I’ve been so profoundly moved by singer/songwriter, George Michael’s passing. Like so many, I enjoyed his hot and sexy “Faith” image in the late 80’s, but when he seemed to disappear, I forgot all about him. Then when he resurfaced and did “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, a duet with Elton John, I was reminded of what a beautiful voice he had.
One day after he died this past Christmas, I saw a video entitled, “George Michael Became Recluse Because He Hated the Way He Looked.” Shocked and stunned that such a physically attractive man would feel that way, that began a quest for me to explore more about his life.
I discovered that he was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayioutou, and his family nicknamed him, “Yog.” He was a gay man who was half Greek, with his father from Cypress and his mother from England. He wrote, “Careless Whispers” with his friend and Wham partner, Andrew Ridgely when he was only 17. He was an amazingly generous person who gave to so many individuals and organizations, sharing his time, talent and money.
As I’ve continued to research, watch his interviews, listen to his music and learn more about him, I discovered that the reasons for his disappearance after his mega success with his “Faith” album, stemmed from years of depression. One of the things that haunted him was the fact that his mother’s brother killed himself the day George was born. When George was 17 his mother confided in him that his Uncle Colin was gay.
After his mother was diagnosed with a virulent strain of skin cancer, she lived only 6 more months. He grieved her passing for 2 years. One day while traveling in Brasil, he met a man, Anselmo Feleppa and knew that he wanted to share his life with him. That was his first awareness that he was gay. Six months after living with Anselmo, Anselmo was diagnosed with HIV. Then 2 years later he died. He channeled the rage he felt into a 2 year long court battle against his record company, Sony. Signed when he was only 18, his contract with Inner Vision records, was later bought by Sony. The terms of the contract were so unfair because they paid him only a fraction of what other artists earned. Worse yet was that he was basically the property of Sony and his contract made it impossible for him to leave and record anywhere else. He’s a man who was willing to fight for his principles and I respect that.
Because his records were such huge successes, he was a very wealthy man, making up for the low royalty percentage with sheer volume. Despite being a multi-millionaire and having every possible advantage and luxury, George was miserable because he was by nature an introvert, a quiet reflective person who could not handle the media circus. He hated having his picture taken and giving interviews. After touring for a year, earning Sony $150M, he was satisfied to take his fraction of the money, and go back home to his native England.
As his grief took more of a toll on his life, so did his tendency for self-destruction. He fell into drugs and all the consequences that came along, creating even more misery for him.
As I listened to his interviews, interspersed with exploring more of his music post “Faith”, I discover a very soft, gentle soul of a man whose music is a gift for all to enjoy.
I feel a kinship with his spirit because he was profoundly affected by the pain he felt in his life, grieving his many losses, which made it impossible for him to tap into his talent to write and sing his music.
I’ve been so inspired by learning more about his life and his music. I’m heartbroken to know that he lived such a pained and tortured life. But I’m so grateful to him for inspiring me to embrace more of my own life and to continue my writing to give voice to my gifts.