It is inevitable, of course, that our childhood idols will die. For teenagers, the ones we admire are often conceptualized as being so beyond us that we don’t necessarily consider their age. If they pass away when we and they are older, only then do we consider youth. For some–myself included–have found themselves saying, “George Michael was only 53?” Alas, the age difference that seemed so great at thirteen now seems incredibly, uncomfortably close at forty-three.
Death has always appreciated irony, and it is within Death’s dark humor that George Michael pass away on Christmas. His pop career–first with his career-making duo Wham!, and then as a solo act–was largely atypical; hits came, band breaks up, solo career comes, hits come, and then a slow fade into a comfortable legacy and nostalgic career, with the legacy cemented into history by only one or two key songs. Possessor of a powerful, soulful voice, tempered with chiseled good looks, pop success was assured. In comparison to many of his now-forgotten contemporaries, Michael was unique: he wrote his hit songs, and the hits that came were fantastic.
“Last Christmas” was nominally one of those numbers; popular on playlists from the month between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, it was a seasonal hit, forgotten for eleven months, but welcomed and beloved for one. No longer. That Michael passed away–at his home, quietly and peacefully–on Christmas Day assures that this number will forever remain his legacy. It is a fine one, too; it is the closest that modern pop music has come to creating a canonical Christmas number. The song is about loss, heartbreak, and moving on to happiness; a fitting message for those mourning him today. RIP.
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