Photo Credit: georgemichael.com
My first impression of George Michael wasn’t a good one. It was 1984 and his band Wham!’s first big single was hurtling up the charts here in the U.S. I loathed it. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was everything I disliked about pop music. It still is. The cheesy title, the goofy video, the lame lyrics… to this day I switch the dial the second it comes onto one of the oldies stations. The first time I heard it, I knew. George Michael and his band were not for me. They were for kids. They were for girls. They definitely were not for a cool teenage dude like me. Then something strange and terrible happened. “Careless Whisper” came out and I liked it. Sure, it was sappy, but it was undeniably good. Then that winter saw the release of “Everything She Wants” and I REALLY liked it. It was my favorite song for months. What in the world was going on? How could this be happening? I liked Prince. I liked Def Leppard. I liked Van Halen. I liked U2. How could I like this silly boy band?
The answer of course, is that hiding beneath that boy band image was one of the greatest singers of the past 40 years. George Michael was a serious talent. My friends gave me grief about liking his music. Yes, it might have been strange that I was singing along to Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” one minute and George’s “Kissing a Fool” the next, but what could I say, my tastes were expanding.
Like the recent deaths of favorites including Scott Weiland, David Bowie, and Prince, George’s passing this Christmas hit me hard. He seemed to dislike fame as he got older and the albums got fewer and farther between. He’d been almost invisible in the U.S. for the past 20 years. Nevertheless, he left us with a long list of wonderful songs to remember him by. If you’re a fan like me, you might be familiar with all of these. If not, I hope you’ll give a few a listen. Here are my choices for his greatest hits: