The article is from Christie’s Portrait of an Artist series published in 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.
Loss and Love
The Red Line
After the death of his mother, George Michael fought to stay afloat, both personally and professionally. ‘I never felt the kind of depression’, he confessed in his final interview. ‘It was something different to grief … it was something else. I felt like a sportsman who had a terrible injury in the middle of an incredibly successful career.’
As always, he sought solace in music, working with the legendary producer Phil Ramone on Songs From the Last Century, an album of covers — jazz standards and more recent chart hits — released in December 1999. He also performed live in a number of high-profile concerts to support deserving causes. Writing new material, though — ‘the music that was at the center of me’, as he put it — was proving more much harder. ‘It just like losing God’. he said of this creative, emotional block. ‘It was the darkest, darkest time’
Throughout his career, George Michael always believed there was a guiding ‘red line’ that showed him the way forward and ensured he kept driving, testing himself and improving. ‘Even when I’ve lost control and hit rock bottom, I believe that the red line is still there’, he confided. In 2000. the red line let him to anonymously pay £1.67 million at auction for the piano on which John Lennon composed imagine. Keeping ownership of the historic upright Steinway in Britain was one consideration; hoping it might just help to release his creative juices was another. ‘It is so symbolic of the best elements in the 60s and 70s culture, great music and a desire to change things for the better’, he said of his decision to buy it.
After countless days in the studio trying to find his muse, the new fruits of his labor finally emerged in 2002 when he released his first new solo records since Outside — Freeek! and then Shoot the Dog. The latter was inspired by his horror at watching 9/11 unfold on television and then his growing fears about the direction of Western policy in the Middle East.
The South Park-style animated video that accompanied the single lampooned President George W Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and George Michael in equal measure. It was both controversial and a sign of how detached he now felt from his own celebrity. ‘I’ve never done anything so political before’. he said at the time. ‘I’ve spent years shouting my mouth off about serious issues over dinner tables but never really had the confidence to express my views in a song.’
If the tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic regarded the song and the artist’s criticism of the impending war in Iraq as a perfect opportunity to resume hostilities, the public and his loyal fans remain unmoved. George Michael was finally starting to feel better, and as the clouds parted he moved back to London in 2003, to the first home he ever bought — the house most associated with his late mother, who used to clean it for him. ‘Something miraculous happened,’ he told GQ magazine a year later, ‘and I just started writing again.’
What came out was Patience, a chart-topping return to form and Briain’s fastest selling album of 2004. In a further twist of
He admitted that Amazing, the first single after the album’s release, reminded him of Wham!, while other tracks on Patience delved into this family history (My Mother Had a Brother), spoke of his newfound happiness (American Angel), and celebrated the hedonism of being out (Flawless). If the record was a long time coming, perhaps it was because George Michael is moving towards a moment of reckoning.
‘The moment I finished the track Patience’, he said, ‘I remember driving home listening to this album that I never thought would get finished or even made at some point. And I remember thinking, that’s enough. I finally thought if a bus hit me tomorrow I’d be happy with the music I’d left in the world’.
Now 40, and eight years on from his previous studio album of original material, George Michael announced that this would be his last LP to go on sale at the conventional release; all future releases would be available for download, with fans encouraged to make a donation to charity.
- George Michael and John Lennon’s Imagine Piano: Tracking the Journey through News Clippings
- George Michael’s Acts of Charity
- In His Own Words: George Michael and His Mother
- George Michael’s Oprah Winfrey Show Interview (2004)
- Desert Island Discs: George Michael Interview (2007)