It’s taken until now for me to realise the true impact that the music and lyrics of the late George Michael’s work has had upon my life.
I was sad to hear of his passing, of course, but it is only retrospectively – as his back catalogue is blasted out relentlessly from every radio station and tributes made on TV and social media – that I have understood this music has always been there, since I first listened to Wham as a young child.
Wham, in fact, was the first pop band I became aware of as a distinctly uncool youngster.
A group of girls I encountered at senior school became my friends and our obsessional focus of choice was Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael. The rite of passage in order to belong was the act of memorising the entire ‘Wham Rap’.
To be word perfect was to belong.
To know their birthdays or their latest outfits would be a test which, if failed, would render one peripheral and unfashionable.
But in my desperation to hang with the ‘cool’ish kids I spent long evenings trying to learn the words and re-watching Top of Pops performances.
As the years progressed, their music never left me.
Without ever really being a signed-up fan, I internalised their work and when George went solo it was his haunting ballads that – possibly without me ever knowing it – came to represent and to remind me of certain times, experiences and emotions from throughout my life – not all of which I recall fondly.
Yet as time passes and the resonance of former losses, humiliations and young heartbreaks cease to bite, hearing ‘Careless Whisper’ never ceases to make me stop, think and delve into nostalgia.
It was inevitable that this year ‘Last Christmas’ , already a song which strikes a chord for those who have endured a less than happy festive period through the years, now had an added poignancy. It is the very personal evocation of times gone by that for me, will ensure George Michael is never forgotten.
A moment at a fair, a childhood angst, the fears of not fitting in, all of these emotions stirred by his storytelling through song.
I never met him and he didn’t know me from ‘Adam’ but he will always be a part of my life.