Missing George Michael
Can you mourn someone you’ve never met?
I recently went to see a George Michael tribute act. Doing so really got me thinking – about the artist we’d lost, and about death in general. More specifically – can we truly mourn someone we’ve never met? This is my take on missing George Michael.
Those we lost in 2016
2016 was a vintage year – I can’t remember a year quite like it. Just ten days into the new year we lost David Bowie. A huge loss and a big shock. Yet we’d never have imagined then just how many famous folk the Grim Reaper was to cull before December was done. Within 4 days of Bowie’s demise, we’d also lost Alan Rickman (who to me will forever be Severus Snape.)
Over twelve months we said goodbye to Terry Wogan, Harper Lee, Paul Daniels, Ronnie Corbett, Victoria Wood, Prince, Muhammed Ali, Caroline Aherne, Gene Wilder, Pete Burns, Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn and Andrew Sachs. To name just thirteen.
Four months into the year, news articles were musing on the loss of so many celebrities. Still, the year was far from over.
By Boxing Day, when we heard that George Michael had passed away on Christmas Day, we thought surely that must be it. Jokes circulated on social media about locking up David Attenborough. Surely we didn’t really think we could lose any more? The force was strong, though – we lost Carrie Fisher on 27th, and still Grim wasn’t finished. Carrie was tragically followed by her mother Debbie Reynolds the very next day.
How you can you miss someone you’ve never met?
Debbie will forever be remembered as dying of grief, the loss of her daughter simply too much to bear. Which made me think about the frequent news footage of mass outpourings of grief. Particularly for David Bowie, Prince and George Michael, whose fans seemed inconsolable. Was this ‘normal’ behaviour, I wondered. Why did people feel so keenly the loss of someone they’d never met? Why be so sad because George Michael is gone? At that point, I wasn’t really missing George Michael. Yet.
The Brits 2017
Then the Brits were on. I didn’t even watch them, the TV was tuned to the awards for a few minutes before we switched over to whatever we’d put it on for. I came into the room and Andrew Ridgeley, Pepsi and Shirlie were on stage, giving a tribute to their clearly very real friend George Michael. Before Chris Martin of Coldplay sang “A Different Corner“. I was transfixed – and felt, for the first time, the stirrings of real emotion.
Something in the power of George’s voice has the power to make me feel very strong and genuine emotion. I’m not sure why. Is it a quality inherent in the late singer’s voice, or more personal than that? Is it because I grew up with him?
The mid 1980s
I remembered playing “Wham: The Final” on vinyl, singing along whilst admiring (or rather, drooling over) the glam cover shots of George and Andrew. The album was released in 1986, and I hadn’t even clocked up my first snog by then. Slow-dancing with George, aka ‘every little hungry schoolgirl’s pride and joy’ would have been more than enough for me.
I’m missing George Michael
I Googled the word ‘Mourn’, and found that it is described as feeling, or expressing, sadness or sorrow over someone’s death. If it’s as simple as that, then yes I was sorry, and sad, about George Michael’s demise. Thus I could genuinely be described as mourning him.
It felt a bit of a stretch, though. I mean, I’d never met the guy, I’d never been in the same room as him, I’d not even been to one or his Wham or solo concerts. I was only twelve when the band spilt up, and was yet to go to my first gig. Which, incidentally, turned out to be Bros in 1988 – one of Wham’s successors in the ‘pretty-boy-pop’ category.
The first cut
That got me thinking, though, about how deeply we feel things as teenagers. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I felt, then, that if I didn’t meet, marry and live happily ever after with Matt Goss, I might as well die. To my eternal embarrassment now, I do – really clearly – remember thinking that (*hangs head in shame*).
Our teenage years are when we grow, when our strongest memories are formed. And arguably, when we feel things the deepest. As yet unencumbered by adult worries such as bills and school catchments, we were free of dilemmas such as Center Parcs or All-Inclusive to Gran Canaria, one child, two, or three? More? None? Pasta for dinner again or pub?
Too much time
We had the luxury of time, a veritable surplus of it, in fact, to casually squander on being a hormonal layabout, lazing on the bed and trying to work out who “Careless Whisper” might be written for. Time to stare into the unseeing, glossy eyes of our latest poster-boy crush and daydream.
These days, I don’t have the time or grey cells (or perhaps, neither) to remember what I left the room for. Let alone to spin endless fantasies about some blond, blue-eyed young gun. No wonder our teenage memories are so many and so clear in comparison.
Solace in songs
It wasn’t all rosy then though. Ah, teenage angst. I wouldn’t want to be there again, back when no-one mattered but myself and my adolescent peers. When all I wanted was to fit in, just by being myself – as long as I was prettier, cleverer and wittier than everyone else. Is it any wonder that we found solace in song lyrics and the soulful eyes of the latest pop sensation?
The bottom line is, we can’t help the way that we feel. Music soothes the soul so supremely, and musical preference is probably one of the most personal thing about us. Marking us out as individuals. I’ve been married for nearly fifteen years, and Mister and I can still surprise each other with our song choices.
If you were there
Whether we met them or not, our pop idols in some way smoothed our transition through our teens. They were the harmless objects of our first all-consuming crushes, and spoke to us through their music when we felt like no-one else was listening.
Is it any wonder that we feel so deeply for those we lose, particularly who were such a huge part of our formative years? We may never have been less than hundreds or thousands of miles apart, but we were singing from the same song-sheet. Those that came with every album you bought, way back when. How I miss those, how I mourn their loss in the age of digital downloads.
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