Ladies and Gentlemen, George Michael…Let Us Say Goodbye Before You Go-Go
Scott Anthony Andrews
There are songs that every songwriter wishes they had written. There are singers that every vocalist wishes they could sound like. There are singer-songwriters that every singer wishes they could write songs like, every songwriter wishes they could sing like, and every singer-songwriter wishes they could be. And then, ladies and gentleman, there was George Michael.
His voice was superb. George Michael could sing. Watching him perform live on one of his Wembley stadium concerts, one cannot but admire his vocal control—how his voice seemed so suitably matched, whether at the top of his range or in the lower register. His vibrato always just enough for shimmer. His style was expressive and masculine, yet, he could also be breathy and light of tone. George Michael could really sing pop songs, but equally as impressive, he had the ‘pipes’ to authentically emote standards such as “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” “You’ve Changed” and “Secret Love” (all from 1999’s “Songs from the Last Century.”) In my view this kind of project might only be undertaken by those with superior vocal abilities and/or creative sensibilities. Like many of us, I so admired his masterful technique, but more than that, I appreciated his heart-felt and caring delivery.
His songwriting was superb. George Michael could write songs. He infused many of his songs with layers of catchy riffs. He could create energy and momentum with hits like “Freedom ’90,” “Faith,” “I Want Your Sex,” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” The club floors of the 80’s and 90’s would not have been the same without him; the era and its dancers ‘whamming’ loudly upon impact. And he could write soulful ballads like “Careless Whisper” with its haunting sax line. But one of my most favorite songs is his “My Mother Had a Brother” from his “Patience” album (2004). In that song George Michael described his mother’s almost indescribable combination of loss and joy—of giving birth on the day her brother died. Michael wrote it as though he is having a conversation with his mother, many years later; who, like his uncle, is in heaven: “but mama will you tell him from your boy, the times have changed, I guess the world was getting warmer while we got stronger, mama will you tell him about my joy.” In all this darkness, he wrote in some hope.
George Michael was not a singer-songwriter. To me, singer-songwriter is a separate genre not necessarily connoting its components; true, it is a songwriter who sings and/or a singer who writes. But George Michael was decidedly more than an amalgam of these two; like any gestalt, his art was more than that. In times of loss it is natural to search for meaning, and sometimes this searching may be over-reaching. George Michael has given us much, so let us not look for meaning per se in his death, rather as singer-songwriters, let us consider. Let us bear in mind that we are singers, that we are songwriters—and that the art and craft of being a singer-songwriter may be more than our genre. Ladies and gentleman, let us truly appreciate George Michael… and let us say goodbye before you go-go.
RIP George Michael