I guess the warning signs were present from the beginning.
After all, the first album I ever owned was by Culture Club. Cyndi Lauper was my first love and Madonna my first obsession. The first poster that I ever tacked up on my wall was of Wham! Just a year or two later, my young distrust of David Bowie and Prince turned to undisputed love.
My idols weren't just pop stars to me. They were more than their hits. They were touch stones. It can't be a coincidence that they were also among the world's first mainstream LGBT artists and allies. The gender benders and the rule breakers of the music video age.
These were artists who were prepared to consciously take on sexual politics on a scale people never had before thanks to the music video medium. Acts who could've taken the easy road rather than attract criticism through their opposition to the status quo.
Artists who felt and moved at a time when we valued trickery and cultural violence over anything else. The acts who gave people like me a solid footing and foundation to explore music more dangerously and widely because their music was already something more than just pop.
George's talent? It was there from the beginning.
We might've been distracted by the fluro, by the white speedos and the Choose Life t-shirt but George wasn't. As a kid he was already a brilliant songwriter. And then there was that voice to remind us, lest we'd forget all caught up in the leather jacket, sunglasses and designer stubble.
George may not have seemed it in the eighties, but he was just as subversive as his peers. If you look back at his videos, his early and consistent use of models to shift the spotlight away from himself was a master stroke. As was his ability to be unfailing honest about his troubles and struggles.
By the mid nineties he was already growing into a modern trobadeur. He was unmatched for how he could write something so unexpectedly moving like Jesus To A Child or make I Can't Make You Love Me all his own, while still being able to push out great white boy soul like Fast Love or Too Funky to remind us again not to categorise or limit his exceptional talent.
That a huge segment of his audience abandoned him must've been a devastating blow, even if publicly he disavowed the fans who'd washed their hands of him. His unapologetic, frankness about his sexuality after his public outing was refreshing, especially because he never let it overshadow him the way the press often did and wanted it to.
2016 was finally the year that we stopped talking about the 27 curse. You know, the one that claims anyone famous that we love when they're 27 and in their prime. Instead, we recognised 2016 had taken its place: the Grim Reaper year, here to take away whatever remnants many of us had of our youth. And George, taken on Christmas Day closed out the horror year, leaving behind a lot of love and an amazing discography you should go and rediscover. Now.
Much has been said about the 20th anniversary of Nevermind by Nirvana. Yep, it was influential, it ushered in the mainstreaming of Seattle culture, and without it we would never have had the pleasure of getting to know Courtney Love. Repeatedly. I love[d] it.
But, was Kurt Cobain ever capable of wearing white speedos in a music video about Club Tropicana? Was he ever one of the first white guys to rap in a Wham! Rap???
Did he ever sniff his arm pit from under a leather jacket on a record sleeve? Did he ever bring hope to an entire generation of woggy guys? He most certainly did not.
It's coming on 24 years now since George Michael released Faith. Twenty four years on from I Want Your Sex, Faith and Father Figure. He had already had amazing success with Wham! but more importantly, he had already established himself as a major songwriting talent; he wrote and recorded Careless Whisper and watched it become a global smash by the time he was just 21.
Six of Faith's nine tracks were singles, a seventh was released in a remix form and they were all corkers; all different, and famously he became the first white artist to top R&B charts with his pretty white boy soul.
Kurt Cobain was a troubled soul; amongst his issues were those with the relentless recording industry machine, but lest we forget that by the time Cobain kinda took on that battle, Yorgos had already been there and done that; using supermodels in his videos instead of using his own face to promote his product was the first of his retaliations against the machine; but he must have been devastated at the fallout of his lawsuit with Sony who turned away the mighty support and promotion they had previously furnished, which had helped produce four or five US #1s from Faith. Talent doesn't do that alone kiddies. But he seemed to have a good sense of humour and his later reference to Prince being ''daft'' for scrawling ''Slave'' on his cheek seemed to suggest he hadn't yet lost perspective.
George, like Cobain, didn't always handle his fame well; his was one of the most spectacularly documented falls from grace during a particularly puratanical time, after all, the 1990s were not all about Starbucks lattes and emancipation, and they most certainly were not supposed to be about propositioning hotties in public bathrooms. But at least he had a sense of humour about it, and hell, he even landed another hit with the tongue in cheek Outside.
George Michael has never come across as a slave to his commercial desires; at least not since the 1990s when he seemed to genuinely question the desire to be in the spotlight. Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1 was a pretty remarkable offering, not quite as accessible as Faith, and later releases Older and Patience seemed to define sophisticated, adult pop, but by then any reference to George seems more concerned with making note of his social transgressions and of how his life seemed to be going off the rails.
In recent weeks my Facebook newsfeed has been full of updates and photos of concert goers; Georgie has been touring European cities and staging his music with the assistance of assorted symphonic orchestras across the continent. Photos of the concert goers paint an audience of mixed ages, and by all accounts, its been a successful and well executed show. Interviews and reports suggest he is off the grass and back into functioning mode.
I'm always gonna be fighting the fight for GM. I think he is exceptionally talented, has an incredibly soulful voice, and whilst he is prone to a bit of indulgence and that dammed inclination towards heavy balladry, I've always felt the love for him, way back to those first posters I put on my wall; you know the type, him and Andrew Ridgely sitting on a plinth against a photo backdrop that looked like an eighties inspired camoflauge print. Those daft poses, the blonde tips and the white knitted jumpers. Man, if you can make that look sexy and stylish, overcome the speedos and get away scot free from the responsibility of later inspiring every second european guy to maintain a goatee (guilty) AND occassionally get your ass into a studio to make some of the best pop around, then you get my loyalty!
Oh Georgey, you don't know it, but I've been in a relationship with you almost as long as I have been with Madge. And that's been pretty much all my life. And here I was always thinking I was afraid of commitment. I think its amazing. I think you're amazing.
So I'm not going to mind the fuss about Nevermind. It deserves it, but, as autumn sets in and I get to start thinking about wearing my leather jacket again, I'm gonna be all about the faith.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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