« Have You Ever Noticed? | Main | Interview with a 40 Year U.S. Navy Veteran (Podcast) »
Monday
Jan022017

My Fan Experience with George Michael

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries2016 was a bad year for losing some great musical artists. Prince, David Bowie, and Glenn Frey are among the many notables who past away and were also some of my personally favorite musicians.

One of the other deaths that hit me was George Michael. For me, he was more or less in his own category. Prince and Bowie also helped redefine the image of masculinity but Michael brought a special sensitivity that seemed to resonate with me more as I matured myself. 

I was very young and just getting out into the world of real responsibilities when “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” came out by the duo of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in the group “Wham.” The album “Make It Big” was released the latter part of 1984 and churned out hits through 1985. (Michael was the principle producer.)

George Michael and I were about the same age and “Wham” was all over the radio and TV that year. My 20-year-old self was getting the early stages of a sound business together while at Kent State. I was working with mostly rock bands and doing some of my first voice-overs and DJ work. When I mentioned “Wham” to some of my contemporaries the standard remark was, “You mean you listen to that little f*g?” I’m not sure that "term" was in reference necessarily to Michael’s sexuality (at that time little was known about it) but it was the standard pejorative used by many of my hard rock buddies toward all famous men who did not bite the head off of dead animals or brag about how many women they laid in one night.

My answer to that rude and awkward question was that I was interested in radio and I had to be aware of all types of music. By and large that was true, much of the music I was exposed to through working in the sound business would not be on my personal playlist at home. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was part of a wider group of songs to me at that time, however, “Careless Whisper” was already on my radar as an indication that something more was coming from George Michael.

When Michael’s solo album “Faith” was released in ‘87 & ‘88 my days of minimizing my status as a George Michael fan were over. He was a couple of years older and so was I. I had matured to the point that I was no longer going to back away from the things that I liked or the people who inspired me.

“I Want Your Sex” exploded onto the dance charts. The controversial video actually spelled out the message “explore monogamy” on the bare skin of a model.

As the hits kept coming from “Faith” it became apparent that Michael was more than a typical pop star. 

This is especially true when you consider the pop scene today. I don’t want to sound like the typical older guy who says that they just don’t make them like they used to. Objectively, yes there are a lot of talented people out there today. However, true artisans in the wide venue of pop culture are rare. I would caution current recording artists not to rely too much on technology. One thing that dates a song is relying on the technology of the time to carry the tune. No pun intended. Great vocals and writing, by contrast, are timeless.

“Father Figure” is a good example of an awesome song. It could almost be described as a ballad mixing elements of pop and gospel with rhythm and blues sensuality. At this point George Michael became a crossover artist of enormous significance in numerous genres. Michael wrote and produced the song. It is one of the first major pop hits that I am aware of that deeply explores the complexity of an intimate relationship; in this case a suggestion of erotic exploration and role playing by consenting adults, done with sensitivity and affection. Michael’s soulful vocals just float over the mix.

Let’s just say that we don’t hear songs like that every day. 

I particularly like the part of the song that goes:

"If you are the desert
I'll be the sea
If you ever hunger -
Hunger for me
Whatever you ask for
That's what I'll be...

So when you remember the ones who have lied
Who said that they cared
But then laughed as you cried
Beautiful darling
Don't think of me…

Because all I ever wanted…"

George Michael’s active reign as one of the biggest stars in the world may not have lasted as long as some others, but he helped open the door to a new style of male pop star. In this way I feel that I matured with him. He made it cool to be sensitive and passionate. He also had a fervent respect for the process and discipline of creativity in one’s work. Now, after his death, stories are surfacing of his wonderful generosity. The stories come as no surprise to me because the human side of him was apparent in his work and in the various interviews that I followed about him over the years.

For being thirty years old the video stands the test of time fairly well. It has somewhat of a cinematic and story-type feel to it more so than a series of flashes and quick edits usually present in music videos. However, like most great songs the video in any case is almost a distraction from Michael’s lyrics, the soulful sound of his voice, and his emotion in the singing. I would recommend listening to the song on a fairly good set of speakers if possible.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend