About a year before George Michael released his blockbuster solo debut, Faith, he sat for a revealing interview about his singular path in pop. “I’ve always had a very strange sense of my own future,” said Michael, who was 23 at the time. “And as a child even, I had no idea that I could write or sing, I was convinced that I was going to be a pop singer.”
PBS animated an excerpt from the interview – which was conducted by former Capitol-EMI president Joe Smith, author of a 1989 oral history of pop music titled Off the Record – as part of its Blank on Blank series, which has provided whimsical looks at pop stars, including John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur, among countless others, since 2013. This is the series’ final episode. An archive of all of the interviews is online.
In the interview, Michael discussed his ambitions to expand his repertoire beyond “Careless Whisper” ballads and to make his image more sexual. He also spoke at length about Wham!’s tour to China in 1985. He recalled how authorities forbade concertgoers from dancing, after a DJ had hyped them up for the headlining set, and how it was difficult to get the audience to clap in rhythm with the song.
“The first feeling was of failure,” he said. “There was no way we communicate. And when we actually found out what had gone on [with people being told not to dance] I was just furious. Obviously, I felt responsibility at the time to represent my generation from the west in a good light and pop music in a good light. After that I realized that they had no real intention of allowing people to absorb what we were doing, I just felt really betrayed.”
George Michael died last year, at age 53, on Christmas. Earlier this month, it was revealed that he had died of natural causes: fatty liver and diseases related to the heart. There is no further investigation into his death.