I was unmoved by the annus horribilis of the celebrity classes until the loss of a singer with a very big heart, writes Jim Duffy
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve not been too bothered about the demise of many of the celebrity class this year. All the luvvies do get themselves all worked up over their pals passing away and I am sure this year’s BBC look-back at those who are no longer with us will be especially poignant for many this year. It’s an “annus horribilis” according to the celebrity classes as so many of their peers have been affected.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked wee Ronnie Corbett. He seamed a decent bloke and I do recall the fun I had watching him as a wee boy, when he and the other Ronnie produced the Phantom Raspberry Blower sketches. But, passing away or dying is just the circle of life according to Mufasa from the Lion King. I watched it again this week. It always makes me think about when my time will be up and whether or not I will become one of the stars and get to look down on the poor souls still living on this planet. No, it’s fair to say that the passing of actors, comedians, singers, celebrities and TV presenters hasn’t really registered on my radar - until George Michael died.
We’ve never really had the chance to forget George Michael, as we’ve had to listen to Last Christmas non-stop on the radio over the last 20 years at this time of year. That said, it does always conjure up vivid memories of the video, the snow and poor George having to spend Christmas with the girl who dumped him for his best mate. That was a sore one and even I can relate to how he felt ... I jest somewhat.
George Michael was my generation and, like many artists who started out in bands, he made the decision to go solo early on. A bold decision, but in his case a successful one. I didn’t really feel him in Wham. But there is no doubt that his later work appealed to so many and still does. But why has it taken George dying to wake me up and make me think?
For one thing, he was talented. His song writing is world-renowned. He was a hit all over the world. I went to see him at the SECC in Glasgow years ago. Well, I was dragged there to be honest. But by the end of the concert, I was on my feet singing Faith with all the others there. It was magic and he was such an entertainer. Thanks for taking me Madeline, and not accepting my male-oriented bravado at the time. I’m so glad I got the chance to see him and say that I did. But there is more than just the song-writing and performing.
George Michael was for me one of the most decent human beings that I can see (from afar) who just came across as sincere. It’s all too easy to look at his massive drug taking over the last decade. He chose to live in the UK and that comes with press attention, especially when you ram your car into a shop window spliffed out your nut. George Michael admitted that, at times, he had up to 25 joints a day. This is a huge amount of bad stuff to put into one’s body. It’s almost industrial in size and scope.
There is no doubt much of this took its toll on him mentally and physically. I hear that stopping smoking is one of the toughest gigs ever. So, stopping smoking, hash and alcohol must have been a nightmare for George Michael and I guess that’s why he just couldn’t or simply just did not want to. We all have our demons, right?
No, I want to remember George Michael for his big heart as well as his songwriting and his frailties as a human being. I see so many philanthropists and charity oriented people who do give or donate, but the price is their ego. They have to be at the top table or have their name banded about as the saviour of this or that. They want MPs and MSPs to hail them as wonderful people. Not with George Michael. No, he gave oodles of his cash away – bucket loads. But, he chose to do it anonymously. He did not want a memorial in his name. He just wanted to give to help others and do it in a low-key fashion.
This for me is totally inspiring. When I heard of his generosity and how he had so much compassion for others, despite his own issues, it engenders a warm feeling in me. I have to take action as a result. I am going to challenge myself to be a bit more generous next year. Of course it will be my little secret...
Thanks George Michael for some terrific songs, for being human and for being there for others. Thanks for giving me a little … Faith!