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GEORGE MICHAEL: The white light and a last Christmas

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Entertainment Weekly and People magazine covers noting the passing of George Michael.
Fertile Ground Compost Service

OKLAHOMA CITY – Today marks the last day that SiriusXM’s limited-run channel “Faith: The George Michael Tribute Channel” will be on Channel 13, known as “Velvet.”

For nearly a week, when I’ve been in the car, I’ve been listening to music spanning the entirety of George Michael’s career, from the carefree pop of his Eighties days with Andrew Ridgeley in Wham! to his more introspective, mature – and still club-friendly and fun – later material. In fact, when it premiered last Wednesday, the first song played was, appropriately enough, "Last Christmas." I wrote more about it here.

And then there are the collaborations Michael did with everyone from Aretha Franklin and Elton John to Queen and Lisa Stansfield. We heard them all, includuing extended versions and dance remixes of well-known songs of his, including the Wham! hit "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go."

Sitting alone in my car and listening to these songs I was struck – and reminded – by just what an amazing vocalist George Michael was. Few male vocalists of his generation can be considered his peer.

And one song really stuck out for me – Michael’s 2012 cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” an ethereal and beautiful song that Michael fell in love with at the age of 18 and remained one of his favorite songs ever. A version featuring the Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie - under the This Mortal Coil moniker - is considered a key cover, which can be heard here. David Lynch used the song to great effect in his 1997 film Lost Highway. Said Lynch of the song: "It's definitely high on my list as one of all time beautiful songs." 

For me, hearing Tim Buckley perform it on a 1968 episode of The Monkees is what made me a huge fan. 

This song has an undeniable "death" quality about it. Both Tim Buckley and his son Jeff Buckley both died before their time (the son died by drowning, in a bit of sad irony), something I addressed in my Dust Devil Dreams post "Sirens (the tide is high)." 

This song was featured on the White Light EP, the "White Light" being about his near-death experience following a nasty bout with pneumonia in late 2011. As Michael sang (including at the 2012 London Olympics): "There’s no white light / And I'm not through / I'm alive, I'm alive / And I've got so much more." And yet this song would be George Michael's last Top 40 hit (getting to number 15 in his native UK) in his lifetime.

Like David Bowie with his final masterpiece, Blackstar, George Michael seemed to sense his own impending death. Note the eerie symbolism in the "White Light" video. The more we learn about the circumstances about his death and his reported unhappiness and battling his personal demons, the more it seems clear that he was not getting the help he needed. He knew his time was short.

We miss you terribly, George. 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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