December 25, 2016

Goodbye to George Michael — You made the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.





“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period."





ADDED: A post from 2006: "Don't you have anything from the 80s in that stack of unplayable 45s you won't throw out?/Why yes I do:":
Unplayable 45

And I will stand by this recording as one of the best pop singles ever. ...  "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"... what a brilliant song! You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.

124 comments:

mockturtle said...

Who?

Rhythm and Balls said...

Holy shit!

Prince, David Bowie, George Michael....

Goodbye, 1980s.

harrogate said...

"Who?"

I've never understood the pleasure people take in writing things like that.

Sad!

traditionalguy said...

See Middle 80s MTV videos. He was #1 teen heart throb.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Who?

One of those people responsible for actually entertaining America, as opposed to the Limbaughs and the Trumps and O'Reillys etc. who can only seem to rile the country up in senseless rage.

Over the next four years we'll see if the nation's sense of class and culture goes beyond gold gilding things and using hyperbolic versions of the word "big."

Rhythm and Balls said...

Just in case anyone's tempted to go conspiratorial over his sexuality - which is actually a little amusing in light of that kooky roadside rest-stop, er, "foray" he undertook several years back - I should just remind them that people really don't die of AIDS anymore. Thank David Ho and protease inhibitors for that.

But nevertheless, I am perplexed as heck about how someone goes at age 53 these days. There were apparently other risks he took with his health and safety, but how this gets called "natural causes", "peacefully" etc. with an ambulance in the background is strange. Or maybe that's just how things go in Britain.

The life of an artist, apparently. Wonderful, brutish and short.

Trumpit said...

Thank you Professor Althouse for the excellent blog tribute to the phenomenal artist, George Michael. He was so young, and had more to do on this troubled little blue planet of ours. Cute that you mention Doris Day, another great artist of an earlier era, in the title of this post. Happy holidays to you and your readership on a suddenly sad Christmas day.

Yancey Ward said...

Sad feet have got no rhythm.

Rhythm and Balls said...

As someone who never personally bought a George Michael record or downloaded his songs, it's impossible not to appreciate the solid soundtrack to our lives he wrote for anyone growing up in the 1980s. I remember girls in middle school bringing their newly purchased Faith album to class. He was a sex symbol, whatever that was worth in the sexually schizophrenic 1980s and slightly less stifling 1990s. And that saxophone solo in Careless Whisper is just one of those tunes you never forget. Yes, the 1980s was a bit of a gauzy but opaque time, and he was one of the guys who helped keep it just a tad earthier. Stubble mixed with hair bleaching seemed to define how just the right edge was thrown onto all the sheen we were surrounded by back in that day.

RIP.

Yancey Ward said...

R&B,

There are lots of ways to die of "natural causes" if you expand the phrase appropriately. Not everyone wants you to know they have a terminal illness of some kind.

chickelit said...

His cause of death must remain a secret. No cautionary tail for him.

chickelit said...

Mockturtle is thoroughly justified in asked "who." I would add "why?"

Rhythm and Balls said...

You might want to stick to what you're good at, Chicken. Narrowness is not a virtue but it might be one of those things that's helpful to you anyway.

Yancey, I guess I never presumed that phrase to apply to anything but "old age." But I guess you're right.

It's hard to imagine anyone else withholding a terminal illness diagnosis as well as Bowie, but he must have figured out how. Apparently this skill is catching on in that circle.

chickelit said...

Oh bugger off, r& b. If I weren't stuck on a stupid iPhone, I'd rip you a new on over 80s music. Remember, I'm older and wiser than you on that score.
Merry Christmas!

Rhythm and Balls said...

Mockturtle is thoroughly justified in asked "who." I would add "why?"

The David Bowie of the 1980s. That's who. With a much better voice and even more relevant appeal.

Why? 157 million views of his most iconic work, that's why.

Stop hating the market. The invisible hand has deemed your protest a little illegitimate, it would seem. And a heck of a lot more invisible.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Is "Merry Christmas" becoming a new catchphrase for passive aggression?

Oh well. Merry Christmas.

I'm just not sure why anyone would say ignorance of George Michael is justified, let alone a "why?" presumably at mentioning his untimely passing.

If you know as much as you say you do about "80s music", I just can't understand the attitude in response to this event.

Curating music or any art should go beyond some sort of removed, Patrick Bateman style of narrative. Have some appreciation for impact, why don't you! The audience kind of matters, after all.

Yancey Ward said...

I never much liked Wake Me Up Before you Go Go- a little too cute for my taste then and now (it was a big hit during the Winter of my first year in college). However, Careless Whisper was and is one of my favorite songs of all time. His album Faith was one of the ten best from the 80s in my opinion, though I never much liked anything else he did after that, but it was probably nothing specific to him, but rather how my own tastes evolved in my late 20s to today.

This has been a tough year for deaths of musical artists if you grew up in the 70s and 80s.

Sabinal said...

This has been a tough year for deaths of musical artists if you grew up in the 70s and 80s.

I agree with this much more than people who say that 2016 is cursed.

Quaestor said...

