George Michael and The Year The Music Died

 

quote-you-ll-never-find-peace-of-mind-until-you-listen-to-your-heart-george-michael-19-84-19I was so blown away by the sad news of George Michael’s death that it was difficult to put it into words at first. Another one gone from the soundtrack of my life.  So many of the greats left us in 2016 and it really did feel like una tras otra.

I was living in Sacramento when Wham! first hit the airwaves and MTV.  While I thought they were handsome,  what really captivated me was George Michael’s voice.   I had all of the Wham! cassettes and forgot all about them once George Michael went solo.  Such a stellar, spectacular voice — I have always gravitated toward the singers, lead and background.  To hear George Michael’s music was to hear flawless vocal arrangements in his songs.    On many of the songs, I know the background vocals just as well as I do the lead ones.  George Michael’s voice seemed to get better with time — he never lost the power of that voice, no matter the scandals, no matter the substance abuse, no matter the age — he was blessed vocally as well as being a great songwriter.   Another thing I really enjoyed was listening to him cover songs, all kinds of songs, his vocal range could reach the notes to cover Freddie Mercury, as he did with “Somebody to Love” – not easy to match.   Or his distinctive version of The Police classic, “Roxanne” – we saw Sting in concert a few years ago and he still raved over it and said it was the “grown-up” version of the song.   Like all of the great vocalists, George Michael could unleash the power of his voice and then bring it back down to the basics.  Sooo glad that his music will live on forever and very sad that I will not be able to see him perform live — there’s always YouTube.  One of the best singers I have ever heard and right up there in my Top 5 favorites of all time y todavía guapísimo.  Rest In Peace George Michael.

My absolute favorite George Michael song, “Kissing A Fool” with the lyrics as I asked my godson STE2 to learn this for me, no excuses papa! LOL

I was in Denver, stuck in a blizzard and completely snowed-in and I saw this performance by George Michael on MTV and kept saying the f-word in amazement when I was able to hear/see this powerful version of Freedom 90.  This is the best version of the song in my opinion, love how they WORK it vocally.

I am a huge Queen and Freddie Mercury fan and I remember watching George Michael sing this song on the tribute show and praying that he wouldn’t eff it up and was floored when he, of course,  killed it on “Somebody To Love”

My sister and I went crazy over George Michael’s CD of cover songs, so many good songs!  But this one knocked us out as we were also huge fans of The Police.  This jazzy slower version shows how George Michael could work different music styles.

Sooooo many musical giants left, Bowie, Prince, Merle, Emilio, Sharon Jones, Juanga, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, George Martin, and more. I will feature a few of my favorites below…

JUAN GABRIEL:   The ultimate showman, he always left it all on the stage, one of Mexico’s most prolific composers ever and there are so many songs but my favorites remain the “rancheras” with mariachi, I would always yell back comments when he would perform live, ask Natalie LOL.  His phrasing is incredible, watch and wonder when the man breathes.  Of course, his mannerisms are hilarious and second to none.

 

EMILIO NAVAIRA:  I started off my radio career playing Tejano music and I remember first hearing EMILIO Navaira as part of David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, loooove them.   I was on-air when Emilio went solo and he had the voice, the looks, and Raulito (his brother, who sings some of the best “segunda” ever) and this was filmed right at the peak of his fame…love his version of the classic “La Rama Del Mesquite”.  Love the energy of Tejano music!

SHARON JONES:  I have always loved Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings…her powerful voice blends well with Daryl Hall on “Do What You Want, Be What You Want”

MAURICE WHITE:  One of the greatest bands of all time, the elements of Earth, Wind, and Fire led by the great Maurice White.  We Torres5 were heavily into this band.  Thanks to our cousin Yolanda, who had this album.  Many many many hours were spent listening to this record in the ‘girls room’ and, once we bought other EWF albums, they did not leave the turntable for months on end.   This was the first song I remember hearing from EWF and I still say it’s one of the most hopeful and positive songs ever.

GLENN FREY:  Loooove the Eagles and especially loved to listen to Glenn Frey’s badass lyrics and personality.  I loved watching them in the older years because NO one harmonized like they did and they sounded great after all of these years.

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Prince: Part of the Soundtrack of My Life

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As I heard the news of Prince Rogers Nelson’s death on 4/21/2016, I didn’t realize how much his music was a part of my life…

When I first heard “When Doves Cry”, it stopped me in my tracks. So different, so original, so creative. All of the songs on that album were really different, cool, authentic. It hit all of my roommates and I as well.

Nisie was always a huge Rick James fan, and, once she heard Prince, it was over LOL I always remember Nis saying “Priiiiince!” every time she heard a Prince song on the radio, no matter where we were, or every time she played his music at our place, which was often. That’s how I learned every word to the almost every song, the ‘Purple Rain’ album was played that much.

“Purple Rain” is a song that is almost trance-like and like an anthem. I remember my Comadre and I were sitting at our place, as one of our parties was ending and most of the people had gone, it was madrugada like 4 or 5 in the morning, and as I was coming back into the house after saying goodbye to folks, “Purple Rain” is being played over and over and I find my Comadre sitting on one of the inside steps and she’s crying. As we sat there talking it out, I remember “Purple Rain” still being played over and over for what was probably hours or so.

“My Name Is Prince” and “Diamonds and Pearls” take me to my first years in radio. I’ve always had the luck to work in stations that have so many different type of music formats in the same place so it’s like your mind is blown because you hear so much more different music in one day than the average person. I’d go from one side of the building hearing Spanish blasting on one side and end up at the other hearing “Ma name is Prince …” Loved it.

Like many of my radio fam, we have the luck of going to many many concerts. And many of us remember many a day when you’d get an email or hear an announcement that there are extra tickets ‘up front’ — this usually meant that winners did not pick up their tickets and, so that they wouldn’t go to waste, the “first come, first served” announcement would come. Sometimes I’d make it, sometimes not. I was in Denver at the time, and the announcement came, this time for Prince tickets and this time I made it. Add to this, our station was a few blocks away from Fiddler’s Green, the venue I used to refer to as Denver’s version of the Bay’s Shoreline Amphitheater.

Colorado BFF Sandra and I walked to Fiddler’s and were pleasantly surprised to walk in to see/hear his opening act: Chaka Khan, yay! And then to watch this man in concert, I watched him play every instrument on stage, take no breaks, and was completely blown away by his talent, his originality, and inventive arrangements of so many songs, new and old. I have never seen anyone else work a show like Prince, ever. You just knew that you were in the midst of genius.

The few times that I saw Prince do interviews, I was struck by how funny, smart, and insightful he was.  I respected how true he was to himself always,  even when he stood alone, especially in the way he changed the music business by standing up for himself and his music.  Legend.

This weekend will be to appreciate the music Prince made, watch the almost non-stop media coverage, and send up a prayer for his safe passage as he begins the next journey. RIP Prince.