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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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Okay everyone, I have real treat here for you to brighten any weekend. I am delighted to post an interview that I have conducted with fellow author, Joseph. A Pinto. Joseph focuses on the horror genre and I have connected with him all the way from New Jersey!

As well as being a quality author and poet, Joseph gives us an important insight into his support of the Pancreatic Cancer community, so please do read on…

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Biography

Joseph A. Pinto is the horror author of two published books including the poignant novella Dusk and Summer as well numerous short stories; his most recent works can be found in Midnight Echo magazine and Sirens Call Publications.  He is a member of the Horror Writers Association as well the co-founder of Pen of the Damned, a collective of angst and horror driven writers.  Indulge in his unique voice on his personal blog JosephPinto. com and PenofTheDamned.com.  Join his pancreatic cancer advocacy efforts at ‘Purple Hope’ (endpancan.com).  You can follow him on Twitter @JosephAPinto.  Joseph hails from New Jersey where he lives with his wife and young daughter.

Interview for Joe Pinto

Martin: Tell me a bit about your writing to date including any genre specifics.

Hi Martin!  I primarily write in the horror genre.  Horror means different things to different people; I tend to focus on the darker side of my characters while layering my plots with a direction and twist the reader may not expect.  I generally stay clear of narrations that rely on ‘blood and guts’ to make an impact.

Although my passion to become an author has burned within me since I was a little boy, the actual pursuit of it came about late in my life.  I’m forty-four now, but it wasn’t until ten years ago that I finally had the opportunity to take the initial steps.  I feel the past three years have really seen me grow and mature as a writer as I’ve prepared myself for the next level of things to come.

To date, two of my books have been published as well as multiple short stories.  My most recent book Dusk and Summer, published by Sirens Call Publications, ironically enough falls in the contemporary fantasy genre – my only work outside the horror realm.  It also stands as my proudest bit of writing.

I also enjoy writing poetry, often exploring and expressing the more painful aspects of life.

Martin: As well as writing I notice that you are very involved with something called Purple Hope. Could you tell us a bit more about that, Joe?

Purple Hope is a blog I started along with editor and co-owner of Sirens Call Publications, Nina D’Arcangela, in November 2014 to provide information, support and awareness for the pancreatic cancer community at large.

It all came about with the release of my book Dusk and Summer.  I wrote Dusk and Summer seven years ago in tribute to my father after he lost his courageous fifteen-month battle with pancreatic cancer.  My intent was to honor my father’s fight, as well as a way in which to deal with my own grief, which was overwhelming in the months following his death.  I incorporated my father’s love for the sea and wrote a fictitious story – not a biography, mind you – about a man who must find a way to bring his dying father’s soul to rest beneath the ocean’s waves.

I originally self-published Dusk and Summer back in 2008.  Years passed, and I went on to meet Nina, who has become an extremely respected role model in my life.  She read my book and loved it, and my book’s publishing journey came full circle from that point on.

Perhaps most importantly, I donate half of all my book’s proceeds to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research here in the United States.

The culmination of Dusk and Summer‘s publication seemed a good way to take my advocacy efforts in creating awareness about pancreatic cancer a step further.  Hence, Purple Hope was launched.  I thought if I could share my story, then why not encourage others to share their own?  I’m hoping Purple Hope will catch on as a means for others to share their memories and their hopes while venting their pain.  I also share any news and relevant information I find involving pancreatic cancer on Purple Hope as well.

Martin: Your book covers are great, who designed them?

Thank youThe cover for Dusk and Summer is an actual photograph shot by Nina D’Arcangela.  Her talent and enthusiasm are endless!  Nina came up with the vision of a live beach shot, incorporating my actual silhouette into the cover.  She believed it would lend a wonderful personal touch – the feel of experiencing my book as opposed to just reading.  We scoured the beach for hours, searching for just the right spot.  Finally, Nina nailed the money shot; it was among one of the very last photos taken that day.

Ironically, the location of our photo shoot – Long Branch, New Jersey – was struck by Hurricane Sandy not long thereafter.  The entire Jersey shore still struggles in its bid to recover to this day.

Martin: I notice that you also write poetry. What turned you on to that?

I primarily write poetry to keep my creative juices flowing, so to speak.  I express myself through a free verse medium and as I mentioned earlier, I gravitate toward the conveyance of heartache, angst and pain.

My exception is when writing about my young daughter.  That’s when the soft, sensitive side of me comes out.

Martin: What projects are you working on at the moment?

