Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou,known by his stage name of George Michael,was as much one of the last people I’d expect to pass away suddenly as Prince was nine months ago. Especially on Christmas day. Yet it has happened. There had been news reports of drug use,a brief prison sentence seven years ago along with a recent bout with pneumonia. But much as with Prince,nothing that equaled out to life threatening. Heard the news just before Christmas dinner from my boyfriend,who discovered the news through the Facebook news feed and was hoping it was yet more “fake news”.
George Michael was pretty well respected as an 80’s icon,with a very successful career behind him and someone who many people had on their “most welcomed comeback” lists for musical artists. When I first heard his music,I actually thought his name was Wham! because in 1984,I thought all groups were somehow named after the lead singer. As I grew older and my musical understanding grew,so did the admiration for George Michael’s music. Wham! started out as a live sounding post disco group with songs such as “Bad Boys” and “Club Tropicana”. After 1984,this all changed.
After four years as the leader of Wham!,George Michael went solo with his 1987 debut Faith. Even when his music wasn’t particularly successful in the US after the end of the 80’s,his music still continued to be successful the world over. And he did that with a compositional and vocal sense the emphasized a strong sense of soul-always keeping some funky,jazzy or gospel oriented aspect in the mix. Some of Michael’s more recent material I wasn’t too familiar with. But as a tribute,wanted to into some of my favorite songs of Wham! and his solo career,and what made them so wonderful!
Overviewed this 1983 Wham! song already on this blog. Yet its live band post disco/Chic style funkiness stands as a strong basis for George Michael’s writing and vocals.
“Nothing Looks The Same In The Light”
This song musically segues directly out of “Club Tropicna” on the bands debut album Fantastic. With its jazzy chord changes and burbling synth bass,this song has a slinky slow,funky and melodic groove about it. Its a song my friend Thomas Carley and myself share as a mutual favorite from Wham!
“Everything She Wants”
Been hearing this particular 1984 song most of my life. In terms of it’s layered synthesizers (including bass and horn parts) along with a percussive electronic drum part,this is one of my favorite electro funk/pop hits Wham! made,especially with its intricate song construction and amazing vocal turns by George Michael.
Musically speaking,this is a very close cousin of “Nothing Looks The Same In The Light” from Wham’s debut,only less electronic. Especially with the melodic sax line on the intro. Its a strongly melodic jazzy mid tempo soul. Even to this day no matter how often I hear it on the radio,the composition and music become stronger and stronger with each listen.
Instrumentally,this is a simple little electronic number. Melodically on the other hand,its one of the most beautiful (and soulful) Christmas songs from the 1980’s.
“I Want Your Sex”
Henrique and I talked about this last night. It is certainly one major funk thump to start George Michael’s solo career on,especially presented in in two parts with the horn driven live band funk sound on the final part of this 9+ minute opus.
Dealing with the topic of addiction,this is one of the heaviest,bassiest late 80’s funk stomps George Michael ever made.
This hit from his 1995 comeback album Older is one of my very favorite of George Michael’s solo career-with its mixture of mid 90’s funk and disco revival and slow,humping shuffle.
“It Doesn’t Really Matter”
Even though some people I’ve know bemoaned the fact the instrumentation on this song is a bit artificial,everything from the electronic drums and keyboards accents on some very jazzy elements-even lyrically alluding to Burt Bacharach mid song. In terms of composition,this is among George Michael’s jazziest tunes.
On this song from George Michael’s…as its turned out final album Patience in 2004,the fact that the music video for the song got banned took attention away from the songs thumping,throbbing mix of EDM instrumental styles and a hard core funk stomp.This is probably my (and my boyfriend’s) favorite of his later years.
George Michael’s legacy as a musician comes from a number of sources. He actually sued CBS records because he felt the label were marketing him for his image rather than his talent. Some might see that as a form of egoism. Others (and I include myself in this) see this as a multi talented singer/songwriter/producer and (in many cases) multi instrumentalist with a wonderful grasp of rhythm and melodic electronic programming as well. He was an artist whose passing was one of the more shocking ones for me in 2016. And representative of the type of musical presence I (and many people) will truly miss.