Another legend for those of my generation died three days ago and this one hurts deep. For me growing up in the 80's, three of my favorite singer/songwriters were Michael Jackson, Prince and George Michael. It is unbelievable to me that all three of them are no longer with us and that we lost two of them in 2016.
I was 10 years old when Wham's Make It Big album came out and from the moment George Michael said "Jitterbug" on their hit Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, I was hooked. As great as he was in Wham!, it wasn't until he went solo that I really started to appreciate his talent.
His pop masterpiece, Faith, ended up selling over 10 million copies in the US alone with six top five hits of which four reached number one. The album is an 80's classic that mixes pop, funk, jazz and soul. My favorite song on the album is Hard Day which has a killer bass line. In 87/88, this album along with Michael Jackson's Bad album, was what I listened to most.
The crazy thing is, as big of a fan as I was, it wasn't until he released Listen Without Prejudice that I realized how awesome he was. After the huge success of Wham! and Faith, George found himself overwhelmed by the glitz and glamour of the business and he decided to change everything. He told the record label he would no longer put out albums for the mass audience, he would not tour to promote the album and that he wouldn't be in the music videos. Basically, he wanted the music speak for itself. Listen Without Prejudice was a more mature and socially conscious album compared to what he did in the past. While the industry and many of his fans didn't like this change, I was blown away with the album and the decision he made for his career. He wanted to do it his way and if the industry didn't like it, that was fine with him. My favorite song from this album is Waiting For That Day.
While the rest of George Michael's career was hit and miss here in the States, he was still huge in his native England and Europe where he continued to sell millions of records. I continued being a fan, always waiting for new music. His 1996 album, Older, was a pretty solid with the song Spinning The Wheel being my favorite on the album and his final studio album, Patience, had some good songs on it as well.
In the end, I obviously admire George Michael for his talent, but I also admire him for his strength. It took guts to stand up to the music industry the way he did knowing it would cost him millions of dollars. It took guts to be outspoken about AIDS victims and research during a time when people were still ignorant about the disease. It took guts to come out of the closet after years of playing the sex symbol role to women. It took guts to release the song Shoot the Dog in 2002 calling out Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush for their war on Iraq. It took guts to open up to the world regarding his battle with depression and drugs. The man may have not always made the best decisions, but he always owned whatever he did and I liked that about him.
Some of My Favorites:
Wham!: I'm Your Man
Hard Day off of Faith
Waiting for the Day off of Listen W/O Prejudice
Spinning the Wheel off of Older
Freeek off of Patience
White Light (a song written after he almost died of pneumonia in 2011)