Well, public washrooms may be marginally more tranquil...

Rhythm and Balls said...

This has been a tough year for deaths of musical artists if you grew up in the 70s and 80s.

No doubt. An annus horribilis. (Watch Chicken salivate with temptation over a pun to reach for there). The year of the three dead emperors.

That saxophone hook is damn iconic. I'm skeptical about whether he wrote it, but writing the song is glory enough - and it's a damn good one.

A lot of relevant artists have a decade and/or moment of their own before burning less brightly. But the memory of that old light still illuminates.

William said...

I didn't follow his music but that one song was catchy and inescapable. Apparently he led a high risk life, and it caught up with him. Not everyone is like Keith Richards........Human sexuality is inexplicable. He was rich and strikingly good looking. Why would he choose to have sex with strangers in public rest rooms? That's really weird, and that's what those of us who don't know his music remember him for.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Well, public washrooms may be marginally more tranquil...

I didn't know they were causing a problem for you. Especially those of the sort you have in mind.

Laslo Spatula said...

Someone please tell Elton John that he doesn't have to record another version of "Candle In The Wind" for George Michael now, too...

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

"Cute that you mention Doris Day..."

It's a line in the song.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Why would he choose to have sex with strangers in public rest rooms?

Good question. I myself wouldn't. However, a flashy nightclub bar with single stall rooms and upholstered doors? That can be kind of hot. (Though no, I'd met her at the previous bar - (so not technically a stranger) - and didn't actually go all the way through with anything too risky. But definitely blurring the lines of those boundaries.

Just in case anyone else was unsettlingly distracted by that one event that keeps getting mentioned. Yes, it's all inexplicable.

donald said...

There is no comparison (And I aint knocking anybody) between David Bowie and George Michaels.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Single stall lockable bathrooms, I should have said.

As you were.

Rhythm and Balls said...

It's Michael, donald. No plural. And you're right. Bowie's voice could never be compared to his.

Michael was a different decade and a different vibe. Surely not as interesting or iconoclastic an artist as Bowie (one didn't have as much choice in the 80s, given the more stifling/restrictive cultural setting), but way more passionate.

It was good. And relevant.

fivewheels said...

I do miss the Sports Machine.

Browndog said...

Did someone really put this guy and Bowie in the same sentence?

mockturtle said...

Why would he choose to have sex with strangers in public rest rooms?

I think I posted here before that a gay friend of mine used to do just this. The risk was apparently part of the thrill. He said he would get very excited thinking about which rest stop to choose. Sounds horrible to me.

rcocean said...

Thanks Althouse. That's the first George Michaels song I've ever listened to. Like others, my first thought was "who?"

I was astounded to see this song has 112 MILLION views** on youtube. To those who wonder why he died at 53. Here's a clue:

"In October 2006 he pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs and was banned from driving, and in 2008 he was cautioned for possession of class A drugs, including crack cocaine."

** BTW, some song called "A-ha Take me on" has 341 MILLION views. Why?

Rhythm and Balls said...

Did someone really put this guy and Bowie in the same sentence?

The guy upstairs did when asking for a list of people to take in 2016.

I guess not all of us were as, uh, fortunate to have grown up in the 1940s.

There seems to be a theme on this thread, of people missing the way artists are made by the way the politicians of their era define what the culture at that time needs to (or is allowed to) do.

Bob Boyd said...

I can't hear 'Wake me up' without thinking of this scene:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnZ2XdqGZWU

mockturtle said...

I guess not all of us were as, uh, fortunate to have grown up in the 1940s.

The 1940's??? Get real. A lot of us did grow up in the 1960s, though.

Browndog said...

I guess not all of us were as, uh, fortunate to have grown up in the 1940s.

Great point.

Just know that the 80's aren't entirely dead. Frankie can still go to Hollywood and try not to cum over West End Girls.

The day that stops, the music officially died.

John said...

Best version ever of Wake me up...

Starring Jimmy Cagney

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT0Cvzfh38E

John Henry

John said...

All this verbiage by both and and commenters:

And no mention of "I want your sex"

WTF?

John Henry

John said...

Ann and commenters

Rhythm and Balls said...

A lot of us did grow up in the 1960s, though.

What a difference 20 years makes. Between that decade and the 80s was like night and day. Or day and night, the way I see it.

And no mention of "I want your sex"

WTF?


Case in point. It's the core of the subtext of much of Michael's relevance. There's no way a song like that would have fit in at all with what was going on in the more carefree 1960s. The history of sex is all tied in with the rest of cultural and social and political history and that song was a huge case in point with what was going on. The things a certain president probably preferred to ignore away.

Michael was relevant to anyone concerned with what was happening differently in the 1980s. Not all problems were solved in the 1960s.

Quaestor said...

mockturtle wrote: Sounds horrible to me.

Sounds horrible to you? At least you didn't have to hear it. One evening I paused for a needed break at the rest-stop on I-95 at the Georgia-Florida state line. It was past 10 in the evening, so I should have been more wary. I enter the gents and I hear this godawful grunting and banging. Somebody's having a coronary! I thought, and whipped out my phone to dial 911. But no, it was just two queers without the decency to keep their private lives private.

mockturtle said...

