But it did: it was played world over, and still is. He is now the single most-played artist in British radio. Freedom, Wake Me Up, Faith, Everything She Wants, Cowboys & Angels, Edge of Heaven – the musical legacy he leaves is nothing short of extraordinary.
I was never a George Michael fan, in the way I’m a fan of, say, the Sex Pistols.
It wasn’t “cool” to be one, for one thing. But I have no emotional attachment to George Michael at all.
That said, I’ve had “Freedom” on my iPod since I bought the thing, and play it probably once a week.
Like “Careless Whisper” of “guilty feet” fame, “Freedom” is an anti-cheating song (“I don’t want your freedom/I don’t want to play around”).
And I guess because I was soaking in it as a kid, adultery is my bête noire. It would ruin Casablanca for me if I let it. I have never cheated on anybody and (as far as I know) have never been cheated on. It’s my superpower and my kryptonite.
So I never laughed along with those who “teased” George Michael about that lyric, as Fraser Nelson puts in in “The Genius of George Michael,” written and posted a couple of hours after his death was announced.
Like another “Michael”‘s death — Jackson — it was a shock/non-shock; Michael Jackson actually made it to fifty, whereas I’d predicted he’d die at least 10 years earlier.
George Michael didn’t live out the anti-promiscuity message of his songs, and perhaps that dissipation visited him on Christmas Day or thereabouts to collect its fee.
(“Comic Relief’s about helping people LIKE you…”)
Adam Carolla likes to joke about this or that person or thing as being like “the other guy in Wham!” That is: the forgotten loser; not quite the “Ringo” of course, but something like it. Of course, that was before yesterday; now at least “the other guy” is still alive.
Of course, I tsk and tell myself (and anyone who’ll listen) that if I’d been born as beautiful and talented as George Michael (or Elvis, or Jackson) that I would have been less, well, careless with my gifts…
Anyway: For every rather embarrassing song (“Wake Me Up…” “I Want Your Sex”), there is a scorching hot “Father Figure”
And the pointedly titled “Freedom 90” is up there with “Public Image” and “Don’t Let Me Get Me” as a mini-masterwork about what, by rights, should be the least promising topic for a hit song: the artist’s ambiguity or even downright hostility about being turned into a “star.”
Heaven knows we sure had some fun, boy.
What a kick, just a buddy and me.
We had every big shot, good-time, band on the run, boy.
We were living in a fantasy.
We won the race.
Got out of the place.
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.
But the first video I looked for when I learned of George Michael’s death was his performance on American Idol, after the contestants sang a selection of his songs.
As always, Michael didn’t seem particularly thrilled to be there, which put me off, as usual; he always reminded me of Aretha Franklin (his hero), who I don’t think I’ve ever seen crack a genuine smile on stage. I feel like I’m imposing on such people by watching them.
But I always remembered this performance.
He sang what seemed like an odd selection for Idol; instead of one of his uptempo, even-your-grandma-knows-this-one hits, he (or someone) chose “Praying For Time,” the musical equivalent of someone slowly dragging themselves up a winding staircase so they can throw themselves off the roof, a la Bowie’s “Life on Mars?”
So here it is: