Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Farewell and Thank You

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Farewell and Thank You

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Farewell and thank you, George Michael... delivered from Chicago to London.

My good-bye note to a pop star who was a big part of life growing up in the 80s. Along with somethings you may not know (but you should know) about George Michael. 

George Michael's Home
George Michael's home in Goring, where he passed away

I have a friend who lives somewhere in or around London, and much like other friends who live in foreign lands, we keep in touch on Twitter. It was this friend who first informed me George Michael’s passing. In fact, I am fairly sure it was he who informed me of David Bowie’s passing too… maybe my friend needs a new hobby? 

When we chatted on Twitter, he shared some neighborhood gossip about the deceased pop-star, including speculations that may have contributed to his passing. And then he told me that he lived in close proximity to George Michael’s home. 

Letters outside George Micahel's home
Letters from fans outside George Michael's London home

The following day, my friend said that he planned to ride his bike past George Michael’s house - as he often did. He does this for exercise, not because he has a weird obsession with George Michael. I asked if he would take flowers for me and he said, “No, I am not carrying flowers on a bike…” (which made sense). Instead he offered to deliver a note. I was satisfied with this offer and I accepted. 

I spent the remainder of the day thinking about this note to George Michael. What message did I really have to convey? Like many other women my age, I was a fan (of sorts) but I had much greater idols of that era. He hadn’t really made that much of an impression on me. Or had he? 

80s pop-star posters
Photos from my childhood bedroom between 1985 and 1990 (what a slob!)
Top right there is ONE poster of Wham!

As the day went on I could only think about George Michael's reputation - how he had a hard time accepting his fame (forced to act as a straight man couldn't have been easy), how he was vilified by the media and how poorly the general public treated him later in his career. What really stuck with me was when George Michael was busted with his partner committing a lewd act - or whatever he was arrested for in L.A. I don't know because other people's private lives don't concern me. AND then there was the legal battle with Sony Music over his contract. 

If you want to stop reading now, I won't be offended. This is a long post, but you should scroll down and read about Panayiotou vs. Sony Music. 

I came to the realization that everyone sucked. This action negated everything else George Michael had done in the world. They destroyed him, and for what? Soon after his death, the news of George Michael's Quiet Generosity surfaced. We're talking numerous charitable contributions in the 10s of MILLIONS that he kept private - after all true charity is anonymous. All of this made my farewell note easier to write. It suddenly became very simple. 

 My note to George Michael, hand delivered to his home - my friend sent me photos

When I saw the picture my letter amongst all the other letters, it all became very real and very sad. I posted the photos on Facebook and they were shared more than anything else I've ever posted. However, there is even more to the George Michael story -- and I'm not sure why it is not being talked about now, so I'll share it with you.

George Michael's "Professional Slavery" legal battle with Sony Music

Part of the reason he quietly disappeared from the spotlight was due to a legal battle he lost in 1994. He wanted to be freed from his multi-record deal. Had he won, it could've changed the way the music industry operates by dismantling multi-record contracts for artists. 

In 1988, George Michael signed an eight album OR 15 year contract (whichever came first) with Sony Music. This contract gave him no control or rights over how his music was marketed. There is a backstory behind the 1988 contract, it was an old contract bought, sold and renegotiated. You can find more details on the contract HERE and the full case can be found here.

At the height of his career, George Michael decided he no longer wanted to be portrayed as a sex symbol. And who can blame him for wanting to change his image? No one wants to be paraded around like a show monkey. George Michael's camp claimed that Sony Music didn't like the the direction of his new image and tried to punish him (or force him submit to their demands) by not promoting his albums. 

The proof was in sales. Faith, released in 1988, sold 14 million copies. His next record, Listen Without Prejudice Volume I, only sold only 5 million copies (at the time). Even the title of that album is revealing. Having owned both albums, I think Listen Without Prejudice is a much better record. 

Considering how things are in 2016, it might be hard to imagine that Sony Music would care at all about George Michael changing his image. Unless of course that image was of a gay man because they had already invested so much money in selling an image to straight women.

He lost the lawsuit but stood his ground. He decided to NOT write or release any more music for Sony Music. That's why he did not release another record until 1996. Virgin bought George Michael's contract from Sony and he released Older. But too much time had passed, it was too late for "Yog". Older sold fewer than 900K records.  

George Michael stood for what he believed in, not only his rights as an artist but possibly for his rights as a gay man. Ultimately it was that bad deal that destroyed the career of this kind and gentle man. At least in my opinion.

If you think George Michael is the only pop-star who has been involved with such altercations with their record company, you're wrong. Prince changed his name to a symbol after arguments with Warner Bros. (Rolling Stone), Madonna and Maverick vs. Warner Bros. (CBS News) and so many more. 

Mariah Carey might have said it best... ''It goes like this,'' she said. ''Something like, 'Industry Rule No. 480: Record company people are shady.'" (NY Times)

My letter to George can be seen in this photo - it's on the lower left

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