George Michael (1963-2016): 'His singing was pure'

Updated: 28 December, 2016 10:44 IST | Vishal Dadlani |

It's been a hellish year for music. Rick Parfitt died the day before (December 24). So many legends have passed away this year — from David Bowie to Prince to Leonard Cohen to Glenn Frey

George Michael
George Michael

It's been a hellish year for music. Rick Parfitt died the day before (December 24). So many legends have passed away this year — from David Bowie to Prince to Leonard Cohen to Glenn Frey.
A file photo of Michael spotted in September
A file photo of Michael spotted in September

When I was in school, the first songs that I heard were the Wham! songs — Wake Me Up Before You Go and Careless Whisper. The way he progressed as a musician with the Faith album and songs like Freedom and Fast Love, it was amazing. His album, Older, blew my mind. Such progression as a musician. I'd just started playing with Pentagram a little before then and started to understand music at a deeper level. His writing was always immaculate, but to see a pop icon travel that journey from what was considered fluffy pop to a deeper and more meaningful expression was an education for me.

With Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley
With Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley

As much as his songwriting, his vocal ability inspired me. His singing was always pure. His range, voice and control... he's probably the only artiste I've heard like that, who, coming from pop space, was able to successfully and authentically sing songs by Freddie Mercury from Queen; nobody else had the ability to pull that off, in my estimation. My respect for him as a vocalist went through the roof when I heard him sing with Queen.

With Elton John
With Elton John

He was a phenomenal live performer too. Every time I'd seen him at a live concert — I've never had the privilege of watching him perform live, but whenever I've seen him on DVDs or TV — the technical finesse of his singing is effortless and yet, unmatched. There are great musicians, and then there are musicians who transcend all of that. George Michael transcended in many ways with his songwriting, performances, evolution and ability to stand strong despite social discrimination. What a brilliant artiste to look up to! He backed out of the pop star lifestyle, so not many people really knew what was going on with him, his legacy and music [in the last few years]. It wasn't page 1 news anymore. To my mind, in the current day, he was far too underrated as an artiste.

With Sir Paul McCartney
With Sir Paul McCartney

Even as a rock-and-roller, I grew to like all his work. If you look at his albums, you see a progression. One trap that any successful artiste needs to avoid, is the lure of sounding like their super-successful past, over and over again. A real artiste strives to find a new expression and something that is relevant to your life and being, today. You can't get trapped into, "Okay, that's my space." With him, he really pushed that. He was a pop artiste who was able to take pop sensibilities, keep them constant, have great songwriting, and yet bring meaning to it all, in many different forms, be it the jazz influences that he'd brought or disco or funk.

He was a genuine icon for musicians as well as for gay people who try to live with equal dignity and rights. We must salute that apart from his music. I read an article that quoted him: "I never minded being thought of as a pop star. People have always thought I wanted to be seen as a serious musician, but I didn't, I just wanted people to know that I was absolutely serious about pop music." This says a lot about him. He took what he was and he made that brilliant. And that's what's special about him.

(As told to Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari)

Inspiring Bollywood
Last Christmas: Dil Mera Churaya Kyun (Akele Hum Akele Tum); Music: Anu Malik
Faith: Paayal Meri Jaadu Jagati Hai (Rajkumar); Music director: Laxmikant-Pyarelal

Akele Hum Akele Tum

Top 10 Billboard hits
> Faith, Dec 12, 1987
> Careless Whisper, Feb 16, 1985
> One More Try, May 28, 1988
> Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Nov. 17, 1984
> Everything She Wants, May 25, 1985
> Father Figure, Feb. 27, 1988
> I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), April 18, 1987
> Monkey, Aug 27, 1988
> I Want Your Sex, Aug 8, 1987
> Praying For Time, Oct 13, 1990

Tributes pour in
Elton John wrote on Instagram, “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend — the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family, friends and all of his fans. @GeorgeMichael #RIP”. Singer Bryan Adams tweeted, “I can't believe it. Such an incredible singer and a lovely human being, far too young to leave us.”

2016 also took away...
In what's been a black year for music lovers, we mourned the loss of:
> David Bowie (69)
> Leonard Cohen (82)
> Prince (57)
> Rick Parfitt (68)

Last offering
Earlier in December, it was announced that Michael was working on a new album. In his last Instagram photo, the British singer posted an image teasing his upcoming docu, Freedom. Michael was set to release a documentary that took fans on a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Michael's second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, released in 1990. The Insta photo's caption revealed that the final film was to be released in the spring of 2017.

First Published: 27 December, 2016 08:19 IST

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