Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but this Christmas, the good Lord took you away. I am sure that like many, I awoke to the shocking news that George Michael has passed away. As a rock and roller, George had never really been on my music radar, but as a musician I have utmost respect for his talents. He was a truly brilliant singer and an excellent songwriter. He was also brave. Following his arrest for cottaging in Los Angeles, he didn't hide. He put out a song & video in response, ridiculing the morals and laws he'd fallen fowl of. He never shirked in supporting charities and causes that he felt were deserving. His support for AIDS chairites is well documented. He even put on a free concert at the roundhouse for NHS staff who cared for his mum in her final days.
George was a North London boy. His Dad owned Mr Jacks steakhouse in Edgware. At the time WHAM! made it, I was partial to a steak. Long before WHAM! made it various members of The False Dots (Paul Hircombe always raved about the T-Bone) would rock up there and tuck in. He served a mean steak. He'd occasionally mentioned that his boy had a band, but everyone we knew had a band. I took an ex girlfriend in there shortly after WHAM! had their first Top of The Pops appearance. He was made up with his sons success and was keen to know if I'd seen it. "Yeah, he'll be buying you a mansion in the Bahama's soon". We got a free shot of Oozo or something at the end to celebrate. I was always pleased to see local musicians doing good, especially when their dads cooked a good steak, so I was chuffed for him. I don't really recall ever having met George there. Wasn't really the point for me!
The next contact with George was after his 'troubles' I volunteer at The Passage, a day centre for homeless people. When
George was a naughty boy he got given community service and served it
volunteering in the kitchen. When he came down, his first words were 'my
Dad used to run a restaurant, I don't mind doing anything, washing up,
peeling spuds,anything' he just got on with it, no fuss. Reading obituaries today, I saw that he supported homeless charities. He was very discreet about it though, didn't want to be plastered all over the newsletter. I respected that.
There has been a huge amount of comment about his sexual habits and drug use. As someone who played in a rock and roll band from age 15, I tend to thing "there but for the grace of God". I am not convinced that becoming a millionaire as a young man is a great thing for the soul. I am convinced that George was a decent bloke, but if you have enougn money to do exactly what you want, and you don't have to get up at 6am the next day to go to work, is it any surprise. George wrote a hell of a lot of music and then succumbed to writers block. As a songwriter, I know the feeling. You sit there and everything just sounds pants and it is extremely depressing. For me, I have to go to work, look after the kids etc. For George, he had no such commitments. I can understand what looks like pretty self destructive behaviour. One of the things that many at the Passage observed was that he seemed quite content peeling spuds for dinner for Londons homeless. It wasn't a chore for him, it was almost like a cathatic release.
He has been a 'troubled soul' in some obits. I don't think he was. I think he was simply a highly talented guy, with a lot of money, a high sex drive and a low boredom threshold. He set himself impossibly high standards in his work. He wasn't troubled, he simply needed something, anything to keep his mind moving. It was clear that the death of his mum had a devastating effect. The tabloid press are quick to judge, but I think they are way off the mark. George was just lacking a spark of inspiration in the last few years. I am sure that if he'd found that cause, we'd have seen something brilliant.
George Michael RIP.