George Michael was interviewed by Sir David Frost in the show BBC Breakfast with Frost on February 23, 2003.
George Michael is better known as a writer and performer of hit singles than as an anti-war protestor, but this week he changed the words of one of his songs – one of his most popular ones, one of his greatest songs really, Faith, to reflect his opposition to military action in Iraq. And it had a high profile performance at the Brit awards this week. It follows the release last year of his controversial song,
The song attacked the American military build up and described Tony Blair as a lap dog to President Bush. George said that he was so worried about the global political situation that he felt forced to write and release the song. Well we’re delighted he’s here with us right now for a rare interview:
Good morning David, nice to see you again.
And vice versa, we meet every ten years.
Every ten years, yes.
In terms of the two things, first of all the earlier song, Shoot the Dog, and then this week, what, what led you to take those two steps?
Well I’ll be – very simply, it was a long time ago that I started writing Shoot the Dog. I was reading a broadsheet newspaper article which started with the phrase something like the next – this was about three and a half years ago – so it said the next world war will not be between nations it will be between the fundamentalists and the secular West. And I thought that sounded, I mean at the time it sounded kind of far-fetched, but by the end of reading this very long, very eloquent article, I could see that there was a real possibility of it. And I could also see the man’s point, that Mr Blair, for a Labour prime minister, was exceptionally friendly with a very right wing American administration.
And, actually the song was written in the three or four months preceding September 11th and actually on September 11th itself I was trying to finish it, and it threw me so badly that I didn’t actually know what to do with it until earlier this year (reference to 2002) when I started being, you know, very, very, I was very worried by what was going on and the fact that there was a discussion that had started about Iraq but which seemed to have been sidelined. And I felt that that was, that was very dangerous and I genuinely believe that given the information the British public would feel pretty much the way they do now. And I honestly believe that would be enough.
I mean I am a believer, or I was, and still am,
I mean September 11th was obviously directed at the Americans in order to provoke a very American eye-for-eye response. And we all worried that that was going to happen very quickly, and then
But if we’re, if we’re talking about – as you were – about Tony Blair. I mean were he here, he would say yes we all hate war, yes lives will be lost in a war, but more Iraqi lives will be lost if Saddam can go on wreaking his havoc because he’s been responsible for the death of a million people, in various ways, Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait and all of that, and so he would say that war may be the lesser of two evils.
Well I, I, think that I would, I would totally understand that argument, but it doesn’t convince me and it doesn’t convince most of the world. It’s not that we don’t know of the atrocity, the atrocities that Saddam has committed. It’s not that we don’t know the world would be a better place without him, it’s that actually, one of the most frightening aspects of this for me is that one of the central issues is being, is being lessened, as it were, in the British media and American media – I’m sure – which is the importance of sorting out the problems in Palestine. Now there’s no question, it doesn’t matter whether we place, you know, the latest raid on Gaza way down in our political reporting over the last couple of weeks, you know for a fact that the Arab world is not seeing it with that little relevance right now. And I think that, I think if Tony Blair is so into spin, which I think he’s incredibly bad at by the way, but as a man who’s so into spin, he should understand that perception is everything, and the world-wide perception right now is that America is going to attack Saddam Hussein for oil and that Sharon is being left to his own business in Palestine – in Israel rather – and that that those two things show an absolute double standard which is very important to the Arab world. And while we try and pretend that’s not really happening, I think that’s a very dangerous thing to do, I think it will breed anti-Semitism which is unnecessary and I think that that the government should realise by now – just by looking at the polls – that we’re not stupid. You know, even though we’ve allowed our culture to be dumbed down, and we watch rubbish that we didn’t watch ten years ago and we listen to rubbish we didn’t listen to ten years ago, you know, these are things, that’s human nature, we’re lazy, we can be, we can be dragged by consumerism into lazy behaviour. It doesn’t mean we can’t put our thinking caps on when you’re talking about life and death. And I almost feel that, that Tony Blair is mistaking our culture for the media culture that America has lived with for many, many years. We know propaganda when we see it, you know. And I think that, I think Tony Blair needs to remember that even though we elected him and he is our leader, this is a brand new situation. I mean for –
I’m sorry – I’m sorry – I just wanted to say that the war that we are about to go into, and the war that we’ll be accused of cowardice if we don’t take part in, I think, no one has ever been asked to do this. No one has ever been asked to give up their women and children in this situation. People have sent their soldiers to war, but in 1940 or 1941, when the Americans were trying to decide whether to help out Europe, nine out of ten Americans did not want that to happen. Not because they’re cowards, but because you don’t send your own to be killed overseas without very good reason.
Right. I’m just getting word that we’ve got Lord Robertson just coming up on the line. Thank you very much indeed for that very, very passionate evocation.
- BBC Hardtalk Interview with George Michael (2003)
- World Exclusive Interview: George Michael (Mirror, 2002)
- Capital FM Radio Interview with George Michael (2002)
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- George Michael Interview on CNN Defending ‘Shoot the Dog’