Well Martin, I’m currently writing a new horror novel.  I don’t usually give much away on current works, but I’ll share this: it involves events after Hurricane Sandy ripped apart the Jersey shore – the storm seems to have dredged something mysterious from the depths.  It will explore the possibility of a strange entity invading our world while examining the monster within my main character.  I’m having fun with it, and it won’t be along the lines of anything anyone has read before, I can assure you that.

Martin: Do you experience any challenges when writing?

I think the greatest challenge I experience when writing is overcoming the seed of self-doubt.  Facing a blank page is a daunting task for any writer.  I trick myself into believing that it’s not so much a blank page but an open road; I’m free to explore any route I choose.  And so I do.  I don’t structure or outline a story prior to writing.  I’ll run with an idea, then have at it on my keyboard.  The discovery of one’s own work during the actual process of creation is a feeling like no other.

Martin: Do any authors inspire you?

Authors inspire me as a whole.  It’s a ‘we’re all in this together’ kind of feeling.  Authors need to be read, their voices heard.  So the inspiration I find is in seeing the determination and in feeling the passion a writer possesses.  It turns an ‘I can’t’ into an ‘I can.’

Martin: Does anyone outside of the writing world inspire you?

Outside the writing world, my daughter inspires me most.  She’s gone through some tribulations during her first six years of life and still they continue, yet her smile, her love and her spirit are infectious.  She’s my inspiration to push and grind on so that what I might achieve today may provide for her tomorrow.

Martin: I was once asked in an interview if I preferred The Beatles or The Monkees? How about you? Also do you like music and does that ever inspire your work?

How ironic Martin, the Beatles happen to be one of my favorite bands!  I love all their work, so my answer is an easy one – of course, the Beatles.  Although I do remember watching the Monkees when I was a kid (how I loved that hot rod of theirs!)

Music inspires my work greatly.  What I listen to depends on the piece I’m writing, or an actual scene.  Some of my best writing is done while I’m singing along to a tune – I kid you not!  Lyrics don’t distract me, but if someone should try to speak to me while in the middle of a writing session, it most definitely throws me out of my zone.  Go figure! I have very eclectic taste in music, with the exception of country and rap.

Martin: In the UK we are a bit of a soccer mad nation. Do you like soccer or any other sports?

My favorite sport is American football, and I am a die hard New Orleans Saints fan.  Since I was born and raised in New Jersey, it might seem odd to some.  But the Saints and the city have my heart.  I’ve been rabidly cheering on my team since I was a kid.

Martin: What angers you/makes you cry?

The overall state of our world makes me angry – so much violence, upheaval, and distrust.

Watching my daughter just be herself often makes me shed a happy tear.

Martin: What makes you laugh?

Okay, I’m going to share a guilty pleasure with you, Martin – I find humor in people tripping, and I might seriously wet myself if someone fell in front of me.  Of course, I’d help them up and make sure they weren’t injured – I’m not cruel, but I’d still be laughing!

Also, I don’t take myself too seriously, so I often find humor in the things I do and say.

Martin: Do you have a favourite quote?

I have two favorite quotes.  The first is ‘win the day.’  That’s my mantra upon waking.

The second is ‘never drop the ball.’  It’s the personal rally cry my father and I used as he battled pancreatic cancer.  ‘Never Drop The Ball’ is now tattooed atop my hand as a constant reminder.

Martin: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Yes, Martin, there is.  For any of your readers who are fans of horror fiction, I’d like to throw a quick plug in for Pen of the Damned.  Nina D’Arcangela and I started Pen of the Damned in 2012.  Each Tuesday, we, along with eight other wonderful authors from around the globe, take turns sharing free horror fiction for readers.  The stories and prose are always 2,500 words or less, ensuring for quick, impactful reads.  It’s been steadily gaining in popularity and something Nina and I are quite proud of.

And if I may share one more thing, it’s to ask readers to invest a little bit of time and a whole lot of emotion into reading my book Dusk and Summer.  Even if you aren’t an advocate for pancreatic cancer awareness, it’s a story that will suspend your belief about things you think you know about life and death.

Does Heaven await beneath the waves? One man needs to know.

When his dying father whispers a cryptic message to him, he has no choice but to summon his courage and begin the quest of a lifetime. It’s a race against time to realize his father’s wish and fulfill his own destiny; it’s a discovery of the unbreakable bond between father and son. It’s a journey of the heart that unfolds where only the Chosen exist – in the moments between Dusk and Summer.

“A poignant, metaphoric conversation between son and father. A story that will warm your heart.”
–Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., bestselling author of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

The author will be donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Dusk and Summer is available at:

Amazon: US |UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | India | Brazil
CreateSpace | Smashwords
Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes (Apple)

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