Rememberance: Ladies & Gentlemen...The Diva Himself, George Michael


As if 2016 wasn't cruel enough, George Michael has sadly (and unfairly) left us. He was 53.

We often say that music doesn't know color, that one race does not 'own' a genre, but along comes society and historical transgression and it interjects and reminds, trying to prove and disprove otherwise. From time to time I hear my skinfolk grumble about "culture vultures", White artists who wear Blackness as a costume, or who are misinterpreted in media as being 'soulful' as a means to erase and minimize the presence of actual Black artists. I would name the culprits of such a skewed and offensive practice, but it's easier to say that George Michael is not among the names of those who 'soul' for all the wrong reasons.

George Michael was no 'culture vulture' to the soul and R&B cannon. Let's get that straight right off. He wasn't an Elvis or someone who was just passing through Afro-Amerilandia due it being a fad or as a means to "toughen up" or "urbanize" their image for hits and cred. He was a soul boy right out of the gate, beginning in his early days with Wham! True, "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" was no "Rapper's Delight", but George Michael was one funky and floectic White boy. In my eyes, and to my ears, George Michael was aligned with Teena Marie, Lisa Stansfield, and Daryl Hall ---- artists who respected soul music, Black music, and the people who fostered it --- transcending above that pesky "blue-eyed soul" category with every note sung and written.

When George Michael won a American Music Award in 1989 for Best Soul/R&B Album for his seminal debut, Faith, some soul purists and legends weren't here for it. A lot were upset that a handsome Greek bloke from England, who served floppy, frosted hair realness, and made a 5 o'clock shadow sexy could ever be in the same league as Stevie, Marvin, Smokey, Michael, ectera, but when George Michael got up to the podium to accept the award, he was humble and genuine --- traits that seems lost on some of today's artists --- and he not only praised the genre, but showed sincere gratitude towards Black radio, the Black fans, who consumed his music and made it possible for him to be the first (and today, the only) White artist to win in that category, and have an album chart #1 on the R&B charts. His sincerity and approach to soul/R&B music, to pop music, to "however you wanna label it" music, made him a true legend on a level that some will try to reach, but never will.

It also seems almost weirdly calculated that this year we'd lose three male musicians who not only transcended music beyond boundaries, but whom all redefined masculinity in the public frame. While David Bowie and Prince's gender-bending is not quite aligned with George Michael being openly gay, but George dispelled stereotypes and stigmas of what it meant to be a gay man in the spotlight during his career and it set a new kind of precedent. Even when homosexuality was considered a death kneel to your career --- and almost came to pass for George himself when his 'open secret' was thrust out of the closet in the 1990s --- even though not ideal or pretty, George stood in his truth, becoming a marquee LGTBQ pioneer in his own right to where his sexuality almost ceased to matter in the end.

Still, even with his bad boy swag, Madonna was kind of on the button to label George "the diva, himself", and an honorary "diva" he is, as what White boy singer do you know could hold it down with Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, the greatest divas of all-time, without getting their wig skewed?

Yep, George Michael was our diva, our (soul) man. #RestInParadise

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So to say goodbye to George the Audio Diva way, let me round out a list of my favorite George Michael moments when he either channeled his 'inner diva' by way of cover songs or shared the stage with the fairer sex....

If I Told You That (with Whitney Houston) (The Greatest Hits, 2001)


I Knew You Were Waiting For Me (with Aretha Franklin) (Aretha, 1986)



I Can't Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover) (MTV Unplugged, 1996)


Learn To Say No (with Jody Watley) (Jody Watley, 1987)


These Are The Days Of Our Lives (with Lisa Stansfield & Queen) (from Tribute To Freddie Mercury: Live At Wembley, 1992)


Ain't Nobody (Rufus & Chaka Khan cover) (Rock In Rio, 1991)


As (Stevie Wonder cover) (with Mary J. Blige) (Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best Of George Michael, 1999)


Love Is A Losing Game (Amy Winehouse cover) (Back To Black, 2006)

Bonus: Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me (with Elton "Honorary Diva" John)(Caribou, 1974)

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