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The very fact that I have even taken the time to Blog on this Boxing Day 2016 is a measure of the profound influence that George Michael has had on me personally. I am by no means a prolific blogge…

Source: A Tribute to George Michael

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The very fact that I have even taken the time to Blog on this Boxing Day 2016 is a measure of the profound influence that George Michael has had on me personally. I am by no means a prolific blogger but today I felt compelled, and I guess inspired, to write about a man who sadly will never know how greatly he affected me and many others like me.

The first time I experienced this great artist was when I first heard the 12 inch underground version of Wham Rap in the early 1980s where the songwriting credit was given to Panos and Ridgely. I recall Ridgeley was spelt incorrectly, and Panos was the chosen evolution of George’s birth surname  Panayiotou before he selected the identity that we all know and love of George Michael. Wham! were not yet a household name and I had no idea what they even looked like. But still, the track connected with me in a big way. Once they hit the scene I loved the Fantastic album with its mixture of soul, pop and good vibes. But it was one sunny afternoon walking along Birmingham’s New Street where George metaphorically grabbed me. The saxophone solo of “Careless Whisper” spilled out of the HMV record store and I became fixed to the papvpavementI listened with a great sense of awe. It was beautiful, hooky and amazingly original. Suddenly I wanted to be like George Michael.

My hair was naturally curly, like George’s, and like him, I struggled to keep it in the trendy hairstyles of the day. I also had both my ears pierced and sported those trademark gold sleepers. In truth, I was told I looked like Andrew Ridgeley and not George, but that was ok because I loved Wham! as a whole.  And without Andrew’s influence, we must remember George would not even have had the courage to step into the limelight and we may never have heard any of his wonderful songs. George’s image inspired me for sure but it was his music that connected with me more than anything.

For me, not since Elvis Presley has a solo performer possessed the looks, charisma, stage presence and glorious singing voice other than George Michael. Like Elvis, he seemed to have it all, yet he could even beat Elvis in one department – songwriting.

George Michael was a ground-breaker, which perhaps hasn’t always been recognised. He really was so much more than a fantastic singer, songwriter and charismatic performer. Let’s reflect on this for a moment:

  • He wrote Careless Whisper at the age of 17
  • Was one-half of the biggest selling band of the 1980s
  • As one-half of Wham! was the first western band to play in China
  • Sold more than 100 Million records worldwide
  • His debut solo album Faith sold more than 20 Million copies
  • Won 4 Ivor Novello Awards
  • Won 3 Brit Awards
  • 2 Grammy Awards
  • He supported the 1980s Miners strike and spoke out against Thatcher
  • He was quick to understand and comment on the Bush and Blair relationship
  • He came out in perhaps the most extraordinary way ever recorded – during a police sting in a Beverly Hills toilet! And then turned that experience on its head by crafting the song ‘Outside’and its hilarious accompanying video complete with glittering urinals
  • Successfully went from bubblegum band member to successful and evergreen solo artist, creating an inspiration for the likes of Robbie Williams
  • Achieved the biggest selling number 2 of all time with ‘Last Christmas’ (he was at No 1 on Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas)
  • Had the courage to take on his record company in court as an attempt to secure rights and freedoms for both himself and other artists
  • Was an LGBT Activist
  • And of course, appeared in the first ever James Corden Carpool Karaoke!

So George leaves us quite a legacy both inside and outside his music, and like all great inspirational leaders, he was true to his beliefs and often viewed the cause of others as more important than his own credibility.

At the time of writing, stories are emerging of this very private but very friendly man who significantly donated to charity with the condition that a ‘big deal’ was not to be made of it. Social media has been alive with moving tributes by the likes of Ridgeley, Robbie Williams, Madonna, Elton John, Brian May, Boy George and Rob Lowe.

If I am to present a balanced tribute to George, it has to be stated that his private life revealed some very bizarre incidents, but which somehow still served to add a sense of warmth to the character of a superstar who was actually at the same time just a normal bloke. Through those incidents, George was simply making memories for us and instilling some talking points to keep him alive in addition to his ever-lasting music. To his credit, he was always keen to utilise these events, send himself up and use the controversy as a platform to still entertain people. Quite an extraordinary gift and sense of will. Appearances on Comic Relief, Catherine Tate Show, Extras and Little Britain are hilarious examples.

