In a year marked by the deaths of David Bowie and Prince, the world is now mourning the loss of another music superstar. On Christmas morning the death of musician George Michael was confirmed by his manager, Michael Lippman, who told The Hollywood Reporter that Faith artist died of heart failure “in bed, lying peacefully.” He was fifty-three years old.
Born on June 25th, 1963 in London to a Greek restaurant owner and an English dancer, Michael first made a name for himself as half of the 1980’s duo, Wham!, who climbed the charts thanks to hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.”
Despite the success of Wham!, the band broke up in 1986. However, Michael’s biggest accomplishments were still to come. During the course of his decades-spanning solo career he penned and performed numerous massive hits, including “I Want Your Sex,” “Father Figure,” “Praying for Time,” and “Freedom ’90,” which remains iconic for the music video which featured the world’s biggest supermodels, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Tatjana Patitz lip-synching to the track. In 1988 he won a Grammy for the Aretha Franklin duet, “I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me).”
Although his style was more male heartthrob than gender bender, Michael joins the style icon ranks of Bowie and Prince. His acid washed jeans and tight white tees captured the fascination of women (and men) around the globe. Like the “Purple Rain” singer, he openly embraced sex in his lyrics and music videos. However, Michael didn’t publicly reveal his own sexuality until 1998 after he was arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s restroom. Following the episode he announced to a CNN interviewer that he was gay – a fact that most people had known for years but that Michael had never openly admitted out of respect for his mother. Although he claimed that he wasn’t ashamed of his homosexuality he feared that she would be constantly scared for his survival as a gay man during the AIDs crisis. He said, “My mother was still alive and every single day would have been a nightmare for her thinking what I might have been subjected to.” By the time of his CNN special, he had already been an HIV and AIDS awareness activist for years following the 1993 death of his boyfriend due to HIV.
The latter years of George Michael’s life paint a complicated portrait of someone marked by years of juggling the perils of fame. Amidst rumors that he struggled with drug addiction, numerous anecdotes have emerged that demonstrate the singer’s quiet generosity. After seeing a couple on television who struggled to find the money for IVF, Michael secretly donated £15,000 to the pair. He similarly tipped a bartender £5,000 after she admitted that she was in debt from nursing school. He was also the only contestant on the celebrity version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire that was ok with gambling all the money he had raised for his chosen charity because he vowed to pay it out of his own pocket if he lost. Since his death it has also been revealed that he anonymously gave millions of dollars to charities such as Childline and the Terrence Higgins Trust, which raises funds to support people living with HIV.
Recent Facebook posts reveal that Michael was getting ready to release a documentary about himself next year and earlier this month it was also revealed that he was working on a new album with producer, Naughty Boy.
-Jasmine Williams for The Untitled Magazine