One of our state legislators [in the 1980s, I think] got caught doing that, too. Of course he was 'respectably married' with kids. Somehow, having sex at a rest stop sounds about as much fun as shooting up Drano but then, I'm not gay. Or male.

Browndog said...

Rhythm and Balls said...

Not trying to diminish Michaels, just saying 80's music is a broad spectrum, and he was but a blip on the radar.

Wake me up before you Go-Go exemplified 80's music, as it was fun. It was one song.

My musical tastes are quirky, and I'd never disparage anyone's musical taste. Music is what moves you. However, graduating high school in 1980, and listen to 80's music to this day, you don't get to define what it was.

fivewheels said...

** BTW, some song called "A-ha Take me on" has 341 MILLION views. Why?

Because it was a clever breakthrough video technically, combining rotoscoped animation and live action, and it was a-ha's wonderful one hit. It's usually considered one of the top 10 music videos of all time. And it's "Take On Me" (they were Norwegian).

Marc Puckett said...

Requiescat in pace. And I truly mean that, who have had, however, no use for his music at all; count me amongst the Philistines, as you like. May I add a word, however, in prayer also for the three score Russian musicians of the Alexandrov Ensemble ('the Red Army Choir') who died this morning in such tragic circumstances? Requiescant in pace.

Hunter said...

Blogger Bob Boyd said...
I can't hear 'Wake me up' without thinking of this scene:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnZ2XdqGZWU


Indeed.

Hunter said...

Blogger Bob Boyd said...
I can't hear 'Wake me up' without thinking of this scene:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnZ2XdqGZWU


Indeed.

Hunter said...

Blogger Bob Boyd said...
I can't hear 'Wake me up' without thinking of this scene:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnZ2XdqGZWU


Indeed.

Lem said...

Favorite #GeorgeMichael - Jesus To A Child (live at MTV Music Awards, 1994, Berlin) #RIP

https://twitter.com/lemang01/status/813168277035896832

Lem said...

He was rare. An actractive guy with a voice to match. I remember buying the careless whisper album and mailing it to the girl I had a crush on.

HT said...

Speculation of heart failure. But how would they know without an autopsy (frothing a the mouth?).

Lem said...

Poignant love story behind the Jesus to a child song. Unless it's urban myth or something publicity bs. You can't believe anything these days.

Rhythm and Balls said...

While the term "One hit wonder" is deservedly derisive, it's easy to forget that a lot of truly great songs were just that. This tradition goes back a long way, certainly to the 50s and 60s, and with some best loved songs. I suppose it became deservedly derisive in the 1980s once it was clear that some sort of formula of image, marketing, management and songwriter choice could make or break what could no longer truly be called a "talent", let alone an artistic talent. The formula was perfected, and more and more undeserving celebrities could rise to fame off of it. With autotune, the internet and reality talent show contests, even more tools of the trade have brought fame and fortune to the marginally talented. But it wasn't always this way. Way back in the distant past, a decent talent sometimes just happened to occasionally write one memorable song. But now we lack the luxury to see it this way.

Browndog said...

Long story short, MTV.

HT said...

Very sad.

Father figure - good song, and kind of a sexy video - who knew?! He definitely got better looking as he aged.

Unknown said...

The man was incredibly sexy and a very talented singer and way too young to die. Mockturtle no doubt knows all Julie Andrews songs by heart.

Matthew Blaine said...

"people really don't die of AIDS anymore"

And that's a good thing? They crowd out research dollars that could be used to treat diseases that aren't, you know, 100 % preventable.

Unknown said...


AIDS research isn't worthy of our dollars, because they do that, you know.... icky thing. How about not researching heart disease, because no one needs to overeat or smoke, right?

Guildofcannonballs said...

http://www.lettersofnote.com/2010/05/come-on-george-loosen-up-swing-man.html

Rhythm and Balls said...

We await evidence that Matthew Blaine wishes agony and death upon every deceased or dying relative of his whose lifestyle in some way contributed to their demise. Which is pretty much the majority of them.

That's not how medical advances or decent societies work, amateur. Though I'm sure the Himmlers of the world would have rejoiced at discovering an affliction of the "defectives" that couldn't blamed mostly on mother nature, had they been around to rule the world of the 1980s. But by then they would have executed all the gays, anyway.

The promiscuous parents of the lebensborn, however? Not so much.

Roughcoat said...

I do miss the Sports Machine.

Now that's funny!

Leslie Graves said...

In the "Wham" video, I notice that his glowing white sweatshirt has the words "Choose Life" in big black letters on the front.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Michael was relevant to anyone concerned with what was happening differently in the 1980s. Not all problems were solved in the 1960s.

12/25/16, 7:48 PM

George Michael helped win the Cold War?

Rhythm and Balls said...

George Michael helped win the Cold War?

Reagan made communism stop working?

Thanks for the single-issue voter appeal from 30 years ago.

AReasonableMan said...

George Michael was a lot more than a one hit wonder. Generally not my style but this is a good song.

jdniner said...

