Belfast Telegraph

George Michael was a star of rare generosity

Editor's Viewpoint

In the modern world of celebrity George Michael will forever be defined as a pop superstar. It is an easy and often misused description, but in Michael's case it is a deserving one. He wrote and performed classic pop songs and his music had a longevity that set him apart from most of the genre.

But there was more to him than just a composer and performer, and that is what really made him a star. Stardom inevitably includes talent. That is a given. But it is also about the person behind the public persona.

Michael came along at a time when pop musicians became as well-known for their videos as for their songs and this ability to see them in performance mode made them somehow seem more accessible to their fans.

And, of course, his lifestyle - the drink, depression and drugs, along with the initial questions over his sexuality - made him a godsend to the gossip columns.

All these facets of his life, from pop star to personal issues, were publicised widely, often in lurid hyperbole, but even that was not a complete picture of the man.

For, as we have learned after his untimely death, he was a man of astonishing generosity, most notably to ChildLine, and very often his donations or gifts were anonymous. He was not the type of person, as some similarly wealthy people are, to seek adulation for his charity work.

It is easy to say that he earned a fortune from his music and could well afford to help others less fortunate. That is true, but his charitable work was much more than a rich man giving pennies to paupers. It was an expression of his true desire to help others. He was moved by the plight of others - as his early music had reflected social issues of the day, such as the miners' strike - and genuinely wanted to help them.

In a way that reflected his own ceaseless battle against his personal demons. Those of us untouched by genius or fame cannot begin to imagine what it is like to live your life in the public eye, where everyone presumes they know the real you, but often are just privy to your public indiscretions. Stardom may have rewards, but it's no bed of roses.

While Michael's fans will grieve over the next few weeks, we should also remember all those other people grieving at this time for the loss of a loved one, one who was a star in their own personal firmament even if unknown to the rest of us, and whose death has left a void that will never be filled.

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