In this site, I always said that I would write about music and its links with religion and philosophy. Recently, a great icon of music passed on and left many a broken hearted fan. Upon much reflection, I came to realize that this person did contribute so much to how many people led their lives and the shift in philosophies they’ve held. I’m speaking of Georgios Kyriacos Panayioutou, otherwise known as the incredible George Michael.
He shot to stardom as the other half of the musical duo “Wham!” and later on as a solo artist. What others perceived to be just another up and coming pop star ended up meaning more to so many, particularly those of the LGBTQ persuasion. For others, George Michael was a troubled individual. For some, he represented the embodiment of liberation and the release that follows when one becomes true to one’s self. He was a passionate supporter of the HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust and so many other LGBTQ charities.
Michael’s song “Freedom” released in the UK on August 13, 1984 and in the US the following year. It was number 1 in the UK for over three weeks and the ripples would continue to resound into the people that heard it. What makes Michael and his work stand out and mean so much is because he represented the struggles that a gay person has dealt with. It creates a unique humanization of an icon that other gay persons would be able to relate with.
George Michael was dealing with his sexuality under a microscope during a time where being out wasn’t welcome nor as readily accepted as now. The conversation I had with a rather well-known media blogger was quite insightful as he mentioned that the song “Freedom” and the manner in which George Michael announced that he was not bisexual but he was indeed gay had such an effect on the blogger’s life as a queer person. Despite being open to select friends and one of his sisters that he was gay, George Michael mostly kept his being gay a secret from the rest. It wasn’t until his arrest in April 1998 that he came out as gay to the public. Even after he did, it was clear that he wasn’t conforming to the “polite and desexualized notion of gay”.
When he was asked why he kept his sexuality a secret, he was quoted to mention that it was for his mother’s sake—as she would have been worried about what her son would be subjected to. This is also something that a lot of LGBTQ youth can relate with. The relief he had in being able to express and indulge his passions is a personal pursuit that many can relate with. This is a philosophy that is not limited to only the LGBTQ.
George Michael’s life by all accounts is a life filled with grief and exaltation, something that was reflected in his performances and latter songs. The pursuit of peace with one’s self is an old adage that music, religion, and philosophy all contain. So in truth, the world lost a strong icon that fully represented the interweaving of philosophy and music.