George Michael was great. Easy to listen to. His videos have a high production quality and are superior to most anything out there. They were adult and not juvenile. Art that told a story. Admittedly, alcohol and flashing lights illuminate my George Micheal memories.

mockturtle said...

But by then they would have executed all the gays, anyway.

Several of Hitler's men were gay--some openly. Ernst Röhm was killed for purely political reasons. That it was for his homosexuality was just a cover.

Trumpit said...

The only thing "bad" about his homosexuality was that he didn't have offspring. He might have passed his musical talents on to his children. Parents of homosexuals often lament, "No grandkids from him (her)."

Today, many more gay people are having kids by various means and methods, some involving reproductive breakthroughs, e.g., invitro-fertilization.

Some people are concerned about their bloodline dying out. I haven't read any articles about the subject. I admit to not looking for them.

Michael K said...

The invisible hand has deemed your protest a little illegitimate, it would seem. And a heck of a lot more invisible.

Just hilarious to watch the lefties erupt over some drug addicted rock singer.

Rhythm and Balls said...

"The invisible hand has deemed your protest a little illegitimate, it would seem. And a heck of a lot more invisible."

Just hilarious to watch the lefties erupt over some drug addicted rock singer.


Ladies and Gentlemen, George Michael's accountant!

He died with a net worth of over $200 million, KKK. What's your net worth?

But you do moralize well. Turning around the issue of someone's valuation into the one thing where you pretend you can feel superior, (since you also reduce yourself to $$$ and here the guy clearly kicks your ass!: Medicalizing him.

Oh well. It's so good to know how scrupulous physicians and surgeons are with their own substance abuse problems. Pilfering cocaine and amphetamines to get through those long hours in the O.R. Or through med school or board exams. And a 14% to 26% rate of alcoholism among surgeons - depending on gender. Up to 15% of them addicts - a prevalence 50% higher than the general population. A 2013 study that 69% of them abused prescription medicine "to relieve stress and physical or emotional pain."

And then there are all the opioid related deaths that have become epidemic in our country (33,000 in 2015 according to the CDC) - thanks to your lot's general incompetence at sniffing out doctor shoppers or even bothering to gain basic competence in pain management principles. And then you have all kinds of creative examples, what with Michael Jackson's physician hooking him up with IV propofol to sleep each night.

But it's ok. It's not like you're superior in any way to this singer - not morally, not financially, not nowhere near him in terms of cultural contribution - and that's even counting your rinky dink general interest blog that no one reads on arcane WWII stuff or just generally uninformed opinions having to do with economics or whatever. (Who knows? Who cares? No one reads it or his late life hobby of pretending that a need to expand one's knowledge while combining it with typical crank political opinions gives him any sort of purchase on anything useful to write publicly about).

So just throw out some judgmental wastebasket diagnosis to make yourself feel better.

It's great to hear another boring asshole MD who thinks his shit don't stink. How does yours smell, Michael Kennedy? Lavender-scented? You do seem to inhale very deeply of it. And very often.

Maybe you can patent it as your own special blend of fecal transplantation raw material. Just put your name on the bottle, like Dr. Bronner. Dr. Kennedy's Fecal Transplantation Starter Kit. For patients who don't have enough of the right shit in them. Dr. Kennedy's shit is as strong as a bull's!

Michael K said...

" What's your net worth? "

Not that much. You are getting funnier and funnier as you make a bigger and bigger fool of yourself.

Merry Christmas to all who aren't crazy.

"Dr. Kennedy's Fecal Transplantation Starter Kit."

I just noticed that line.You are so dumb you don't realize that some of us were doing this to combat bacterial resistance 50 years ago.

Now they call it "probiotics."

Try to get an education in the new year, dope.

Rhythm and Balls said...

If only George Michael had grown up under the care of Dr. Michael Kennedy's very patient wet nurse/nursemaid. Then things might have turned out for him in a way that Kennedy wouldn't have been so judgmental about.

Mammay! Brother George needs a go at that tittay, too!

Rhythm and Balls said...

Geez Kennedy, for a supposedly respected member of society, you sure are dumb and illiterate. The whole point of the comment to chickenlittle (who at least knows to shut up when he misses the point or doesn't know something) was about the market's ample reward of Michael and his talents - which obviously dwarf yours by several orders of magnitude. I have a feeling the only music you make is when your Metamucil runs out and leaves a nice whistling noise between your buttcheeks.

And it's interesting that you think a knowledge of the history of fecal transplantation has anything to do with shinola. I said you were sniffing your own shit, bezoars-for-brains! Not that it wasn't used 50 years ago! Man, are you still that in love with your own stench? It must be like catnip for you. A symbol that your sense of self perfection runs all the way down to where the sun don't shine.

Apparently you don't disagree. So tell us again how you will set up the supply chain for your own premium brand of special bull puckey! Don't hoard it. Spread the fertilizer around. Why should you be the only one who gets to smell your own farts, etc., as wonderful as you think they are?

That's just not fair. Sell your BS and share your Mammy. Show everyone how superior you are with the things closest to you, Kennedy.

