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.
Olympics A Searingly Honest Documentary
The Songs and Integrity
If the 2012 Olympics were a showcase for the United Kingdom at its best, it was fitting that George Michael was chosen as the opening live act for the closing ceremony in London. The event was billed as ‘A Symphony of English Music’ and after tributes to Freddie Mercury and John Lennon, a global audience of around 750 million people witnessed a performance by a British artist from the same exalted lineage. Stepping into the vast arena which had been transformed by Damien Hirst into a representation of the Union flag, George launched into his own international anthem: Freedom ‘90.
Later he hosted what he described as the ‘best party of the last 10 years’. Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, the Spice Girls, Liam and Noel Gallagher and Kate Hudson we’re among those who danced the night away at the star’s London home. He would head back out on the road after the Olympics, finishing the Symphonica Tour with dates in Europe before a climactic series of concerts in the UK. The Earl’s Court gig on October 17, 2012 would prove to be his last ever live performance.
In 2014, George and David Austin began work on a candid film about the background to Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1, to coincide with the re-release of the album. It was a project that eventually expanded to offer a remarkable insights into the artist’s life and career, thanks to the same searing honesty, creative rigour and perfectionist’s eye for detail that he brought to his music. It also brought the two childhood friends full circle:.It was me and Yog every night,’ explains Austin, using the nickname reserved for the singers nearest and dearest. ‘We go to the pub near his home in Goring every night and we’d sit over dinner and talk about the film. Then we’d go back to the house, go upstairs with his record collection and blast Queen, the Stones and Led Zeppelin until 3 in the morning.’
George Michael was putting the final touches to the film when he passed away on Christmas Day 2016. His sudden death prompted an emotional outpouring — from the most famous figures in popular culture, politics & beyond, from his legions of devoted fans, and from the millions more who had been touched by his music at various points in their lives. Within a short period of time, a fresh perspective on his life had been provided by the many accounts of how the singer had offered hope and comfort with his very private brand of philanthropy.
The heartfelt tributes paid to George Michael, the caliber of artists he recorded and performed with (Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett and Luciano Pavarotti, to name but a few) and the simple facts of his career all serve to underline what a truly exceptional artist he was. In 34 years he sold more than 115 album worldwide, packed stadiums and arenas across the planet, and was nominated for scores of major awards, winning five Brit awards, four American Music Awards, two Grammys and three Ivor Novello Songwriter of the Year titles (1985, 1989 and 1996). In addition, the Radio Academy named him as the most played artist on British radio for the 20 years between 1984 and 2004.
But his legacy amounts to so much more than the list of achievements. ‘I created a man that the world could love if they choose to, someone who could realize my dreams and make me a star,’ he explained. ‘I called him George Michael.’ David Austin witnessed his friend’s journey from its origins, as kids making bedroom recordings on an ancient reel-to-reel or singing over Queen and Elton John tracks, through the whirlwind of Wham! and across the full trajectory of his solo career. Over time, as George Michael came to terms with the demands placed upon him by his prodigious talent, his fame, and, ultimately, himself, there was very little to distinguish Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou from the global superstar. ‘The two became one,’ Austin says..
‘In the last five or six years of my life,’ explain George in Freedom, the documentary that aired after his death, ‘I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m not like other people, and maybe that is why I’m a star. Maybe that is the bit I’ve never been able to accept.’
He talked of how he had learned to respect himself and opened up about his previous struggles with a heavy burden of his Fame. ‘I understand that I would never was like any other people’, he confessed, ‘and I shouldn’t have been disappointed in myself for not being like other people.’
In the same film, some of the greatest names in modern music lined up to pay their respects — not posthumously, but to a star who was still present at the time of the interviews. ‘I absolutely know that George Michael fits into the category of a great artist, a great performer, said Mary J Blige; ‘George is in the category of many of us would be blessed with the gift of music, ‘added Stevie Wonder..At the 2017 Grammy Awards, an emotional Adele was so determined to achieve perfection with her own very personal tribute — a haunting cover of Fastlove — that she had stopped after a few bars and asked if I want to start over
But beyond the eulogies from artists such as Adele and Chris Martin, who sang A Different Corner at that year’s Brit Awards, how did the man himself want to be remembered? His first thought was as ‘a great singer songwriter’ from a.period that produced music’s last true superstars — names such as Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince. ‘But really’, he concluded, ‘it’s just the songs and I hope people think of me as someone a somebody who had some kind of Integrity I hope I’m remembered for that’.
- George Michael and John Lennon’s Imagine Piano: Tracking the Journey through News Clippings
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)
- A Year in the Life of Wham! as Told by George Michael (Smash Hits Yearbook, 1986)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- Christie’s Catalogue: My Greatest Moment