R.I.P. George Michael

I'll be honest that until a few years ago, all I really knew about George Michael was the song "Faith." Don't get me wrong, it's a catchy song, a fabulous song, but that was about it. Also, that he had been arrested.

What changed was the TV show Eli Stone.

The short-lived series was created by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim (who today are better known for Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and the nonstop superhero tv shows). It starred Johnny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Hackers, Elementary) as a lawyer who begins having visions.

The show knew that a character suddenly seeing George Michael performing was funny and it played the scenes for laughs. But they also managed to do some great song and numbers. And they dealt with, what would happen if a lawyer starts ranting and raving and seeing visions, because that would be a problem.

George Michael appeared throughout the show's first season often in really interesting ways. In fact one of the best episodes, and one that really gave co-star Victor Garber a chance to be more than just the intense senior partner role, was where Michael guest starred as himself.

The case that episode was about a teenage girl who played Michael's song "I Want Your Sex" in school to protest an abstinence only education program and Michael wanted to defend the girl and took the stand to talk about the song, about losing friends to AIDS and the background of writing the song.

The series was created by someone who was clearly a fan of Michael and his music. Each episode was named after one of his songs, he appeared and sang his own songs and others throughout. And in the final episode of the first season, Michael performed what may be the second best rendition of Feelin' Good that I've ever heard. (And first is Nina Simone, and there is no shame in coming in second to Miss Simone). It was a great performance.

But the entire show made me look at a pop star who I had never really thought much about. In part because I'm too young to really know his work as I missed it the first time around when it was hugely popular. Pop culture is often fluid, it's often fun but disposable, but there is so much work that gets created which is meaningful, which is powerful, which deserves to endure. Because that's why so many of us find so much of pop culture, not bad, but uninteresting. Because we know that it can be good, something that we can listen to again and again for years and decades, and that it will continue to mean something, and mean something different at different times in our lives.

So I went back and I found that he was half of Wham! - again, a group that I was too young to notice the first time around. And I listened to all the songs like Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Last Christmas, Faith, Careless Whisper, Freedom 90, I Want Your Sex. There's his duet with Elton John, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, which was a hit with all the proceeds going to various charities. There's Somebody To Love, the Freddy Mercury song that Michael recorded with the remaining members of Queen in 1993

Since his death, much has been discussed about Michael being gay and what that meant. People have talked about his generosity and his desire for the most part to be generous behind the scenes. He didn't make a show of donating money and time to so many projects. That speaks to what a good man he was. To listen to his work again, to listen to the songs he wrote, it's clear what a good artist he was. I hope that he knew what so many of us thought of him.

"Well I need someone to hold me
But I wait for something more
Yes I've gotta have faith"

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