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Innocence lost

Posted in Life & Love

george-michael The house where I currently Iive is a pale shade of pink, the same exact shade of the rambling and ramshackle former beauty I lived in for a few years in London, before moving in with sofagirl.

George Michael was my neighbor, or so I was told, because, in truth, I never saw him coming or going out of the house at the end of the street, a tony address in Kensington, a stone’s throw from Kensington Palace, where I could only afford to live as a lodger to spindly Ms Haigh who, most of her fortune lost, took in girls like me, with little money and too many dreams.

The dry cleaners around the corner, on Kensington High, knew me as Ms. Michael, the first name that came to my mind, the day I got tired of spelling my surname, being misunderstood and having to wait forever for my clothes to be found. George Michael must have had the same problem, as he was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, a mouthful indeed for the English language.

If I never caught a glimpse of him when he was my esteemed neighbor, I saw plenty of him at the then called Hammersmith Odeon, when he had just come out as a solo act and “Faith” was a platinum seller. My friend Sara, who worked for CBS/Sony, Michael’s record company, bartered tickets: three nights of George Michael for me in exchange for Bon Jovi for her. I still remember those concerts as enormous fun. George Michael had an effortless ability to write pop music, and an effortless voice. Watch him perform “Somebody to Love” with Queen, in a rehearsal for a Freddie Mercury tribute concert – and you will hear the depth of his voice despite the crappy sound (and check out David Bowie and Seal looking on admiringly).

But, if one looks past the bubble gum of his early career and the dance inducing tunes that made him famous, a darker, more complex songwriter emerges, one who wasn’t entirely comfortable with fame on a large scale and who had a hard time balancing his private and public life. That struggle made his music more interesting, more personal, easier to connect with. We can all relate to the struggle of establishing our identity.

As I washed up the Christmas lunch dishes, alone at home, I listened to song after song, all of them carrying memories of lightness, of broken hearts but boundless hope, of a wide open road to a future I couldn’t fathom but in which I had immense faith. With George Michael dying on Christmas day, I felt the last shreds of innocence draining away, like dirty water down the sink.

Maybe that is what it feels like to get old: witnessing people one loves or has attached meaning to pass away in too rapid succession, leaving us back here, mulling the past and trying to give new energy to whatever future is still in front of us.

Image from AP

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16 Comments

  1. RIP George Michael. He was one of the first few pop artists I ever heard, having grown up in a household where classical music was the norm. “Wham! Greatest Hits” was the cd (that I still own). He was also a sort-of neighbour of mine, with a house in Highgate, a mere half-hour walk from me… (now I can also “boast” of being neighbours with Justin Bieber, but that’s another issue…)

    January 1, 2017
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  2. Mi rammarico di non aver mai assistito a un suo concerto

    December 29, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      In compenso, l’ho fatto io per te…

      December 29, 2016
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  3. Thank you for sharing that video. Five o’clock shadow never sounded as good! RIP George Michael, you will be missed. Now…please go quietly 2016. You have hurt us enough. ღ

    December 28, 2016
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  4. silvia
    silvia

    My personal tribute was yesterday. Geoge helped me leave the sofa and dance the flu away. You couldn’t have said it better, it seems that this year many icons of our twenties are gone carrying with them huge memories and shreds of whom we were. And we were perfect back then, everything was almost perfect, lively and vibrant.

    December 28, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Shame we didn’t know it back then.

      December 28, 2016
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  5. camparigirl
    camparigirl

    I am sorry your prayers were not answered. Top of the Pops – was there anyone in Britain not watching it??

    December 27, 2016
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  6. I remember when I was younger, hearing about celebrities passing away, and not having any idea who they were because they were famous well before I was born. Consequently, I didn’t really care.
    These days, even if I don’t know their work very well, I still have a general idea of what they did and who they were; and hearing that these celebrities have passed away has much more of an impact. I didn’t know much of George Michael’s music, but I remember that in the year he released “Amazing”, it was one of my most favourite songs. He did have an incredible voice.

    December 27, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Wonderful, wonderful song.

      December 27, 2016
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  7. I remember my mother, in her early seventies, complaining that all her friends were dying around her and how terrible it felt. It seems that we are experiencing a similar feeling yet we are only in our early fifties. What is happening?

    December 27, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      My husband made the same comment just today, after we learnt Carrie Fisher had died. Could this be the outcome of a generation that, in many instances, partied hard early in life and abused quite a lot of drugs?

      December 27, 2016
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  8. His very good looks and some of his later controversies overshadowed his talent sometimes.

    My sister (a music geek like me) told me that he wrote Careless Whisper at 17! Only 17?

    I was very sad to hear of Bowie and Maurice White from EWF but at least they were older. Prince and George Michael? Really? In one year and both were only in their 50s? What is going on? Someone please make sure Madonna is okay.

    December 27, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I am not afraid to admit I loved his music (although I went back to check some of the old videos and those 80s hairdos didn’t do him – or anyone else – any favors). And today Carrie Fisher left us at 60. 2016 really needs to go now.

      December 27, 2016
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  9. Having spent almost two days praying and hoping that Carrie Fisher would pull through and not be claimed by the 2016 demons of death, I was just heaving a huge sigh of relief that one of my earliest teen heroines was going to be okay, when this news hit me like a ton of bricks. George Michael’s death has saddened me more than the other big deaths this year. Perhaps because he was a bigger part of my youth than Bowie, Prince or Cohen. Or perhaps because I’m just sick and tired of all our icons being taken away in such quick succession.

    I remember in the early-to-mid 80s, watching a friend’s video tapes of Top of the Pops (?) when Wham was at the peak of it all with “Wake Me Up” and that time spent with friends, watching that, somehow epitomized a time in my life when I was young, eager, on my own and planning an exciting, unknown future in the big, wide world. Now I just feel tired, old and sad…

    December 26, 2016
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