George Michael left us earlier today – peacefully in his sleep, the press release said. Fifty-three and now gone.
To say that 2016 has been a particularly bad year for loss would be an understatement. That so many came so unexpected is baffling – that seemingly every few days or so, word of another artist/icon/indelible figure has left is truly strange.
George Michael first entered our collective consciousness as a member of the Post-Disco/Pop duo Wham! in the 80s, during a time of padded shoulders, spandex, Tenax and MTV. They were hit-making machines, perfect for the burgeoning Music Video era. Their songs were light, frothy and danceable – an antidote to the gritty themes of life in the city and the frustration of growing up alienated. The man behind the hits, the guiding light of Wham! was George Michael. Together with Andrew Ridgely they rode a wave of popularity based on Dance-Pop and became household names, selling well over 100 million records during their tenure. And even though the duo were often derided by the Press as being light-weight, and retrospective looks back at Wham! in their heyday can be cringeworthy at times, the fact that their music was widely popular and set off a number of bands following in their footsteps made the derision a moot point.
But Wham! soon gave way to George Michael’s solo career, and he soon became one of the biggest British solo acts of all time – with an impressive string of hits and a seemingly endless list of awards. Billboard Magazine ranked him 40th in Most Successful Artist.
Of course George Michael had his fair share of controversy, as well as health and substance abuse issues. It seems to go with the territory. Name one iconic artist not raising an eyebrow or two during their careers and I will happily point out there are none.
This concert, something of a direction change for George Michael featured a full orchestra and songs which influenced him as a songwriter. It focuses on another aspect of his career – the aspect of a truly astonishing singer of suave grace and charm. The Symphonica Tour of 2011 and 2012 was limited to Europe and was cancelled in October of 2011 owing to a severe case of pneumonia. It finally resumed in September 2012, when this concert was recorded by the RTE Network in Dublin, Ireland.
There were plans and there was the announced release of a new documentary, Freedom, slated to hit screens in March of 2017.
But fate had a different take on things – and everything changed earlier today with the sudden death of George Michael.
Now he joins the ranks of the others who went before him this year – 2016 is being known as the Year Of Loss. And six days left.
RIP: George Michael (1963-2016)