Legendary British pop star of the 80s and 90s, and popular gay icon, George Michael passed away this Christmas last.
Any 80s/90s kid will tell you they first saw George Michael in his two-member band ‘Wham’. For most of us, ‘Last Christmas’, ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’, and ‘Careless Whisper’ were some of the first English pop songs we’d ever heard. And as fun as these songs were, George truly came into his own when he went solo in 1987 with his debut album ‘Faith’.
With his very first single from his debut album, George had people sitting up and paying attention. The single, titled ‘I Want Your Sex’, made waves across the world, and not only because of its controversial title. There were radio jockeys who refused to announce the name of the song for fear of rubbing listeners the wrong way. Some radio stations even went so far as to change the title to ‘I Want Your Love’. The second single, ‘Faith’ went on to become the biggest hit of the album. And with ‘Father Figure’ in the same album, George Michael had arrived on the 80s music scene. ‘Faith’ won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1989.
His second album, ‘Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1’, was Michael’s attempt to establish himself as a serious artiste. Released in 1990, this album did not do quite as well as his first and led to a legal battle between George Michael and Sony Music.
In 1991, Michael met and got romantically involved with Anselmo Feleppa, a Brazilian dress designer. Feleppa died in 1993. Michael’s 1994 single ‘Jesus to a Child’ is a tribute to Feleppa, as is his 1996 album, ‘Older’.
In 1996, Michael entered into a long-term relationship with Kenny Goss, a former flight attendant, and cheerleader coach.
In April 1998, questions about Michael’s sexual orientation were answered in a somewhat unusual manner, when he was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom. With another man.
It was the controversy over this arrest that outed George Michael as a gay man to the entire world.
Instead of shrinking in the face of public shock and outrage, Michael turned the negative publicity on its head and totally owned his new “outed” self. In an instant, he went from being the heartthrob of teenage girls the world over, to being one of the coolest gay icons of his time. He made an entire generation sit up and take notice of the fact that it’s okay to be gay.
In a 1999 interview, Michael said,
Falling in love with a man ended his conflict over bisexuality.
I never had a moral problem with being gay. I thought I had fallen in love with a woman a couple of times. Then I fell in love with a man, and realized that none of those things had been love.
He was defiant about his sexuality, and he refused to be boxed-in by labels and stereotypes. He refused to let his public persona be “sanitized” into that of a harmless, sexually “unthreatening”, gay man. He owned being a sexual being. He flaunted it. He had an open relationship. He loved anonymous sex. His exact words were,
Gay people in the media are doing what makes straight people comfortable, and automatically my response to that is to say I’m a dirty filthy fucker and if you can’t deal with it, you can’t deal with it.
I have never and will never apologise for my sex life! Gay sex is natural, gay sex is good! Not everybody does it, but … ha ha!
Unabashed gay icon, champion of LGBT rights, and a charitable fella through and through, George Michael achieved the near-impossible by becoming one of the few boy-band members who went solo and managed to become a critically acclaimed solo artist.
Little were we to know that Christmas 2016 was to be George Michael’s #LastChristmas. He is said to have died of heart failure. Though, as with most untimely celebrity deaths, questions, and suspicions, and conspiracy theories abound.
Here’s a look at what his contemporaries, desi celebrities, and others whose lives he touched, are saying about him:
Farewell My Friend! 🙏🏻 Another Great Artist leaves us. 💔Can 2016 Fuck Off NOW? pic.twitter.com/aEGIUNSJbt
— Madonna (@Madonna) December 26, 2016
RIP George Michael. I can’t believe it. Such an incredible singer and a lovely human being, far too young to leave us #georgemichael
— Bryan Adams (@bryanadams) December 25, 2016
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) December 26, 2016
#GeorgeMichael you were the stuff our adolescent fantasies were largely based on… when you die,a large part of our innocence dies 😞💔
— Pooja Bhatt (@PoojaB1972) December 26, 2016
— Melissa Etheridge (@metheridge) December 26, 2016
— Richard Marx (@richardmarx) December 26, 2016
Heartbreaking . 2016 , can’t you just end already?
“We could have lived this dance forever. Please stay.”
— Sushant Singh Rajput (@itsSSR) December 26, 2016
I just heard about my friend @GeorgeMichael‘s death. He was such a brilliant talent. I’m so sad.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) December 25, 2016
— Lady Gaga (@holyrory) December 26, 2016
For so many of us, he will forever be the face of 80s/90s music. That cool guy with the stubble, the leather jacket, the guitar, the ripped jeans and steel-tipped boots. And that earring.
George Michael may have died, his legend, and his music, live on. #RIPGeorge