An Open Letter to George Michael RIP, Part 3 – The Tributes

Dear George

It’s now been two months since we woke up to the news that you had been found dead on Christmas Day – Of all the shock departures from the world of entertainment last year, yours was the one that affected me most and I still can’t quite believe that you will never again pop up on our screens chatting, singing, campaigning or joining forces with some of our finest comedic talents in one of their fund-raising sketches – Kind of cornered the market with those of late and raised an awful lot of money into the bargain so good on you.

But of course we are now well into Awards Season – Last week we had The Grammys and this week it was our own Brit Awards. Every year there is a short interlude where they give remembrance to those of you who have passed away since the last awards ceremony – 2016 will go down in history I think for being a freakish year in terms of loss. So many of you who were still so young and had so much more to give, left this mortal coil. I did think at the start of the year that this would just be something natural that we would have to get used to, but no, it was indeed a mathematically freakish year and one I don’t want to see repeated for some time.

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At both The Grammys and The Brits, there was a very moving tribute paid to you George, but by golly, for me it just doubly-emphasised what a fantastic singer you were. I never heard you sing out-of-tune ever, which is not something that the people who were given the job of singing your songs seemed to be able to do. First of all we had Adele at The Grammys who is generally very good at the old “live singing”, but even she had to stop and restart her rendition of your 1996 No. 1 Fastlove, because she had messed up. As a means of explaining she said, “I can’t do that to him, I just can’t” which was quite magnanimous of her I suppose. I have a feeling that you and her were probably friends and shared a similar sense of humour but I can’t be sure – Hopefully though you were looking down at her and appreciated what she was trying to do albeit in a bit of a, dare I say it, botched fashion. As for the really slowed down version of Fastlove (oh the irony), I can understand how an up-tempo number would have been inappropriate but somehow it just didn’t work for me. I am therefore going to remind myself of how it should be performed by none other than your good self. I am noticing however that in this video you were going through one of your crisis of confidence phases in terms of how you looked – Yes, it was your “I don’t want to show the right side of my face anymore because it doesn’t look so good” period which was just ridiculous as you were a fantastically attractive man from any angle. Just goes to show how these things can really get into the psyche however and although totally unreasonable, are difficult to shake off. I have a terrible feeling that at the time of your death you were not at all happy with how you looked which is just so sad – Could have been easily resolved if you’d had the right people around you to help.

Fastlove by George Michael:

So, we’ve had Adele with Fastlove complete with a brilliant set of images of you on the big screen – Yes George we even saw the right side of your face and it was lovely. Next up we have The Brit Awards and this time we had none other than Chris Martin of Coldplay doing the tribute song. Hmm… Not my first choice but he does seem to sell an awful lot of records so got the gig – Again not really appropriate for him to have performed one of your more up-tempo numbers (can’t really imagine Chris Martin in a pair of little white shorts and a Choose Life T-shirt singing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go) so what did he go for? – A Different Corner from 1986. But hey, this wasn’t just any old version of A Different Corner – Oh no, it was a really, really bad one! Thankfully at one point they did that really clever thing where a duet is possible with you on the big screen and him on stage (singing out-of-tune) so again your brilliance, from beyond the grave, saved the day.

I have always loved the song A Different Corner and here is a bit of a funny story George. Many years ago before I met Mr WIAA I had a great friend called Anne. We lived in flats only a few doors away from each other and were practically joined at the hip for a few years – We both loved going out socialising at the weekend but often bemoaned the fact that we just hadn’t found “The One” yet, the person we would perhaps marry. We decided that we must always have been turning the metaphorical “wrong corner” – If it had been a different corner, as per your song, we might have bumped into “The One”. Oh how we laughed! Anyway, Anne eventually got a new job in another town and she, and the different corner jokes, were sorely missed for a while – I had to shop solo on a Saturday afternoon which was a bit of a lonely business. One day I was heading up the high street when I saw Mr WIAA walking just ahead of me – I knew him from our social circle but despite getting on really well we always went our separate ways at the end of the evening. I decided it was time for action. The day had come for me to turn the correct corner. It was a race against time but I managed to head into the shopping mall, quickly ran past all the shops and emerged at the exit right at the top of the high street just as Mr WIAA was arriving at that point. I was breathless but managed one of those convincing, “Gosh fancy bumping into you” greetings as I met him. After a bit of a chat we organised a date for later on that evening and that my dear George was 28 years ago now, so thank you for inspiring me to take the initiative that day and make sure I didn’t indeed turn a different corner.

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I am most definitely not going to share the Chris Martin version of the song here but a version you sang live on television some years ago, perfectly as ever. I think the time has come for me now to let go, and this will probably be my last letter to you. I hope that wherever you are, you have found peace. Despite the less than perfect singing at The Brits it was lovely to see your old pals Andrew Ridgeley, and Pepsi & Shirley read out their own tributes to you – It was a shock however to see Andrew looking like a bit of an old man. If he is looking older then so must we but there is nothing to complain about as at least we will have the luxury of growing older, whereas now you never will.

