Here is my confession. Whenever someone asks me what kind of music I like, I lie. Not a bold-faced fabrication but a serious lie of omission. I frequently fail to mention the one artist whose music has provided the soundtrack to my life - a man whose bold, outspoken nature has transformed many of my attitudes about the world around me.
I am a proud George Michael fan. So why do I lie? Well to be honest when someone asks me what kind of music I listen to and I do say George Michael, 99 times out of a 100 that person makes a snide remark, makes fun of him or looks at me like I have three heads - or all of the above. I am not very good at biting my tongue. So I lie. It boggles my mind - he is one of the most successful recording artists of the past 30 years and he gets very little respect, especially on this side of the pond. Without artists like George Michael we would probably still be using words like "black music" and "white music" and "cross-over." Those terms really don't exist any more, not only because of black artists that crossed over to "white radio" but white artists like George that broke into black radio, arguably the more difficult move.
George hasn't exactly been prolific in the tour department, or, compared to his contemporaries, the music department either. So every chance I have had to see him I have taken it. In 2000 I drove from Philly to DC to see him at the Equality Rocks concert. In the parking lot I had to maneuver my car around anti-gay protesters screaming into bull horns. And if I am going to be completely honest it was the first time I had really seen hate and bigotry in the flesh like that and it is something I will never forget. In 2004 I slept in front of the Virgin MegaStore in Times Square, waiting in line for close to 20 hours just to meet him for six seconds and have him sign my Patience CD. Patience indeed. I wish I had a time lapse camera to document the transformation of the people that passed by - at 11 PM somewhat sober people made their way to or from here and there; 3 AM the happy drunks stumbled home; 4 AM the not so happy drunks stumbled home; 5 AM the die hard runners zoomed on by; then by 6 AM the suits descended on the Square. I spent the entire time in line next to an 80 year old woman who was getting the CD signed for her daughter who was dying from cancer. I heard her stories about being one of the original medical clinic foot soldiers in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Her name was Bea and I will never forget her.
Another thing I will never forget, courtesy of Mr. George, is a video he showed during his Equality Rocks performance. It was a short documentary he commissioned himself about the kidnapping and abuse gay American teens were facing at the hands of their own families - victims of tortuous "Aversion Therapy" in "clinics" the tactics of which include genital electrocution. Go to http://www.tomasmournian.com/ to view the video. George was compelled to have this short film made after reading an article by Tomas Mournian detailing these atrocities against gay youth. After the premier of this video I (and George too I believe) fully expected this to be all over the news the next day, but there was nothing. No piece on Dateline or 60 Minutes. Nothing. When George recently shared the link to the video on Twitter, I in turn did the same (three times). I was once again shocked by the silence, there wasn't a single person that retweeted it to their followers from my feed. Not one - and I am followed by almost 400 bleeding heart liberals like myself. Why? This is about our children - this is about the civil rights of our children. Children are being held against their will and tortured on our watch FOR BEING GAY.
So here is another confession - I am not quite sure what my outlook on the world would be without this man's music running in the background. Had I not witnessed how he has repeatedly stood up for what is right I am not sure I would give a crap the way I do. He has screwed up along the way, made me shake my head from time to time, but he has always impressed me with his self-effacing candor and unshakable integrity.
In the fall I will be headed to London for his rescheduled concert at Earl's Court. Last year we almost lost him. John, Elvis, and Marvin are dead, but George is alive and well. See you in October, sir.