Outpourings of grief and tributes by musical peers and others have flooded social media after the unexpected death of iconic British pop star George Michael, as did personal anecdotes of his secret philanthropy.
No one, perhaps were more direct that Madonna, who simultaneously honored Michael — who died of heart failure Christmas Day at 53 — while addressing a year filled with particularly startling deaths, disasters, war and political upheaval. “Farewell My Friend! Another Great Artist leaves us. Can 2016 [expletive] Off NOW?” Remembering better days, she included a minute-long clip of her presenting Michael the Video Vanguard statuette at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.
Literal rock royalty also praised Michael, with Sir Elton John tweeting, “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend — the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family, friends and all of his fans.” Sir Paul McCartney wrote that Michael’s “sweet soul music will live on even after his sudden death. Having worked with him on a number of occasions his great talent always shone through and his self-deprecating sense of humour made the experience even more pleasurable.”
McCartney’s former Beatles bandmate Ringo Star chimed in, tweeting, “God bless George Michael peace and love to all his friends and family.”
Andrew Ridgeley, Michael’s partner in the 1980s hit duo Wham!, wrote he was “heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog,” using the nickname Michael’s Greek-immigrant family derived from his given name, Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. “Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved. … #GM had a voice that would transport u, he was the finest singer/songwriter of his generation & has left the best of himself 4 us. RIP GM.”
Long Island-reared music star Mariah Carey called Michael “such an inspiration. I’m honored to have not only been your fan, but a friend as well. May you rest in peace.”
Michael’s unheralded philanthropy to children’s organizations and other groups, as well as his quiet personal charity was also noted Monday.
Among the groups he supported were the Terrence Higgins Trust, which helps people with AIDS, Macmillan Cancer Support, and Childline, which offers confidential phone counseling for young people. Childline founder Esther Rantzen said Michael gave royalties from his 1996 hit “Jesus To A Child” to the charity along with many other donations. “Over the years he gave us millions and we were planning next year, as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations to create, we hoped, a big concert in tribute to him — to his artistry, to his wonderful musicality but also to thank him for the hundreds of thousands of children he helped,” she said.
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She said Michael was determined that no one outside the charity should know “how much he gave to the nation’s most vulnerable children.” Jane Barron from the Terrence Higgins Trust said Michael made many donations and gifts, including the royalties of his “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” duet with Elton John in 1991.
— With AP