The article is from Christie’s The George Michael Deluxe Catalogue, showcasing the art from the private collection of George Michael. His collection is being sold at an online auction from March 8-15, 2019 and a live auction in London on March 14. Proceeds of the sale will be used to continue the singer’s philanthropic work. Visit Christie’s George Michael collection auction website.
Jesus to a Child, one of George Michael’s greatest songs, marked the beginning of a healing process after a particularly testing period in the artist’s life. Coping privately with an illness and
Following the conclusion of the court case in June 1994, George Michael flew to New York to buy himself out of his Sony contract. He then returned to London and began working at SARM Studios in Notting Hill, where he had previously recorded parts of Faith. ‘I sat at a keyboard and played a very simple string part, and then added a very, very gentle guitar part’, he said of the moment the dam burst. ‘And then I sang, like Jesus to a child,’ as simple as that. I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s him, that’s him and me’. I was so excited that I had finally been able to put my feelings about Anselmo into words, and within the week I was singing it in front of the Brandenburg Gate paying my first public tribute to him.’
So on November 24, 1994, five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, George Michael chose to publicly declare the beginning of a new era of his own. He opened the very first MTV Europe Music Awards ceremony which Freedom ‘90 before returning later in the show to introduce the world to a song that would be a standout track on the landmark album Older, released two and a half years later.
As the opening chords of his moving tribute to his departed lover — a song he described as ‘the story of me being rescued from myself by someone with an incredibly good heart’ — swelled and floated out across the arena, the curtain behind the band went up to reveal the Berlin landmark illuminated by spotlights. Sony’s main executives sat open mouth in the front row.
‘He just stepped into a completely new place’, says David Austin of the bout of sustained creativity that ensued, leading to an album that George described as his ‘greatest moment’. ‘He was out of the cocoon, the wings opened and the colors were completely vibrant’.
The result was a critically acclaimed album that blended melancholic, jazz-inflected introspection with joyous, life-affirming funk. After everything he had been through, the latter showcased the fact that he still possessed the same, instinctive feel for the dance floor as he’d shown on previous hits such as Everything She Wants and I’m Your Man with Wham!, and Freedom ‘90 as a solo artist.
On Fastlove, the second single from Older, strong hints about where he was in his life — ‘In the absence of security, I made my way into the night / Stupid Cupid keeps on calling me / And I see lovin’ in his eyes’ — were dropped onto an insistent bassline, complemented by strings, horns and a video that climaxed with George Michael grooving under cascades of water. It was an irresistible combination that propelled the track to number one in the UK and four other countries, and saw it nominated for Best Single at the 1997 Brit Awards. Star People ‘97, the fifth and final single from the album, topped the US Dance Club Songs chart.
As the singer later explained to Oprah Winfrey, the image change that accompanied the album — sharp suits, short hair, handlebar mustache — was part of the process of conveying that he had finally come to terms with his sexuality. ‘I think I was trying to tell people I was okay with it, I just really didn’t want to share it with journalists’, he said. ‘The album … was a tribute to Anselmo … To my fans and the people that were really listening I felt like I was trying to come out with them’.
Older was a huge commercial success, and drew heavily on themes of bereavement and recovery. Among its many standouts was You Have Been Loved, a song which spoke of a mother mourning the loss of a son. Tragically, the track was lent fresh poignancy in 1997 with the death of the artist’st own beloved mother, Lesley. It was a second cruel blow in the space of four short years. and one that left George Michael feeling ‘spiritually crushed’.
- Christie’s Catalogue: The Loudest Prayer of My Life
- Christie’s Catalogue: The Legacy
- Christie’s Catalogue: Something Miraculous
- Christie’s Catalogue: The Voice
- George Michael on ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ (1990)