Like the rest of the world, we are terribly saddened by the news of George Michael‘s sudden passing last night. Although we don’t want to turn this into an obituary, we wanted to remember him for the true legend he was to us.
Our childhood and high school years were defined much by Michael‘s music, whether it be his days with Wham! or ultimately as one of the greatest solo male artists of our time. From Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go to Freedom to I Want Your Sex to Freedom! 90, Michael was connecting on a deep level to my generation, even if we technically weren’t old enough to be listening to some of things he was singing about.
I remember helping one summer at my Dad’s Fish & Chip shop and although it was somewhere I really didn’t want to be at all with all the other kids enjoying their summer vacations, Michael‘s music on the radio helped me get through the summer. I remember calling to request Kissing a Fool and Monkey on AM Radio ad nauseum, much to the annoyance of the DJ on the Request Line who had to keep answering my calls. I was that overzealous Fan who made sure Michael stayed in the Top 6 at 6, the type of Fan in today’s terms who clicks “refresh” and “submit” to sore wrists on a web form to get their idol popularity votes. The difference between some of today’s idols and Michael however is that truly he deserved his success and popularity. He was a true artist and had that rare gift of emoting especially in his ballads, in a way that has been the blueprint for the careers of several artists after him. Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Nick Jonas, Enrique Iglesias, Michael Bublé, Mariah Carey – these are just some of the important artists who came after Michael, whose influence can be traced back to him.
It was always my hope to see Michael live. When his 25 Live Tour was announced, I made it a point of doing whatever it took to see him and to this day it is a decision I don’t regret. Playing for two sold nights back-to-back at Air Canada Centre, it was a blessing of the purest form to hear him sing his way through his extensive catalogue of hits that July night. Although a Canadian visit from Michael was a rarity, this now will be known as the last time he ever performed in Canada.
Freedom! 90 was the final song in Michael‘s Encore. Watch it below:
Despite being known more as tabloid fodder in recent years than the true icon and musical genius he is, Michael clearly was experiencing pain in a way only he ever will understand as seen by multiple baffling incidents reported in the news. In ways, he broke down many walls enabling further the conversation about sexual orientation even if on a personal level for him, it came at great humiliation. In some way, his courage has given a voice to those at struggle, his Music giving us memories that will last a lifetime.