December 25, 2016

All My Idols Are Dying

Today, on Christmas Day, after spending the day alone and far from my loved ones, I found out that one of my childhood pop music idols, George Michael, was dead.

This year had already taken Prince from me.

I remember where I was when I found out about Michael Jackson's death in 2009 and Whitney Houston's death in 2012.

I wasn't prepared for any of those. And I wasn't prepared for this.

All my childhood idols are dying. And none of them have been that old.

Whitney was 49. Michael was 51. Prince was 58.

George Michael was 53.

Seeing George Michael in concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 2008 was nearly the final frontier for me to live out all my childhood concert-going fantasies. I had been waiting so long for it—and was so excited—that I went to see him twice in a row.

And I wouldn't have had it any other way.

The first night, we were directly across from the stage up in the stands, and had a great view of the whole show as a complete picture.

The graphics were amazing...

...and he sounded incredible.

But since the group I went with the first night had seats in the 200-level...

...I threw caution to the wind...

...and spent another $300 to get a really close ticket for the second night, too.

The next time, I was really close but off to the side... to see all of his dance moves and facial expressions.

I'm Your Man

Musically it was about the same both nights...

Too Funky

...though the crowd that second night went f-ing nuts.

That's the last time George Michael toured the U.S., upon the 25th anniversary of his career.


I think we all had some sense that that was our last chance to see him live, in person. His career had waned in the U.S., though he was still selling out stadiums abroad. He'd become very much of a joke over here, because of the cheesy 80s thing and the gay thing and the getting caught thing.

But he was a serious musician. He played nearly all of the instruments on his Faith album. He wrote all of the songs, and had been writing songs since he was a teenagers (most famously, "Careless Whisper").

He was an incredible interpreter of song. He somehow managed to cover everyone from Stevie Wonder to Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and Nina Simone. I always liked his cover versions of those songs better than the originals.

He was a poet, too. He'll never get due credit for his songwriting—and especially lyrical—skills, thanks to pop concoctions of his boy band career, like "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" and "Last Christmas."

His first solo hit, however, was the first #1 in Britain that featured an artist who wrote, sang, arranged, produced, and played all the instruments on it.

Here, without comment, are the lyrics to that song, "A Different Corner":

I'd say love was a magical thing
I'd say love would keep us from pain
Had I been there, had I been there

I would promise you all of my life
But to lose you would cut like a knife
So I don't dare, no I don't dare

'Cause I've never come close in all of these years
You are the only one to stop my tears
And I'm so scared, I'm so scared

Take me back in time maybe I can forget
Turn a different corner and we never would have met
Would you care

I don't understand it, for you it's a breeze
Little by little you've brought me to my knees
Don't you care

No I've never come close in all of these years
You are the only one to stop my tears
I'm so scared of this love

And if all that there is is this fear of being used
I should go back to being lonely and confused
If I could, I would, I swear.

(lyrics courtesy of Google Play Music)

I know that saying goodbye is part of life—loving and losing and all that. But I don't want to say goodbye to any more people or any more things.

And part of me thinks that means not loving anything new ever again. I've already got so much to lose.

A little piece of my childhood dies with those we've lost.

Related Post:
RIP Johnny Castle

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