities, but with ‘Freedom,’ I started to take myself seriously as a writer.”
This song hit #1 in the UK in October 1984. In America, the song wasn’t released until August 1985, peaking at #3 that year after the video was released.
George Michael obviously had a lot to say about freedom as he released two different songs about freedom in two different decades.
It’s no secret about his sexual preference and the uproar it caused in the media and among critics.
George stood for freedom and the boldness to be what you are and to not live the rest of your life pretending to be someone else.
That’s a really brave stand to take in a judgemental world.
I hope we all can take a leaf from him and from the implications of smothering people with fragments of our own prejudiced world views and aspirations.
Freedom 90 was about going through the blazing fire and coming out reborn like a phoenix.
Burning down our inner walls of fear and prejudice. Breaking free.
George set his famous leather jacket ablaze in the video of freedom 90′.
You can’t put a jacket back on once you’ve set it on fire.
A lot of clueless people sometimes ask – Why on earth do you mourn musicians? They don’t know you or care about you.
To these people I say – Just like Mandela, or any president or dead hero out there – it’s not about knowing them in person. It’s about being affected by the person and what they stood for.
It’s about what they represented, what they added to the world, to your life.
They do add to the quality of our life.
It’s about growing up with their music, crying to their lyrics. It’s about them nudging us to stand up for our rights, for our freedom. It’s about being inspired by their words.
That little but mighty piece of musical genius that they bestowed unto the world.
We are privileged that such greats have served us and served us well.
George – I am grateful. A whole bunch of us are.
I grew up with you and my youth was all the better for it. Still is.
I don’t want your freedom George, but I guess I gotta have faith.
I have enjoyed your zest, your spunk, your flamboyancy, your lyrics, your music, your videos, and I always will.
So for me it’s not goodbye. You still live.
Your music shall live on through all of us – your great big die hard fans.
Below are various excepts:
George Michael was no stranger to the headlines. His private life was often offered up for public consumption, but his philanthropy was not as widely reported. Since his death, stories have emerged that reveal his generous, often spontaneous, acts of kindness.
The star often kept aside tickets for NHS staff at his concerts, and once gave an entire special concert free of charge for nurses as a thank you for the care they had given his mother a decade earlier.
When she died of cancer in 1997 Michael described his mother as a “woman of great compassion”, adding: “She felt much as I do, that we were living in a world that was gradually being drained of that.”
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We are extremely grateful to George and send our condolences to his family, friends and fans.”
Singer and activist Billy Bragg said: “His support for the LGBTQ community, the NHS and the miners marked George Michael out as an activist as well as a great artist.”
I hereby leave you with some Tweeter posts and mumbo jumbo stuff you might or might not know about good ole Georgie:
- George Michael was born – Georgios Kyriacos Panayioton
- His father was Greek.
- Michael formed the duo Wham with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The band’s first album Fantastic reached No. 1 in the UK.
- “I Knew You Were Waiting” was a one-off project that helped Michael achieve an ambition by singing with one of his favourite artists, and it scored number one on both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 upon its release. It became his third consecutive solo number one in the UK.
- “I Want Your Sex” was one of the soundtracks for Beverly Hills cops.
- “I Want Your Sex” was banned by many radio stations in the UK and US, due to its sexually suggestive lyrics. Michael argued that the act was beautiful if the sex was monogamous, and he recorded a brief prologue for the video in which he said: “This song is not about casual sex.” Some radio stations played a toned-down version of the song, “I Want Your Love”, with the word “love” replacing “sex”.
- When “I Want Your Sex” reached the US charts, American Top 40 host Casey Kasem refused to say the song’s title, referring to it only as “the new single by George Michael.”
- It reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 in the UK.
- When Michael’s fifth studio album, Patience, was released in 2004, it went straight to number 1 on the UK Albums Chart, and became one of the fastest selling albums in the UK, selling over 200,000 copies in the first week alone. In Australia it reached number 2 on 22 March. It reached the Top 5 on most European charts, and peaked at number 12 in the United States, selling over 500,000 copies to earn a Gold certification from the RIAA. To date the album had sold around 7 million copies worldwide and spawned four (of six) new hit singles.
- “Amazing“, the third single from the album, became a number one hit in Europe. When Michael appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on 26 May 2004, to promote the album, he performed “Amazing”, along with his classic songs “Father Figure” and “Faith“. On the show Michael spoke of his arrest, revealing his homosexuality, and his resumption of public performances. He allowed Oprah’s crew inside his home outside London. The fourth single taken off the album was “Flawless“, which used the sample of the Ones‘ original dance hit “Flawless”. It was a dance hit in Europe as well as North America, reaching no.1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and became Michael’s last number one single on the United States Dance chart.
- Michael sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
- His 1987 debut solo album, Faith, sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
- Michael garnered seven number one singles in the UK and eight number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, including “Careless Whisper” and “Freedom! ’90“.
- He ranks among the best-selling British acts of all time, with Billboard magazine ranking him the 40th-most successful artist to ever live.
- Michael won various music awards throughout his 30-year career, including three Brit Awards—winning Best British Male twice, four MTV Video Music Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards from eight nominations.
- Michael, who was gay, was an active LGBT rights campaigner and HIV/AIDS charity fundraiser.
- In 2004, the Radio Academy named Michael the most played artist on British radio during the period 1984–2004.
- The documentary A Different Story, released in 2005, covered his career and personal life. In 2006, Michael announced his first tour in 15 years, the worldwide 25 Live tour, spanning three individual tours over the course of three years (2006, 2007 and 2008). In 2016, he announced a second documentary on his life entitled Freedom, set to be released in March 2017. On 25 December 2016, Michael died at his Oxfordshire home at the age of 53.
We have lost some of the most iconic champions of individuality recently. It is up to us to smash stereotypes & onwardly smash boundaries.
No matter how diligently George Michael tried at times to sink his career, his career just wouldn’t go away. If anything – as he told Kirsty Young when he was a Desert Island Discs castaway in 2007 – it kept bobbing buoyantly, untarnished by scandal. With Michael, there was no such thing as “reputational damage”.
- Kevin Maguire
We should remember George Michael was the son of a Greek Cypriot, his dad coming to Britain in 1950. Migration enriches our country
- Why George Michael turned his back on America – by Why Edward Helmore (The Guardian)