It was to be his last Christmas. He breathed his last on the day in 2016, aged 53. "Amma, George Michael has passed away," my son broke the news to me, his voice dripping with sadness. My boy, who considers Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, the best in the business, got introduced to George Michael's music as the Grammy award winner crooned Queen's Somebody to Love at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley in 1992. "George Michael was the best. There's a certain note in his voice when he did the song that was pure Freddie," remarked Brian May, Freddie's band member, after hearing George's rendition of the hit single.
To us, the MTV generation, the god with Greek origins "carelessly whispered" in his creamy voice even as 24X7 TV hit us. For those coming of age at the cusp of liberalisation, he teased us with his provocative moving images laced with evocative lyrics. We got hooked on to his simply beautiful music videos after being a captive audience of the staid Doordarshan for years.
He came as a whiff of fresh air. As rebels without a cause, we grooved to I Want Your Sex. He rekindled our faith even as we believed his every word. He gave us freedom, echoing our sentiments about the state-imposed autarky of the pre-liberalisation era. To us, it became an anthem of sorts.
As a father figure, he led us from his peppy dance tracks to supple ballads with elan. His metamorphosis from a clean-shaven, handsome, teen-pop idol to the mature, stubbled, leather-jacketed sex symbol was anything but tame. The sweet boy-next-door who "woke me up before he went" went on to become the bad boy of rock with aplomb by getting himself banned for his "sexually dangerous" I want your sex.
The bad boy spillover to his real life seemed a natural progression. The musical virtuoso's constant brush with the law over public lewdness, drug possession, drunken driving reinforced the image. His coming out of the closet, his struggle with depression, the death of his mother and his partner Anselmo Felippa, all made the persona he was. Fighting his personal demons, he sought a quieter life away from the arc lights. Known for his behind-the-scenes generosity, he fought for gay rights and AIDS prevention. Sir Elton John described him as "the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist."
"Amma, you should highlight the decadent, hedonistic culture prevalent in the West," my son remarked, "angry" at George Michael's untimely demise. "Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince and now George Michaelâ€¦ such great musical voicesâ€¦ all caught in this web of self-indulgence and lost to the world forever. They have left empty spaces where they used to stand," his outburst seemed justified.
"What a beautiful voice he had and his music will live on as a testament to his talent. I hope the Buddha will hold him in his arms," tweeted Boy George, his contemporary. Hope he finds peace in death at last.