On Christmas Day 2016 we lost one of the great artists of my generation. George Michael was a singer/songwriter, and his soul had no limits. I know many people think of the group Wham! with the 80’s new wave sounds, and some think of the original Christmas classic entitled Last Christmas. Me……I think of the smoothed out funk that he created for us.
To demonstrate, I put together a mix of some of the hits.
We start with a Wham! single, but Careless Whisper was actually the beginning of his solo work. That slow groove and lush guitar fills solidify it as a great R&B slow jam. The song has been remade several times, most notably by Dave Koz and Montell Jordan on vocals. Tamia also recorded a version of the song. Kenny G and Brian McKnight also put their spin on the hit.
Kissing A Fool showcases another side, as George breaks down that big band lounge style that Frank Sinatra and Dan Martin made famous. Michael Buble remade the song, and it appears on his self titled album. His version is good, but the original is a song that will stand the test of time.
We pick up the pace just a tad with Freedom ’90. The original recording appears on the Wham! album, Make It Big. Even though this version shares the name with its predecessor, that is the only thing that they share. This is a totally different song, and it will forever be one of his best.
Next, we have the first of two duets in this medley. The song is called As. It is a remake of a Stevie Wonder song, and Mary J Blige makes an appearance. This song was a bigger hit in Europe than in the United States. Either way, it is a smash and if you have not heard it, I am sure you love the song like I do.
Hard Day was the third single off of his first album, Faith. The Shep Pettibone remix was hitting’ hard in the clubs when it was released. Shep remixed several club classics back in the day, and he helped bring in the remixed 12″ single to the DJ crates.
Too Funky is next up, and there’s really no other way to describe the track. If you listen closely, you will hear a sample from Somebody Else’s Guy, by Jocelyn Brown. It was pretty clever to use that particular sample. It was a great choice and it is buried in there so it does not take over the song.
Next we have Father Figure, perhaps his most well known song. The mid-tempo groove is perfect. It was actually conceived as a dance song, but George removed the snare drum which made the groove a little more mellow. I cannot even imagine Father Figure as a dance song.
Fastlove is the second song that sampled an old school track. Toward the end you will the familiar cadence of “Sendin’ you forget me nots….” You know the rest.
Star People is up next, and this is another mid-tempo song that I had to include in the mix. It is just one of those songs that you can play on any occasion.
Finally, we have I Knew You Were Waiting (for me) with Aretha Franklin. This is totally an ’80’s song, but if you listen to Aretha’s vocal runs…..MAN, has there ever been a better singer than the Queen of Soul? That is a strong song.
George had many more hits over his 30 year career, but these are the ones that resonated with me the most.
Since George Michael passed, I had to create this as a tribute, and I think the video element makes it that much better.