Honestly, my Christmas was already shitty enough before hearing about the passing of George Michael at the age of 53. My daughter has a nasty case of strep throat with painful, swollen glands, my dad’s cousin
is dying died today plus there are other concerns in my family that I won’t go into here. On top of that pile of horribleness another 1980s rock icon from my youth left us too soon. And it sounds way too familiar after Prince’s untimely death back in April.
Yes I am in shock because age 53 is too young but then again should I really be surprised because we are still in 2016, the worst year for rock star deaths since when, 1970, maybe? Seemingly no one is safe. Still George Michael wasn’t exactly at the top of my 2016 rock star death watch. As an example, I bought tickets to see Eric Clapton in New York in March and I am going to admit here that I bought insurance on the tickets, just in case.
My initial shock morphed into fear because these deaths are getting a bit too close to my generation, Gen X for my comfort. But again, this is still 2016 for another 5 days (thank f-ing God) but I have to wonder, should I be fearful of my own mortality or just plain angry to be alive in the universe during this particular year?
Speaking of timing, did the singer of the holiday classic “Last Christmas” really have to die on Christmas? That is just plain messed up.
But back to George. I was a fan from way back in the early 1980s. After all, I wanted my MTV and got it. I remember early on, 1983 maybe, seeing a few videos by a band called Wham! UK interspersed among the Duran Duran and Michael Jackson videos in heavy rotation. Okay, I thought, a bit discotheque-esque, a little catchy but they were fun songs when they were on, which wasn’t very often.
That all changed late the next year when the same band appeared as simply Wham! and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was all over the radio and MTV in all of its day-glo splendor. I was instantly attracted to George and before long to me Wham! was really just George Michael and that other guy. Every time that video came on I started drooling and proclaiming my love for him. My uncle told me rather bluntly that my love for him would go, shall we say, unrequited. What did I know? At the age of 10 my gaydar was rather undeveloped. But so what? He was beautiful, he had that hair that could perfectly hold a feather, he rocked those short-shorts and maybe best of all, he had a British accent. What else did a pre-teen 80s girl like me need? I hated that I couldn’t achieve that same feather in my limp, brown hair without going through a full can of Aqua Net.
The hits just kept coming too which was fine with me even though I felt like the older generations just didn’t get him. My grandmother told me once while watching the video to “I’m Your Man” that people went to jail for singing lyrics like that. I rolled my eyes at her, I mean I was watching the video on Nickelodeon, the children’s programming channel for crying out loud. But then again, this was the same woman who told me that watching the video to Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys” would give me epilepsy. I wish she were still alive today so I could show her the research saying that isn’t true.
Wham! broke up soon after that and this saddened me. Fortunately that sadness was short lived. God bless the solo career! He came back to me, with that duet with Aretha Franklin, “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” And I absolutely was waiting for him. That song plus U2’s “With or Without You” were the only two things you could hear on the radio that spring. Again, fine with me!
Then summer came, a summer made more glorious by “I Want Your Sex”, the video the video-parent police didn’t want you to watch, but you were just compelled to do it anyway. Remember the spoken word prologue in one version of the video? Of course, I was focusing more on that accent not to mention the newly-acquired 5 o’clock shadow and leather jacket rather than the safe sex message.
I instantly bought “Faith” on cassette and wore it out on my stereo, my walkman, you know the devices of 1987. Pretty much every song on that album was a hit. I very much wanted to see him in concert but I think the closest venue to me was New York City, 3 hours away which to a 13 year old without a car might as well have been the North Pole.
The world and me took a George Michael break for over a year and when the next album was released I think I ran out to the store on the release date. For me, “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1” came out at the perfect time. I was no longer a giddy 13-year old but instead a high school junior who had just come home from spending the summer in Belgium and was experiencing more of the world and what was going on within it, questioning more. The more pensive, serious tone of the album matched my mood. You had to pay attention to the words in “Praying for Time”; the video only consisted of those words. It made sense to blow up the leather jacket, the jukebox, the symbols of commercialism and overexposure in “Freedom ’90”. In a way, I feel like we grew up and matured together.
So here I am once again replaying an endless stream of videos I haven’t seen in years in tribute but also reliving memories of happier days especially since I have not had a wonderful Christmastime. I also have to wonder who will go next. I always thought it was the rockers of my parent’s generation who hoped they died before they got old. Maybe I can’t leave the rock star death watch in 2016 and will have to set up a 2017 version.
But for now George Michael has taken the leap from the edge of heaven into heaven itself. Rest in peace dear George.
What are your memories of Wham! and George Michael? What are your favorite songs? Share with a comment.
As mentioned in my post, this is familiar territory for me. Here is my post from when Prince died earlier this year.