Rhythm and Balls said...

"Dr. Kennedy's Fecal Transplantation Starter Kit."

I just noticed that line.


Stood out and whacked you in the face, right! Just like an angry attending surgeon might've done. Well, too bad you couldn't read any of the rest of it. There's some fun stuff in there, all pertaining to what you missed about the comment you intruded into and pretended had anything to do with your fixations of the evening.

Well, that's surgeons for you. Showboating and getting all indignant over the things they think have anything to do with them.

Work on the better BS remedy, Kennedy. It'll make a fortune. Yours smells so nice, so much better than anyone else's.

The Good Lord actually blessed you with buttocks as fragrant as fresh rain. Trump has special skills and you have yours.

I want to see your name on. that. bottle.

Poo pills for the people. Everyone wants to smell as nice as Dr. K.

Michael K said...

You really need to get back on your meds.

Goodnight everyone.

I hope everyone had as nice a Christmas as we did.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Oh well. Dr. K's not responding. Maybe too much egg nog. If he's going to as alcoholic as the rest of them, I say go out in style.

Merry Christmas to all who aren't crazy.

I'm really not sure that's the meaning of the holiday. But since when has incoherence ever stopped you from having some silly self-righteous opinion!

Oh, that's right. Never.

Fulminate on.

Static Ping said...

The appropriate song for this moment: "Last Christmas":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8gmARGvPlI

Or perhaps "Praying for Time":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goroyZbVdlo

Rhythm and Balls said...

I hope everyone had as nice a Christmas as we did.

Did it involve you going around telling everyone how awesome you are? How superior you are to people on the internet? Or even to famous pop legend George Michael?

Reach for the stars, sir! You are all things to all people and the sun revolves around your radiant presence.

Rhythm and Balls said...

You really need to get back on your meds.

Which ones would they be?

I mean, not to intrude on your surgeon's brand of perfect knowledge of pharmacology. Or psychiatry.

But it would be nice to know.

After all, unlike you I'm actually a curious person. I try to get to the bottom of things and don't just skim in order to find the line I want to hear.

Did you study surgery from a Cliff's Notes publication? Or do you just think in visual diagrams and find words distracting?

madAsHell said...

I think he had bad habits.....

How does Keith continue on????

Static Ping said...

For those of you who are not familiar with George, he man had a very successful career. He sold a ton of albums - "Faith" sold approximated 25 million copies worldwide - and the singles chart loved him. As a solo artist he had 16 Top 40 singles in the United States, including 7 #1s. Including his tenure in Wham!, which was more or less George Michael and his childhood friend, adds 5 Top 40s including another 2 #1s. Throw in his contributing artist stuff adds another 2 Top 40s, including yet another #1. He was much bigger in his native UK where every album he was involved with, including greatest hits and live compilations, went to at least #3 with all but 2 going to #1. The "Faith" video is probably one of the most iconic music videos ever. (In Bowling for Soup's "1985" music video, which is name checking the 1980s like mad, it is not an accident that the "Faith" video is one of the moments that they recreate as they try to convince the neighbor's wife to re-enact the Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" dancing on the hood of a car scene.) When they had the Queen all-star benefit after Freddie Mercury's death, the only memorable part of the concert is George's superb cover of "Somebody to Love." George Michael is on the short list of the most important artists of the 1980s and 1990s.

Now, true, he has not been especially relevant recently. He pretty much disappeared in the US after the mid-90s. In the UK he still kept pumping out Top 40 singles fairly regularly despite not releasing a true album since 2004. But, yes, as time went on he became less famous for being a great singer and more famous for being a celebrity with multiple personal issues.

My favorite song of his is "Faith." Not terribly original I know, but it is hyped as a great song because it is a genuinely great song.

Rhythm and Balls said...

His talents were diverse. I Want Your Sex was just plain more original than almost anything comparably successful that you can name in pop - I challenge anyone to do it - both musically and in terms of message. I just listened to that Queen cover, and that was incredible. Having read beforehand Brian May's description of his ability to emulate notes only hit by Freddie Mercury, I heard the same thing. An incredible singing talent - who pulled it off effortlessly.

And then there was the songwriting. He could do it upbeat and fun (like in that WHAM song), or slow and broken-hearted (you know which single I'm talking about), and everything in between. I wasn't the biggest fan of every one of those songs to adorn his first solo attempt, but they were incredibly original - and catchy.

Just a man of very diverse musical talents, transcendent almost - and an end to an era. But one that he no doubt helped make - both musically and with the visual art direction on some of those videos - timeless.

Ann Althouse said...

"In the "Wham" video, I notice that his glowing white sweatshirt has the words "Choose Life" in big black letters on the front."

We took note of that at the time. I remember assuming that Wham were fundamentalist Christians of some kind and that being out-and-proud pro-life might be a new trend.

Here's an explanation in The Guardian:

"In the 80s, slogan T-shirts reached saturation point because of one woman: Katharine Hamnett. Dressed in a "58% Don't Want Pershing" T-shirt, she was photographed shaking hands with the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher at a Downing Street reception for London fashion week designers in 1984. (The slogan referred to public opposition to the basing of US Pershing missiles in the UK at the tail end of the cold war.)

