I can't believe I'm writing another one of these this year. This year has been devastating in its death toll on those we feel as though we know in the spotlight who have shared their talents with us and entertained us for so many years. We should be shock proof at this point, but I have to say that this took me completely by surprise. George Michael was only 53.
I remember being eleven and seeing the video for "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" on MTV. He wore those short shorts in some of the sequences and that t-shirt that said Choose Life. It was an utterly wacky video for an utterly wacky song. But one thing my little mind noticed was that he wore an earring in both ears. Back then we were so obsessed with which ear a boy wore an earring in. If it was one ear he was gay. If it was the other he was fine. When I saw that George had one in both ears I just figured he was bisexual and shrugged my shoulders and went on with it. You see I was raised to accept such things as being ok. Which, while not exceedingly rare, were not common either. My mother has a gay cousin and a brother who is something and she used to talk about them openly while I was growing up. Just matter-of-factly like it was normal. So it never occurred to me think of it as abnormal. When George came out as gay all those years later I wasn't terribly surprised because I had already assumed it all those years ago. Yes, it was based on something stupid and he could easily have been straight, but looking back at that video I have to say he really did look gay in that video. But of course so did Andrew of Wham! a bit.
When Faith came out I did not realize that there was all this controversy going on until a school bus trip to Washingon D.C. I didn't know that radio stations were refusing to play "I Want Your Sex". Or that the kids I went to school with couldn't listen to the album at home. My parents put no restrictions on what I listened to. At one point in D.C., the two buses got separated and we parked our bus and the bus driver and the adults on the bus got off to try to figure out what to do. Suddenly a group of the students looks around at each other and one of them pulls out a small boom box and puts in the tape Faith and "I Want Your Sex" starts playing. They had been dying for a chance to listen to it because they couldn't listen to it at home with their parents around or on the bus with the adults around.
With that one song George did something, no one had really ever done before so blatantly. He said the word SEX multiple times in a song. He didn't say making love or some other term. He bold as brass said the word SEX. Some of the songwriters who write some of the sexiest songs with the dirtiest lyrics like Prince and Steven Tyler could list about a hundred different euphemisms for sex without breaking a sweat. "Little Red Corvette" is not about a car, the lyrics to "Get Off" are very racy and never once even mention making love never mind sex, and when Steven isn't singing about sassyfrass or whatever he says in "Walk This Way" the bluntest he gets is in "Pink" when he says he wants to be "your lover" and then "wrap you in rubber" because he is Steven. If the guys who write the dirtiest songs and even others who aren't worth mentioning here because they weren't great but even they didn't mention the word SEX either and they were pretty crass. The word SEX was so taboo. And George didn't just break that taboo. He shattered it.
My favorite song by George is Freedom 90. At the time I had spent a great deal of my life with no freedom. So a song where you could yell Freedom! at the chorus was a song for me. And while the lyrics fit what George was going through with his life and not what I was going through, the chorus fit with what I was going through.
I think there's something you should knowThere was someone to whom the lyrics to this song I still think of. Of course, I've added someone to that list as time has passed. Maybe we all have someone for whom we need to be free of. Or maybe we just need to earn our freedom from something.
I think it's time I told you so
There's something deep inside of me
There's someone else I've got to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Take back your singing in the rain
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man
All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don't belong to you
And you don't belong to me yea yea
You've gotta give for what you take
You've gotta give for what you take
He gave so much to this world as we are now learning. His money to those in need. His time. And of course his music. That will live on forever. Thank you, George.