A Different Corner:

Farewell then my old friend – As these tributes show, you are sorely missed by so many and we thank you for all the wonderful songs you have given us. Because of them (and your amazing acts of generosity) you will never, ever be forgotten.

A Different Corner Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

I’d say love was a magical thing
I’d say love would keep us from pain
Had I been there, had I been there

I would promise you all of my life
But to lose you would cut like a knife
So I don’t dare, no I don’t dare

‘Cause I’ve never come close in all of these years
You are the only one to stop my tears
And I’m so scared, I’m so scared

Take me back in time maybe I can forget
Turn a different corner and we never would have met
Would you care

I don’t understand it, for you it’s a breeze
Little by little you’ve brought me to my knees
Don’t you care

No I’ve never come close in all of these years
You are the only one to stop my tears
I’m so scared of this love

And if all that there is is this fear of being used
I should go back to being lonely and confused
If I could, I would, I swear

George Michael, “Careless Whisper” and the Summer of 1984

The original premise of this blog was to write about a random piece of music heard on the radio, and in my case that is usually BBC Radio 2 nowadays. So many musical memories by the time you get to your mid-fifties that just about everything played on that station conjures up something, so it made sense. The Soundtrack of My Life would end up becoming The Story of My Life.

What appears to have happened is that this has been an exceptional week – David Bowie and Alan Rickman both died.  This kind of threw me and instead of writing randomly, a lot of the week was spent looking back at songs associated with both of those people. Occurred to me that this is highly likely to become a feature of this blog as the music I remember from the 1960s onwards, would have been made by people if not a generation older than myself, certainly a good few years and sadly they will be approaching an advanced age by now. Enough of this maudlin talk however – Hoping there will be no more shock news this coming week or indeed for quite some time. Too much to take in.

So today I did try to stick to my original premise and when I turned on the radio this morning it was Steve Wright with his Sunday Love Songs. Not a fan but decided to stick with it. The first song was Love is All Around by The Troggs but ironically I have already written about that one this week so passed on it. The next was Careless Whisper by George Michael. Perfect, as this is one of my all-time favourite songs. It was released in the summer of 1984 and was George’s first solo effort, his work to date always having been with his best friend Andew Ridgeley, the other half of Wham!. Although they had started out as a duo it had become apparent that Ridgeley was mainly there for moral support as he didn’t sing, play an instrument or write the songs. To be fair, George has always said that he wouldn’t have had the confidence to start out in music if Andrew hadn’t been by his side so just as well it happened that way, but by 1984, it seems he needed a few solo projects.

Careless Whisper by George Michael:

It was summertime and George had yet again come up with an amazing-sounding song. The video was shot in Miami which added the necessary glamour, and the saxophone-playing gave it a sultry, jazzy sound. Sad lyrics but George was looking good and his teen-idol status went through the roof. Yes, lots of girls with his picture on their walls that summer!

As for me, I was still in the midst of my big hair, tanned skin, and pastel-coloured clothes and lipstick period – Unusual not to have been in the mid ’80s. I was living in a really nice flat with my best friends and had, for the first time in eight years, no exams to sit that summer. I know there was a lot of unemployment and social unrest at the time but if you were 24 and in work, life was not too shabby. In London, the term “yuppie” had been coined and although we weren’t earning “loadsamoney” (like the Harry Enfield character of the time) we were definitely young, urban and professional. A lot of partying was done that year and not a lot of saving for the future. The music in the background was a mixture of all that was popular at the time and it most definitely included George Michael with his big ballad – A slow dance number if ever there was one.

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A slight downside to the year of partying in 1984 was that we all split up with our long-term University boyfriends. Still not sure if that would have happened if we hadn’t been having such a great social life but as careers took off, more time was being spent with new colleagues and that ended up being the result. Or, could it have been that 1984 was the year we all decided to knit them a jumper? Months of hard work (fortunately I opted for a fairly simple pattern) and at the end of the year, no boyfriend. I for one even ended up at the doctors with a worryingly mysterious ailment – Turned out it was muscle strain from all the knitting (these were big, sporty lads and by the time you reached row 300 there was a lot of wool to support). Who knows, but at least in the midst of all the trauma and health scares, we had George Michael and Careless Whisper for solace.

Careless Whisper Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

I feel so unsure
As I take your hand
And lead you to the dance floor
As the music dies
Something in your eyes
Calls to mind a silver screen
And all it’s sad goodbyes

I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool
I should have known better than to cheat a friend
And waste a chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Time can never mend
The careless whisper of a good friend
To the heart and mind
Ignorance is kind
There’s no comfort in the truth
Pain is all you’ll find

Tonight the music seems so loud
I wish that we could lose this crowd
Maybe it’s better this way
We’d hurt each other with the things we want to say
We could have been so good together
We could have lived this dance forever
But now who’s gonna dance with me
Please stay