"Hamnett's designs were copied all over the world. Wham! wore a T-shirt with the slogan "Number One" - and later "Choose Life"; Frankie Goes to Hollywood had "Frankie Says Relax". Hamnett's T-shirts became cultural signposts to the times we lived in.

""I wanted to put a really large message on T-shirts that could be read from 20 or 30ft away," she says now. "Slogans work on so many different levels; they're almost subliminal. They're also a way of people aligning themselves to a cause. They're tribal. Wearing one is like branding yourself."

"Her Pershing T-shirt was "a bit of a practical joke, really. I'd been invited to No 10 and didn't want to go, but I realised it was a photo opportunity and I should grab it. That T-shirt gave me a voice.""

From the Wikipedia article on Katharine Hamnett:

"Hamnett has... expressed scepticism that t-shirt slogans accomplish anything concrete, and suspects that for some, the slogans are a substitute for action. The "CHOOSE LIFE" slogan in the context of the day was directed at drug abuse and suicide. Because it is found in the Bible ("Now choose life, so that you and your children may live" – Deuteronomy 30:19) it has been used by the pro-life movement to encourage a choice against abortion, even appearing on license plates in 27 states."

So... I think the answer is: It wasn't about abortion.

Unknown said...

wake me up...
before you throw up

Johnathan Birks said...

BREAKING NEWS... CELEBRITY DEATHS CONFIRM DRUGS BAD FOR YOU...

damikesc said...

Who?

He was a solid pop star with a rather good voice.

But nevertheless, I am perplexed as heck about how someone goes at age 53 these days. There were apparently other risks he took with his health and safety, but how this gets called "natural causes", "peacefully" etc. with an ambulance in the background is strange. Or maybe that's just how things go in Britain.

He'd gained a substantial amount of weight, from what photos I've seen of him. And I assume he had, shall we say, a "wild lifestyle" in regards to drugs and sex during the 1980's and even cleaning up completely won't always fix up the damage caused in the first place.

This wasn't like Freddie Mercury who wasted away to next to nothing due to AIDS. This was a guy who I can completely buy had a heart failure.

I didn't love "Wake Me Up..." either, but to ignore that it is an insanely infectious pop song is to ignore reality. I hated "Mickey" from Toni Basil also but nobody denies that the song imbeds itself in your brain like few others.

There is no comparison (And I aint knocking anybody) between David Bowie and George Michaels.

Bowie was a spectacle. An amazing performer and an amazing character...but his singing was OK. I don't think he'd have been a star without all of the other trappings. George Michael had a much better voice, either for real or because his music allowed him to demonstrate it more.


** BTW, some song called "A-ha Take me on" has 341 MILLION views. Why?


1) Really good song.
2) The video, at the time, was really, really impressive and cool.

I grew up in the 1980's. Much of the "ho hum" some express over Michael are some of the same sentiments I feel about A LOT of the acts of the 1960's.

While the term "One hit wonder" is deservedly derisive, it's easy to forget that a lot of truly great songs were just that.

In the case of a-ha, it doesn't fit because they were a one-hit wonder HERE. At home, they were huge for a long, long time. Didn't they write the Olympics music for the Lillehammer Games?

And then there was the songwriting. He could do it upbeat and fun (like in that WHAM song), or slow and broken-hearted (you know which single I'm talking about), and everything in between. I wasn't the biggest fan of every one of those songs to adorn his first solo attempt, but they were incredibly original - and catchy.

Agreed. I didn't love all of his work, but to ignore that Michael's work was really vast is, again, to ignore reality. He could do pop better than most and he could do longing really well.

MadisonMan said...

Wasn't he the little faggot with the earring and the makeup? (Yeah, buddy, that's his own hair). Of course, that version of Dire Straits' great song is rarely played any more.

A real icon if you were young in the 80s.

Fernandinande said...

mockturtle said...
Who?


Even I have heard of him! After listening to short excerpts of those videos, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

walter said...

He could really rock the shorts back in the day..

walter said...

All roads lead to R&B butthurt.

Yancey Ward said...

Ann Althouse wrote:

"The "CHOOSE LIFE" slogan in the context of the day was directed at drug abuse and suicide."

The same phrase is in the mid-90s movie Trainspotting, and that is exactly what it means in that movie.

JAORE said...

Natural cause can be any number of things. From my perspective 53 is very young. But we've all likely known heart attack victims younger than 53. Not to mention that non-age discriminating bitch cancer.

And, frankly I don't care why he died.

Mac McConnell said...

George Michael's music could fill a large dance floor in the 80s, that's my benchmark. It's sad when anyone dies at 53.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Basically he was a next generation's Elvis - at least in terms of what he was doing in a risque way. The 80s were slightly less uptight than the 50s, and with much less ground to break. But I think we can say that I Want Your Sex was about as direct an advance on the hip shaking thing as any conventional culture was going to allow.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Check out what walter's got his mind on this morning, everybody!

Rhythm and Balls said...

So... I think the answer is: It wasn't about abortion.

