2016 has not been my favourite year. As understatements go, that’s right up there with a local newspaper headline of “Broughty Ferry man lost at sea; 1200 others perish”* after the Titanic sank.
From politics to health, I’ve been on the wrong end of too many results this year.
But hearing the shocking news on Christmas night that George Michael had died has floored me.
I didn’t know him, I never met him but I loved him. Loved his music, loved his attitude, loved his outlook on life, his self-deprecating humour. Loved his mighty fuck-you to the media that dogged his every footstep, his two fingers to the music industry that bound him.
As a teenager when George first appeared, I didn’t love Wham! I was too busy pretending to be cool and disparaging such pop froth. Secretly I did love the songs and sang along to every word, but I was one of those stupidly binary idiots who thought it impossible to like both the Smiths and Wham! More fool me.
Instead it was George the solo artist whose music touched me, made me cry, made this clod-hopping klutz with two left feet ache to dance.
When I was lucky enough to see him at Earls Court in late 2006, I’m not ashamed to say I wept with the sheer joy of it.
Six months or so later, I was among thousands who packed Hampden Park to dance and sing and wave my arms in the air with an exuberant George in the way I’d never have contemplated as a teenager – again, more fool me.
2016 has been a sobering year in every respect. Inventive unique musical and performing artists who refused to toe any cultural line or conform to societal expectations have gone.
There’s a viciousness to the political forces that have taken root here in the UK and elsewhere, an angry way of thinking that rejects the live-and-let-live philosophy the likes of George and Bowie and Prince espoused, instead preferring to isolate and banish any outsider, whether through ethnicity, religion or sexuality.
As with the deaths of Bowie and Prince, the loss of George Michael diminishes our world that little bit more, makes things a lot less interesting, a lot less fun, a lot greyer.
Thankfully we’ll have always the glorious technicolor video of Outside, where George, dressed as the sexiest cop on the beat, turns a public lavatory into a disco and rips the absolute piss out of the system that outed him.
Rest in peace, George – you have been loved.
*almost certainly apocryphal but still…