Tag Archives: charity

George Michael RIP

When I was a kid my mum had Wham’s The Final on double cassette (I think it was double anyway), so George Michael’s voice was an integral part of my childhood. But in truth it would have been even if The Final hadn’t been a regular car-journey companion. Michael was a huge, huge star in the late eighties, never off the radio and almost certainly Britain’s biggest pop star on the global stage. Faith is certified Diamond in the US – 10 million records sold – and was already 7x Platinum in 1990, two years after its release. Even Phil Collins didn’t sell that many records that quickly. But then, George was rather easier on the eye than Phil.

OK, so that gets us to the nub of it quickly. George Michael’s early success owed a lot to his (and Andrew Ridgeley’s) appearance. That’s always been true in pop, from the time when pop singers were also film stars and all-round entertainers. But Michael’s world-domination era was marked by his battle to be accepted just on the strength of his music and leave his Club Tropicana days behind him.

That he succeeded, despite the efforts of many who just wanted to score cheap laughs at his expense (and not realising that Club Tropicana and its video were supposed to be ridiculous), was testament to his talents as a writer and a singer.

And Michael was vastly talented. Few singers are granted George Michael’s creamy timbre or unerring pitch; few writers are capable of penning totally convincing dance tracks and genuinely moving ballads. Michael has half a dozen of both to his name, as well as Jesus to a Child, his greatest achievement – a tribute to his lover Anselmo Feleppa, who had died of an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage in 1993, and a song of almost miraculous grace and warmth.

Others will write from much more informed positions than mine about his wider legacy – what he has meant to the LGBQT community, for example. I only know what I’ve taken from his music down the years. But it’s been heart-warming to read in the papers today so many stories by those who’d come across him, all saying how generous George Michael was, how many small and large acts of charity he was responsible for. Not merely the big stuff that made the papers (the free concert he gave at the Roundhouse for NHS nurses; the money he donated to the Terence Higgins Trust, Childline and Ethiopian famine relief), but the little (at least for a man of his wealth) things too. It seems we’ve lost a good man, as well as a very special singer and writer.

Wham! – Andrew Ridgeley & George Michael in 1986

In Your Care – Tasmin Archer

To be Tasmin Archer is to be a walking punchline, a one-hit-wonder, the name of one of Harry Hill’s badgers. Perhaps Sleeping Satellite made enough money that she doesn’t care, but dear God, does she deserve better. Not that the number of them matters particularly, but she had four hits. This blog is about the second of them, the important one. One of the bravest records I’ve ever heard.

In Your Care is a song about child abuse, sung from the point of view of the child. It’s a bleak,stark piece of work, confused, terrified and angry, simultaneously full of love and resentment. Although it represents the thoughts and feelings of a child who doesn’t fully understand what is happening, the song is as emotionally mature as Sleeping Satellite (a UK number-one single) was gauche. Far too strong to win support from daytime radio, In Your Care stalled at number 16, despite the fact that money made from the single was given to ChildLine.

Notable musically for Danny Thompson’s foreboding double bass playing and the empathetic drumming of Charlie Morgan, the song is made indelible by the extraordinary chorus lyric and Archer’s delivery of it: the violence of her sudden outbursts of “Son of a bitch, you broke my heart”, the devastating next line “I need a little loving to take away the pain” (which doesn’t mean to the child what it might mean coming from adult), and the final accusation: “How could you let me down when I’m in your care?”

Once heard, it’s not quickly forgotten, but not enough people heard it. And too many who did chose not to listen to something that was so uncomfortable yet purported to be pop music.