Yes, it's true. The British and Americans typically have different expressions for things. Or the same expressions for different things, I guess. Same with artists and church aficionados.

Matthew Blaine said...

Father Figure is a song about pedophilia. Read the lyrics. Then tell me this was a life worth idolizing, let alone admiring.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Sure Matthew Blaine. And the Beatles had backward messages on their recordings and Ozzy Osbourne had subliminal messages for kids to kill themselves. We've heard this all before, Tipper Gore. If only American administrations had a good "culture minister" or "information minister" to make sure the actual market that values an artist's contribution or worth could be controlled of the things in it that all the non-fans have decided must somehow be pernicious and kept out of the hands, ears and minds of its consumers.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Oedipus Rex is a play about incest. And people have the nerve to tell me that Sophocles or Greek tragedy is worth admiring.

These worthless degenerates must be rebuked.

Matthew Blaine said...

If you defend Father Figure then you are at least as smart as this guy, who is the Executive Editor of Huff Post Queer. Look at his background image and tell me this is worth defending.

BTW Oedipus gouged his own eyes out.

damikesc said...

Basically he was a next generation's Elvis - at least in terms of what he was doing in a risque way. The 80s were slightly less uptight than the 50s, and with much less ground to break. But I think we can say that I Want Your Sex was about as direct an advance on the hip shaking thing as any conventional culture was going to allow.

Yeah. He was far more blatant than Elvis could've ever been. A lot of folks here seemed to have stopped following pop culture at all after the 60's.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Art as a moral competition, by Matthew Blaine. Now there's a struggle with a decent history.

It's always the people who can't look away that regurgitate the most on what bothers them. Their obsession with what they can't handle, or at least can't stop drawing strange, tenuous moralized messages from is so much more telling than they seem to understand. They reveal what's in their own mind when they suppose that every other consumer or observer is as morally weak and susceptible to the warped messaging that they feel they're uniquely qualified to hear. Those high powered antennas of yours are broadcasting signals, Mr Blaine.

Here's a semi-famous picture of The Beatles, apparently endorsing vivisections and infanticide. Obviously the message that they were all about.

How long until you tire of this game that you will surely lose, aspiring Kulturminister Blaine?

mockturtle said...

A lot of folks here seemed to have stopped following pop culture at all after the 60's.

I pretty much did, although I confess to liking Earth, Wind & Fire. For dancing, anyway. My husband and I mostly listened to classical music, though. In the 80s, my teen-aged daughter liked KISS. When I told her that is was an acronym for Knights In Satan's Service she didn't believe me. What's the fun of being a teenager if your parents don't hate your music? She never once mentioned George Michael, though.

walter said...

There wasn't a lot of crossover audience between KISS and Wham!

damikesc said...

Yeah, WHAM (who basically was George Michael carrying his buddy around) and KISS have nothing in common. You would've likely found Michael less annoying.

Rhythm and Balls said...

I just saw this (watching a lot of related videos at the moment):

Steven Pinker on the importance of properly defining what it is that supposedly offends you.

n.n said...

A culture of life opposes abortion of human life for casual causes (e.g. life deemed unworthy of life), escape from reality through consumption of hallucinogenic substances, class diversity including racism and sexism that devalue individual human lives, and selective inclusion for political progress (i.e. bigotry).

Rhythm and Balls said...

I aborted several million of my human, living sperm cells this morning, n.n. Are you not going to speak up for them? They WERE life, and they WERE human! What about them?

Hallucinogens help people understand what's wrong with the current reality. You can't fix a problem unless you momentarily escape from living it and taking the mistake for granted. And mind control doesn't work.

Class diversity is wrong? Ok, I get it. You want to make wealth illegal as your party continues to enlarge the poor as the largest class in the country.

And you gotta love how little value the right has placed on the human lives of the poor.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Boy you are angry R&B. Angry all the time. I wish you may not be going through something awful.

That said, if it were prideworthy, I would be proud of my indifference to George Michael. Rick Astley, I believe, outpoints him on hits.

And if anything important other/more important than the final defeat of the Soviet Union happened in the 1980s/early '90s, please name it.

walter said...

If you sent them into a sock or whatever you do, they weren't on a life trajectory...as disappointing as that may be.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Sorry, BL. Stupidity just doesn't make me as happy as I guess it does others. Neither does indifference/complacency. Not sure whom lukewarm is supposed to work for, but sometimes I guess I just spit it out.

I'd remind you that you keep banging on about the USSR as if it took Reagan to turn it into an unsuccessful system. I guess that's you being complacent about the point not working.

I would liken the failure of the USSR in the 1980s/1990s to the failure of alchemy in the 16th century. Or the flat earth society before Columbus. Thousands of researchers looking for the end of the horizon or the search to transform lead into gold suddenly disillusioned and upset. I'm not sure how that's supposed to be noteworthy. Lots of things just don't work or are unsuccessful. You either try again or just quit and keep on with what's working a little better.

