Like all truly talented artists, George Michael was unique. He was more than the definition of a pop singer or a superstar could fit. His radiant charisma and his incredible songwriting made generation after generation of people be drawn to his magnetic presence even though creatively he had slowed down a long time ago. And as with so many hugely successful artists, he was clearly a tortured soul. People tend to identify with tortured artists as their struggles reflect their own, all in context of course. It’s all about the battle between light and darkness, and he certainly had struggles that a lot of people could identify with.
George’s biggest issue, the one that started his demise long ago, was the death of his mother, a loss that he never truly recovered from. Although it wasn’t his only loss, it was certainly the one that pulled the world under his feet.
Soon afterwards, the tabloids forced him down a road that he never really intended to take by outing him which led to a frenzy of projecting his sexuality as a major focal point of his character, a misrepresentation of what he was really all about. But that was mainly the efforts of the music industry trying to repackage the damaged image of a superstar that the tabloids had had a go at making into a demised hero for their front pages. In reality, there was so much more about George Michael that his sexuality was the very last thing for anyone to care about and indeed few people did.
The agenda of his heart was very different and it was what entrapped him. He tried to hide it through some of his work, like having a go at political commentary with Shoot the dog, then tacky oversexualised efforts like Freeek, then the benign Amazing among the various compilations and live recordings of old material. But what was truly in his heart was there to see in some of his recordings without much effort.
I used to check his website every few months, always with a bit of sadness when all I could find again was just another re-release or a new song that wasn’t his best, like checking on an old friend. I always used to think “hang in there George”, sometimes I’d get a little angry for the “waste of a talent”. Drugs had become an issue by then, trying to find a crutch like so many people tormented by loss do.
But who can really judge anyone for their strength or lack of to deal with what is killing their soul…
I think a lot of us feel a bit personal about the artists that defined our teen years, like they are distant old friends who we watch the lives of unfold parallel to ours with a bit of affection. George Michael was most certainly one of those people for many of us out there. There hasn’t been a generation since he started making music that wasn’t touched by at least something he’s created and his talent has been recognised universally.
But his death doesn’t leave a void, it makes a void that’s existed for a long time permanent, a feeling felt for many other extremely talented people that went too soon like Amy, Whitney, Michael Jackson, so many more through the decades. All huge talents with demons to beat, buckling under the gift and the curse of a unique talent that could be their saviour and their spectacular demise all in one.
So the death of an artist like him will always feel like a personal loss to an extend as it symbolises the loss of battle we all fear when dealing with our own demons, large or small. As a person, I am sincerely saddened to see yet another life cut short as a result of the adversity of life. But as a music listener I feel devastated that another one of the musicians that certainly fed my love of music is gone. There will always be new artists with just as great talent and work but every true artist is unique and their loss is the loss of a part of our lives.
Thank you for the music George and the heart that came with it, for being a gentleman, the kind-hearted man that I’ve heard so many people say you were, for making Greek people around the world feel so proud, for being larger than life but also human and fragile. For breaking down for love, truly consistent with your most precious work.
What a songwriter. What a talent. What a loss and what a privilege, and what tragedy that those two must go together…