|George Michael – died on Christmas Day 2016|
Earlier, I'd taken a long walk around the suburban streets talking about my favourite movies and other stuff with my daughter and as we wove our way around, we peered into the heavily decorated rooms of the houses we passed, voting on whether they were 'cosy' or not. Once home, and not particularly interested in eating any more food – later I had an orange and a glass of water and a tiny bit of cheese with some crackers – I reached for the remote and started to watch Maigret with Mr Bean, but couldn't stick with it. Earlier I'd watched the Strictly Come Dancing festive special, which was rubbish (after enduring weeks of the annual danceathon, I didn't really want to watch any more) and now the challenge to find something worth watching presented itself. There was nothing so I resorted to the 'players' (iplayer and the rest of them) to see if I'd missed something. I had!
On Channel Four I found a documentary about the Rolling Stones' Latin America tour, which culiminated in the band playing in Havana, Cuba. It was fantastic and hats off to all of them. And then, this morning, I awoke at 0600hrs to the news that George Michael had died, aged 53. Unbelievable, I thought, as the story unravelled and heart failure was given as the cause of death. Michael was 53, but the Rolling Stones are pretty old. Sir Mick is 73 and still fathering children, Keith Richards is a similar age and, I believe, his longevity is down to the fact that he's always laughing and, of course, doing something he enjoys doing – playing the guitar. Similarly Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood. There's a lust for life and that, perhaps, is the chief ingredient. That and laughter.
|Laughter and a lust for life keeps the Rolling Stones rolling...|
What worries me about the Grim Reaper's relentless rock and roll rampage around this time of the year is that there's still a week to go so who knows who will be next? Ozzy? Iggy? Who? The strange thing is that rock stars – a lot of rock stars at any rate – have their moments of fame and then they disappear and just as you're thinking 'I wonder what old so and so is up to', there's a item on the news announcing their passing. That's why the Rolling Stones are so remarkable, they haven't disappeared from our memories, they're still at the cutting edge, playing ground-breaking gigs in places like Cuba and fathering children with, it has to be said, some good-looking women.
It might also be something to do with being in a band and the camaraderie it creates, although it did nothing to save Bowie or Lemmy – both of whom were still active in the world of rock and roll right up until their untimely deaths; and let's not forget Keith Emerson. It would be wrong not to mention over-indulgence and the fact that Bowie and Lemmy were both known for living the rock and roll lifestyle to the full – although I kind of let Lemmy off as he did reach three score years and 10. Drugs are always lurking in the wings when it comes to rock star deaths; in fact they almost lose credibility if drugs are not involved, although they always are, somewhere along the line, even if it's a case of the rock stars in question 'caning it' for a considerable period of time prior to their demise.
Rick Parfitt was no saint where drink and drugs were concerned and nor was George Michael, but again one keeps coming back to the Rolling Stones – a band with a well-documented history of drug taking – think Brian Jones and, of course, Keith Richards. I doubt very much that the Stones take drugs today (and probably haven't for some time) and yesterday as I watched that documentary on their Latin America tour, I found myself thinking how fit Jagger was, running back and forth across the stage, jumping about and performing with the energy of somebody half his age. There's not an ounce of fat on Jagger, which I'm sure helps.
Towards the end of his life, George Michael became reclusive. Little was heard of him apart from the occasional run-in with 'the authorities' for driving under the influence. I can't remember his last musical creation, but then I was never a great fan. That said, Wham's mega Christmas hit, Last Christmas, is one of a handful of festive favourites that resonate at this time of the year and songs like Careless Whisper will always remind me personally of a great holiday in Sardinia, so I won't say that he had no effect on me whatsoever – he did. And when I think of some of the Wham songs and Michael's solo output, well, he was certainly up there with the greats.