"You brushed my eyes with angels wings, full of love
The kind that makes devils cry"
I didn’t adequately express what was inside my heart December 2016. What is still inside of me. And probably will never leave.
I was young the first time I heard George Michael’s voice. Six or seven or eight. Maybe five. I don’t remember the age or the moment. I only remember the feelings. I remember the voice and the face. The British-Greek who first moved a young girl — the way many musicians have moved people since before the dawn of Elvis Presley — to record his songs from radio to cassette tape.
But I didn’t exactly know what it was when it was happening. The inspiration. The emotions.
Little did I realize, I felt a connection to something much bigger than me.
I had to have every album. Watch his videos in the dark of night because my father forbade MTV. Watch his Wham! clips on a Betamax at my friend’s house — so much so that she probably got sick of me — almost every time I went over. This friend’s home is also where I held the Faith LP in my hands and memorized its lyrics.
It made me feel something even then, at the tender age of ten. Something beyond female hysteria. Something I was too young to understand.
I knew his voice was magical. I remember telling a friend who was not familiar with his music — to listen. I bartered with another friend — we traded cassette tapes, my Rhythm Nation for her Faith — so I could finally have the album I loved. I could listen secretly; my parents wouldn’t have bought it for me and I wouldn’t have asked. I was ten. And his controversial songs (parts I, II, and III) made up a third of the iconic album everyone seemed to own but me.
But that’s not why I wanted it.
It was his voice.
Honesty bled through it, reflection and pain, emotions he couldn’t contain. But it was years before I could articulate that. I didn’t realize then — when tastes come and go like the wind — I would always be a fan. Fast forward several years — after Listen Without Prejudice, after “Too Funky”, and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” — during the time of his fight with Sony… And as quickly as he’d been embraced and celebrated, worshiped — he’d been seemingly forgotten here in the States.
It wouldn’t deter me from playing Wham! with my car windows down — they were always open in my little blue Honda because I didn’t have AC (in Florida) — at the ages of sixteen and seventeen and eighteen. Sun roof open. Speakers loud. Me singing. Circa 1994, 95, 96 when rock was my favorite genre.
George never left me. His music always made me happy. Or reflective. Or happy. His soul-stirring-mesmerizing-soothing angel-like voice never-ever-ever left me.
And by then, the lyrics I’d sung since childhood had taken on additional meaning. And the new ones, from the album Older, punctured my guts. Relaxed me. Bridged a connection to thoughts which needed soothing. I discovered — at what point I don’t remember, but probably when I bought Ladies and Gentlemen (because in America the album Older wasn’t popular) — songs George says he was meant to write:
“Jesus to a Child”
“Spinning the Wheel”
“You Have Been Loved”
And I fell in love all over again. Or for the first time. Because those four songs are masterpieces. They will tear your heart out, mend it, and put you back together while you cry tears needing release.
With this album I discovered (or rediscovered) the person who had always been there: George . And I saw him in a new light. He made us love him — if possible — MORE.
I remember when my son — he was one at the time — broke the second disc of my Ladies and Gentlemen CD. It contained my favorite track, George’s tribute to Freddie Mercury: “Somebody to Love”. I recently found out (in the documentary which prompted me to finally write down these feelings in greater detail) the story behind the iconic moment when George shared the stage with the remaining members of Queen. Freddie, of course, had recently passed, but did you know that George’s lover had just been diagnosed with HIV? A man George loved might be dying, George could be sick himself (and Anselmo was the first man who loved him) yet he gave his everything to the thousands of fans gathered at Wembley Stadium.
This is merely one story. One memory. There are many.
George’s concert I attended in Tampa in 2008 is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. He inspires me, not just to keep on writing, but to be ME.
Today, I want to celebrate his life. And his song writing. I want everyone to know the courage he displayed in being true to himself. In his transparency, he wasn’t afraid to write about pain and sorrow or greed. He was candid. And this is how he connected with people.
His sorrows could be our sorrows. His lyrics helped us work through our own grief and pain. An array of feelings audible in his vocal chords. And he could express with several different inflections what I attempt to do with my prose.
And now that voice is gone. Too soon. Even though it lives on in the music…
…he is gone.
And pieces of our childhood went with him.
I miss him. Some people become more iconic after they pass. People idolize and idealize. Make people who are only human legends. Not so with him. Because it’s just not how he lived. He was imperfectly perfectly human. Humble. Beautifully flawed. Given a voice like an angel sent from heaven.
Thank God he shared that gift with all of us.