Christmas usually brings a wave of charm, chirpiness and happiness around the globe. There is a flare and frenzy in the air which some of the other holidays cannot emulate. But for a lot of music lovers across the globe, Christmas is a grim reminder of a loss that left the entire world in shock and despair.
It was 2016 Christmas eve. All celebrations across the world were in order and just like in the West, India too takes its Christmas very seriously. There are soirees and get togethers regardless of culture or creed. We partied and talked like there was no tomorrow and how wrong we were.
I woke up around 11 am and just like most of the millennials (although I was born in the 70’s) I grabbed my phone and senselessly started gobbling all the updates and messages that I missed while I was asleep. Gosh! This need to sleep can be a pain. Though most of the messages looked innocuous and unassuming but there was one that changed my life forever.
The message or flash had come from a news app and it read ‘British Pop Sensation George Michael No More’. It was a surreal feeling and hit me like tangible slap from the mid-forties police. The man I idolized and perhaps considered my musical hero had passed away silently on a night that was christened with his songs almost every year. (Last Christmas)
If you had been born in the 1980’s or the 70’s you would know that it was normal to mention Michael Jackson. Madonna and George Michael in the same breath. He was the biggest and the brightest star that lived in that era. His music, his demi god looks and his style made for a perfect celebrity figure regardless of the country you were in.
I grew up in Kuwait, Moscow and California during my formative years and George Michael’s appeal and his persona was equally omnipresent in all these places. It followed me wherever I went.
Each one of us has a musical idol that we attribute our emotions and to some extent our decisions to. For my generation George Michael was a force of nature. His music was allegorical to the times he lived in and it in a way showed us the mirror of who we truly were and how we ought to look at certain things. (Praying for Time)
His sex appeal did not end with his bold songs or his rump shaking moves. His coming out of the closet in the late 90’s at a time when homosexuality was frowned upon did not make an iota of difference to the people who grew up listening to his music. His talent and his force transcended the petty and that is hard to find in musicians these days.
Just recently I discovered that George Michael is still helping charities from the afterlife. After 2pac Shakur, George Michael seems to be the hardest working man who is not alive. Shakur however had music come out until 10 years after his death. George on the other hand was a man of immense sensitivity and empathy. How else can one make such delicious music?
It will be hard to imagine that a man whose music has outlived him could not find the kind of peace he beamed through his compositions. It will be hard to celebrate Christmas knowing that the man who immortalized most famous song about the festival died an unhappy man and that is just the contrast of life. And it is for emoting this contrast through his music that George will always be a cut above the rest.
I visited George Michael’s house in Oxford in 2017. The tranquility and peace that radiated in that place reminded me of how George made his music. He made what he saw and he saw what he made. Just like many of his fans, the only regret that I will carry on my shoulders is that I could never meet him or attend any of his live concerts. And just like many of his fans, I hope his music is not forgotten in the due course of time.