My tribute to one of the greatest and most underestimated songwriters of our generation.
George Michael (AKA Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou)
I have had this in my mind, since Christmas day when we all awakened to the dreadful news and I sat sobbing listening to the ‘Listen without prejudice’ album.
I, like many of you lived at a time when beautiful George was the soundtrack to our world. His genius melody’s and uniquely fulfilling lyrics were just the background to our lives in the kind of way that you almost took, his ability to produce perfection, for granted. He was just dependable when it came to artistically refined, clever, beautiful music. I for one had played both ‘Faith’ and ‘Listen without prejudice’ until the tape almost vanished.
As I listened, a song came on. ‘Mothers pride’. It is almost an obscure song, hiding among the many high charting, singles. For the longest time I would gladly skip this song such was its power to render me a sobbing wreck, but this time I was already a sobbing wreck, so I let it play and was dumbstruck by it’s complete and utter brilliance as a composition from the haunting melody to the gut-wrenching honesty of its lyrics.
But more than that it was a story that progressed and it’s utterly brilliant. It starts with the poignancy of the mothers knowledge, she is viewing her child’s ultimate future.
Oh she knows
She takes his hand
And prays the child will understand
At the door they watch the men go by
In the clothes that daddy wore
His fathers eyes
He’s a soldier waiting for war
Time will come
He’ll hold a gun
His father’s son
There is the heartbreaking realization of the inevitability of the deep loss suffered by all. But it is in the infilling of the gap between this and the boy’s ultimate path, that is where the genius steps in.
And as he grows
He hears the band
Takes the step from boy to man
And at the shore she waves her son goodbye
Like the man she did before
Just a boy
His country’s eyes
He’s a soldier waving at the shore
And in her heart, the time has come
To lose a son.
You don’t think your heart could break anymore, right?
Because HERE is where he steps up his genius. It’s when he comes in and hits you right in the heart with the truth of the whole matter. The WHOLE truth of it.
And all the husbands, all the sons, all the lovers, gone.
They make no difference
No difference in the end
Still hear the woman say your daddy died a hero
In the name of God and man.
Just lyrical genius, as is the last verse, which compounds the futility of war.
His lifeless eyes
He’s a soldier now forevermore
He’ll hold a gun ’till kingdom come.
That last line’s a killer! It is a verse that destroys me every time and serves as a reminder of the genius, now lost to us all. No-one else could serve you the brutality and futility of war and use the beauty of his craft to make you FEEL it, the way he did. George didn’t just write and compose songs, he told stories. Stories that revealed to us human nature. It was his gift and he was ours.