I would have loved to have met John Lennon, but he was shot dead when I was 11. I always believed that one day the opportunity may present itself for me to meet George Michael but alas it now can never be so. At least I had the great pleasure of seeing him perform live on several occasions. In 1984 at Birmingham’s NEC, my first ever concert and I was blown away by the performance of Wham! They created amazing energy coupled with such a polished performance. The night was made even more special as footage of the concert was included in the video for “Everything She Wants”. I also attended Wham! The Final which ranks as one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. As a solo performer, I saw George play live on the Cover to Cover tour, twice on the 25 Live Tour at the NEC again and Manchester City’s Football stadium, before finally witnessing George’s fabulous voice in all its glory during the Symphonica Tour. It saddens me that I will never have the chance to see him perform live again.  At the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, he demonstrated to the world just what a truly extraordinary and amazing performer he was. He could hold his own against anybody once he graced that stage.

As a young kid, I always wanted to grow up to be a part of music myself. The Beatles and Elvis were my first influence but with those greats, I’ve always needed to look back in order to recognise their impact as I was never part of their generation. When the music of George Michael came along he was the only other significant inspiration to me, but what was great was he was contemporary so I could always grow with him and look forward to the next chapter. Like The Beatles, the music of George Michael has been a constant in my life and in particular during my own years of songwriting and playing in bands from the late 80s – 1990s. The influence of George Michael in my own songwriting is there for all to see,  although I can never claim to match it.When I hung up my keyboard I began to play with words by evolving from song writing to writing books. I love scribing but music will always be in my heart and this is why the subject finds it’s way into my novels. George Michael is referred to in all three of my published novels at the time of writing. I was always taken with the stories of Wimbledon Football Club booming out songs from a ghetto blaster in their changing rooms to motivate them before a game. In

When I hung up my keyboard I began to play with words by evolving from songwriting to writing books. I love scribing but music will always be in my heart and this is why the subject finds it’s way into my novels. George Michael is referred to in all three of my published novels at the time of writing. I was always taken with the stories of Wimbledon Football Club booming out songs from a ghetto blaster in their changing rooms to motivate them before a game. In Beneath The Floodlights I use this concept when the football team in the story blast out “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” before a match, and one of the footballers is a huge 80s fan wearing T-shirts sporting the catchphrase ‘CHOOSE LIFE’ – a slogan created by Wham! Then in Mind Guerrilla I take George’s own exploratory thoughts from his track “White Light” which he released following his near-death experience in Austria in 2011, forming the question Was it science that saved him or spirituality? The only questions on my lips today are Why didn’t something save him on Christmas Day 2016? What possible good reason is there for the world to be robbed of a talent like George’s at such a young age? In Mind Guerrilla I also make reference to his Olympic ceremony perofrmance. And finally, just 1 month short of his untimely death I released Things They’ll Never See where a failing rock star, Jake Zennor is seeking a way to emulate George Michael in the transition from band member to successful global superstar. My next book 27 will include a dedication to George Michael.

So as homes across the world were celebrating their Christmas day listening to George’s song “Last Christmas” news came through that rocked the foundations of our very being. This inspirational and much-loved star had passed away making this and every Christmas going forward somewhat of a poignant nature. George Michael owned John Lennon’s piano, the same that the great song “Imagine” had been composed on. Well, imagine that! It could have had no more deserving owner after Lennon. And George went on to compose the song “John and Elvis are Dead” as a tribute to these two musical heavyweights that have departed. George was questioning the rationale for their untimely deaths because losing inspirational and talented people so young makes no sense. Well, now we are left wondering why George Michael who penned that wonderful song has been taken from us at such an unnatural time. We wait to understand the cause of his death as a post mortem will be conducted in the next few days. The cause perhaps, the reasoning never.

I’ve been speaking today with my peers and people of my generation ever since I learned of the awful news, be it face to face or over social media. We must continue to speak of George Michael and then his energy and spirit can never really die. RIP George Michael, gone too soon but never forgotten. Your music and legacy will live on. You Have Been Loved. x

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