EILE’s Editor-at-Large, Scott De Buitléir, writes about a poignantly apt moment to learn of the passing of the iconic singer
On Christmas Night in Dublin, my mother and I watched a couple of episodes of the Netflix series, The Crown, based on the life of Queen Elizabeth II. As we watched scenes depicting how news broke about the passing of King George VI in 1952, the most bizarre, yet apt, of coincidences took place. I got a text message from my boyfriend, telling me that George Michael had died.
Yet again, the curse of 2016 has struck, and one more icon has passed on from this world. George Michael’s death will undoubtedly strike deep sorrow into the hearts of many fans, especially within the LGBT community around the world. His own sexuality was a source of controversy during the height of the AIDS epidemic, a crisis which touched Michael’s life personally due to his relationship with – and the subsequent passing of – the Brazilian dancer, Anselmo Feleppa. The singer’s iconic song, Jesus to a Child, was written for Feleppa, and Michael regularly dedicated performing the song to him during concerts.
Controversy became something of a publicity agent for Michael during the nineties, and the singer was able to poke fun at himself and some of his more notorious court appearances with the hit, Outside. The song, including its music video, was an ode to sexual liberation, appealing especially to his gay fans. At this point in his career, despite many battles with depression, George Michael made it clear to the world that his sexuality would no longer be a source of shame or weakness. He would use it to throw the proverbial middle finger to any conservative critic who may dare to stand against him. Indeed, he would go on to have the last laugh.
Despite sharing his spotlight with controversy at times, George Michael became a brave and righteous figure in many human rights campaigns; from HIV awareness and famine relief, to criticising both George W. Bush and Tony Blair in his song, Shoot the Dog. As a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, he worked hard to raise awareness of a disease that only began to be defeated by the late nineties.
After countless performances of incredibly beautiful songs, George Michael’s silken voice is now stilled, his music remaining only on records of various kinds. As his music lives on, so too does the inspiration he instilled in so many people; the inspiration to hold one’s head high, to enjoy life, to ignore begrudging, and most importantly, to love. My own favourite song by George Michael is Jesus to a Child, although I never knew until Christmas Night the background behind it, or the dedication to Feleppa. The fact that it remains such an iconic, timeless song, makes it all the more special for Michael’s LGBT audience.
Many others have noted how 2016 has taken some of the greatest people from us, from David Bowie to Prince, and more. George Michael now takes his place amongst the stars as one of music’s great kings, but he shall continue to be an inspiration for us all.