On Christmas, the world lost George Michael and the world was devastated. Amongst all the social media posts blaming 2016 and wondering how any more celebrities will pass before New Year’s Day, there were heartfelt tributes to the artist from fans, new organizations, and music publications. I scrolled through my feeds looking at videos and fully written tributes posted by friends. Even if you didn’t know who George Michael was, it was obvious that this was a cultural icon that would be missed. However, unlike many of friends, I didn’t know much about George Michael.
I can never say I was someone who really listened to George Michael. Until his death, I could count all the songs of his I knew on one hand. “Last Christmas,” his biggest single ever and one of my favorite holidays songs, was the only Wham! song I knew other than “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” which was a song I never liked. “I Want Your Sex” because it was such a provocative song. And “Freedom! 90” I knew because I was alive at the time and the song was included in commercials. I guess you could say I wasn’t a fan.
Since his death, I watched some videos and listened to more of his songs. And I really liked them. Why wasn’t I someone who appreciated his music more? Perhaps it has something to do with timing. I was born in 1987 and George Michael was before my time. Granted, I listen to a lot of music that is older than me. However, there is just so much old music. It was hard to sift through it all, so it Is understandable that some things would not be on radar. Though you could say that someone as monumental as George Michael shouldn’t have slipped right by me.
Before his death, the only real connection with George Michael I had was that another one of his songs was the #1 song on Billboard charts when I was born. “Faith,” officially released in October of 1987, just happened to be the biggest song in the country when I entered the world. I just think it is fun to know little nuggets like that. You want to know what life and culture was like when you were technical a part of it, but not conscious of it. All my life, that was my only tie to George Michael. I never listened to his music, but I knew that superfluous connection.
In the days following his death, more news came out about Michael that I never knew. Of course, I knew he was this mega big gay pop star. He wore his sexuality like a badge of honor (as he should). But, I never knew how generous he was. He gave away millions of dollars to various charities and organizations. He also made sure that his Wham! partner, Andrew Ridgely, would be taken care of through residuals. I was surprised to find out how philanthropic he was. And others were as well. The last time I had heard anything new about the man was when I watched the Olympics ceremony when he performed and I was thinking he didn’t look that great. However, this was someone with a such a massive heart and generous heart. It only made me respect him more and continue to motivate my new-found interest in the man.
His 1987 album Faith was a huge album spawning such amazing songs like “Father Figure” and “Faith.” Hearing it for the first time 30 years after it’s release, it sounds so timeless. While there are songs on the album better than “Faith,” that is the song I’ll associate with the most because of a coincidence. I’m taking some more time to explore Michael’s back catalogue and I know I won’t be disappointed. It’s just a shame that I’ve gone this long without really listening to him. Sometimes, you gotta have faith.