Today marks the one whole year since George Michael passed away at the age of 53. Ever since his passing, listening to his hit Christmas song, Last Christmas, just isn’t the same. George was different from most of the artists back in the 80’s. Michael found it very difficult to figure out who he really was and to how to embrace it. The search of finding out who Michael really was took awhile, but once he found his true self, he embraced it along with all the flaws and differences that came along with it. He went through a lot of difficult situations and still managed to see the good in it all.
George Michael was born as Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25 1963, in London. In his early years, he and his family moved to Radlett and he attended Bushey Meads School where he met and befriended Andrew Ridgeley. Michael and Ridgeley both wanted to become musicians and would later on become partners in Wham!. Michael performed songs in the London Underground and eventually got involved in the music business by becoming a DJ and played in local schools and clubs.
In 1981, Michael formed a band with Andrew Ridgeley called Wham!. Their first album, Fantastic, reached number one in the UK. They also produced ten singles that same year including the hit song, “Club Tropicana.” Wham’s second album called Make It Big included the hit song “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” which made Wham! a true 80’s icon. The release of Michael’s solo singles, “Careless Whisper” and “A Different Corner,” caused rumors to spread about a possible breakup of Wham! and in 1986, Michael and Ridgeley officially broke up the band but not before releasing a single and a sell-out concert.
In early 1987 Michael began his solo career with his first solo album, Faith. The four singles that were included in Faith reached number one in the US. According to the Rolling Stone, Faith is considered by many as one of the finest 80’s pop albums.
In Michael’s second album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, he tried to create a new reputation for himself as a more serious-minded creator. Michael wanted people to view him the way that he saw himself rather than the way that the media portrayed him. He wanted to have an effect on people’s lives and for his lyrics and music to mean something. Some of the songs on this album were made to show the struggle that he often faced when dealing with his artistic identity and self-expression.
I went back home got a brand new face For the boys on MTV But today the way I play the game has got to change, oh yeah Now I'm gonna get myself happy I think there's something you should know I think it's time I stopped the show There's something deep inside of me There's someone I forgot to be Take back your picture in a frame Don't think that I'll I be back again I just hope you understand Sometimes the clothes do not make the man
One of Michael’s most well known songs (and one of my personal favorites) Freedom! ’90, is the second song on the track and really shows the amount of difficulty he had trying to express himself. When he says “I went back home got a brand new face / For the boys on MTV” and “Sometimes the clothes do not make the man”, it expresses just how different he was on the inside rather than the outside; they didn’t seem to match.
In November 1994, Michael faced a tragedy. His lover at the time, Anselmo Feleppa died in March 1993 and as a result, Michael took a break from fame. His appearance at the MTV Europe Music Awards show and gave a performance of one of his new songs “Jesus to a Child.” He dedicated this song to Feleppa; it was about the relationship they had along with the pain and suffering that he faced during this tremendous loss. This song took his fans by surprise because Michael didn’t confirmed that he was gay until 1998.
In 1996, Michael was voted Best British Male Singer at multiple award shows. He got the award for being the Songwriter of the Year for the third time, which was very impressive.
Michael always struggled with his sexuality and always being in the spotlight didn’t help. Michael was into women but as he grew up and learnt more about himself, he started to question his sexuality and he soon began to be interested in men. When Ridgeley and Michael were friends, Michael told him that he was bisexual but he realized that wasn’t the best description of his reality and he struggled with how to identify himself. In 2009, Michael said, “My depression at the end of Wham! was because I was beginning to realise I was gay, not bisexual.”
Michael eventually got into drugs, along with getting charged multiple times with possession and driving under the influence. Michael did community service multiple times and spent four weeks in prison. He reduced his drug intake and eventually stopped doing drugs all together.
Michael faced a lot of health problems over the years. One of the worst incidents that happened was when he went to a general hospital due to chest pains. Michael’s health got worse overnight and after more tests were done, the doctors concluded that the cause of the pain was pneumonia and was then sent to the hospital’s ICU (Intensive Care Unit).
On Christmas morning, 2016, Michael died at the age of 53. His death shocked and saddened the nation. Fadi Fawaz who was Michael’s partner at the time found Michael lying in his bed dead. After examinations of Michael’s body it was ruled that he had died of natural causes.
Michael taught us many things. Many people, including myself, consider Michael as a role model. He taught me to be proud of who I am and to embrace it. Although he struggled with his sexuality, drug use, and poor choices, (and all under the intense scrutiny of the media) he always wanted to present the truth of himself and was never ashamed of who he was. Even though he was very famous, he was down to Earth and on the inside he was just the same as we are. When he went down a dark path, he brought himself back and always stayed positive even after going through terror and sorrow. It reminds me that whenever I go through something hard, I have to stay positive, bring myself back and take that situation and turn it into a learning experience. He taught us that we should portray ourselves the way that we see ourselves, rather than the way others see us. Most importantly Michael taught us that being different is okay and so is having flaws. We should embrace our differences instead of hiding them.
George Michael won’t be forgotten. He’s touched the hearts of many and taught us important things. He’s left us all with such an important impact that life is short and anything can happen in the blink of an eye. As long as his music lives on, his positivity will still touch the hearts of many. May he rest in peace and may his legacy never die.