RIP George Michael

George Michael at the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony, London

British Pop star George Michael passed away yesterday at 53. I took this from a distance at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games, where Michael joined an all-star cast for the London Games finale.

He performed two songs, his hit ‘Freedom 90’, and a new song, ‘White Light’, just a week after it was released. That prompted some harsh criticism, accusing Michael of using the stage to promote his new album to an international TV audience of 750 million. It came across to me as self-absorbed and out of place, ruining the tone of the ceremony, which was in effect little more than a phenomenal concert that celebrated the trans-generational contribution of Great Britain’s No. 1 export — its pop culture. His promo left a bad taste in my mouth, and for better or worse, fair or not, will remain a defining George Michael memory.

I don’t recall ever being a big fan of his music; his kind of pop style wasn’t my cup of green tea. But even after losing interest early on and paying little attention to his solo post-Wham! days, I did appreciate his talent and readily admit a soft spot for ‘Careless Whisper’. And to tapping my feet and swaying my hips to some of his music during my brief foray into the dance club scene of the early 1980s.

That said, I don’t need to know much about his music to know that his work championing human rights, specifically LGBTQ rights, will likely be his most important and inspiring contribution and legacy. The world is better for his presence, and that’s ultimately all that matters.

RIP.

A few other remembrances:

Guardian: Why George Michael turned his back on America

Rolling Stone obit

Rolling Stone: Carrie Underwood on George Michael: ‘His Voice Helped Teach Me to Sing’

And, this piece from 1988, also in Rolling Stone: George Michael, Seriously. Wham! was a joke, but the singer has made a brilliant solo debut — and no one is laughing.

 

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