One of the leading pop stars of the 1980s and '90s, George Michael was best known for his hit singles such as "Last Christmas" and "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," as well as being in the music duo Wham! His 1987 album Faith, in particular, won a Grammy for Best Album of the Year. Most of us know George Michael only as a singer and performer, and while he truly was exceptional at that, there was so much more to him.
His reply was "No," "with a slight look of disappointment crossing his face," writes Ives. George Michael didn't think people realize the extent of his involvement with his own albums; indeed, few fully appreciate his talent for playing guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards, not to mention his dedication to writing his own songs and handling production on his albums.
His fifth studio album, Patience, released in 2004, featured "Amazing," a single that became a number one hit in Europe and the top on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs. (Watch it here) However, in addition to being one of the album's highlights, "Amazing" is notable for demonstrating George Michael's exceptional acoustic guitar-playing skills.
His 1987 single "Faith" also featured his guitar-playing heavily, with the image of him in shades, leather jacket, cowboy boots, and Levi's jeans playing a guitar near a jukebox becoming one of the definitive images of the 1980s music industry.
So why was George Michael's extensive involvement with his albums and his knack for playing various instruments overlooked?
Ives writes, "2004 was the year 'rockism' became a thing, and per the conventional wisdom of rockism, a pop star such as George Michael wouldn't play all of those instruments, or deal with arrangement, production or writing." Certainly, in today's music industry, we don't expect or see many pop stars performing vocally and playing an instrument, even if they were multitalented - it has become more common practice to have a team of musicians and producers.
There is no question that George Michael was a legendary singer and one of the most successful artists ever. But he is so much more than a singer - let us remember him also as an exceptional songwriter and guitar-player.