Maybe once the political right in America actually wins a real war, instead of just a non-war, they will feel more pride. That socialist FDR demolished systems of fascist genocidal imperialism in a real way, with real tanks and real use of force and a total war battle to the death. And it put away one of the most recalcitrant and pernicious systems of thought and politics and control... well, hopefully forever. Either way, the statement was strong and the actions glorious and necessary. So maybe someday you'll forgive the left for not looking upon the failure of an oppositional system in conflict with ours that supposedly "doesn't work" anyway as a little less glorious. The right can hopefully find itself another glory someday, instead. So far though, their record doesn't look all that good. And the country is getting restless.

Bad Lieutenant said...

but so you agree that little else of importance occurred then? You're rather like saying, btw, that the matador is not important because there were picadors, banderilleros, and because the bull would have died anyway. Bet you gave Obama (and not GWB) credit for killing OBL, amirite?

Bad Lieutenant said...

Meanwhile, that was without judgment, about your anger. Maybe you need to release it like so many worthless cells, but you never let up, there is a constant engine of fury working in you. It seems to me unhappy and unhealthy, but perhaps you like it for that reason. Don't be this guy!

In the Desert
By Stephen Crane
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”

Not that I care excessively i.e. in a gay way ;-), but what would make you happy, or less mad? A perfect world? Freedom of all from error or disagreement with you? More stuff?

If you can't deal with imperfection in the world, you'll be unhappy a long time.

mockturtle said...

BL, I have found that there are some who enjoy being miserable. They savor anger and cultivate it like a garden.

Rhythm and Balls said...

but so you agree that little else of importance occurred then?

I'm just not sure why the failure of a colossal system "designed to fail" is newsworthy. Lots of things fail. The Challenger blew up one time. The Corvair used to catch fire. When planned disasters go wrong, I guess that's important. But I'm more focused on getting things right. Like capitalism, for instance. If socialism is so bad then why is it, in the richest country in the world, half of our country lives in poverty? We have worse working conditions and upward mobility than the majority of the industrialized world. Isn't that worth doing something about? I mean, saying your country's economy is better than the USSR's sounds like a pretty low bar to surpass, wouldn't you say?

Meanwhile, that was without judgment, about your anger. Maybe you need to release it like so many worthless cells, but you never let up, there is a constant engine of fury working in you. It seems to me unhappy and unhealthy, but perhaps you like it for that reason. Don't be this guy!

I'm passionate, not complacent. Not angry. I get happier than most, angrier than most. I take things all the way, when I go there. It's just not a matter of me making up things to be mildly content about. I've got my cat, he's cool. We rock out. I've got my buddies, my pals, my ladies. I've got a great city to peruse. Things are good. I'm not really sure why I have to say that the long-predicted late humiliation faced by hundreds of millions of East Europeans is a good thing. Maybe they could have learned their lesson earlier. Maybe we as Americans could stand to use a few lessons, also. And BTW, just in case you think that's dour, it's not! I like learning! I like having things to do! And right now my country has a lot to learn and a lot of things to do. I'm looking forward to it.

BL, I have found that there are some who enjoy being miserable. They savor anger and cultivate it like a garden.

You're obviously not learning. See above. Some of us just like being productive, which means taking problems that need to be improved seriously. I know a lot of right-wing people think angering their opponents is the highest calling, but I've got no anger getting in the way of enjoying life. I just prefer to be more engaged and less dishonest with myself about what's worth getting really happy about. I'm definitely not a mercenary cheerleader, that's for certain! Nope, the things that make me happy are either natural goods or things I've done a lot to make better. You should try being less intellectually/socially lazy some time. Yes, it's harder, but the reward is definitely greater. Be a part of something bigger than just yourself and/or your garden someday. If you have the capacity for it. Maybe you don't but you don't have to knock me or others just for being engaged and interested in the world around us.

EMD said...

"The David Bowie of the 1980s. That's who. With a much better voice and even more relevant appeal."

Excuse me? If Michael had half the inventiveness, musicality, and talent of Bowie he would've been an even bigger star.

EMD said...

David Bowie was the David Bowie of the 1980s, BTW.

walter said...

Well..the part about rocking out with your cat was pleasant..can say that much.
BL can unpack the rest if he has a few hours and a psych bent.

Rhythm and Balls said...

BL can unpack the rest if he has a few hours and a psych bent.

I'm sure he's too honest to seek to find anything nefarious in it.

Jon Ericson said...

Pedro has many angry moments.

walter said...

"You should try being less intellectually/socially lazy some time. Yes, it's harder, but the reward is definitely greater. Be a part of something bigger than just yourself and/or your garden someday. If you have the capacity for it."

Ah..that trademark friendly chit chat.

MadisonMan said...

How can anyone say Rick Astley outpoint George Michael and/or Wham! on hits! Eesh. Astley had two hits that were essentially the same song -- you can sing one with backgrounds of the other.

mockturtle said...

Maybe because Seattle has spawned so many of its own rock groups I'm puzzled that some of these guys were so popular. My daughter had friends in one local band and knew some of the Heart members but I didn't ever hear the above mentioned 'stars' named.

mockturtle said...

It is interesting that one my daughter's rock-band friends is now the King County Prosecutor.