RIP George Michael

I george-michael-faithwas in that second wave of young girls who joined George’s fandom when he released Faith (as opposed to the first wave of girls who caught on during the Wham! years). I was an insecure, lonely girl whose family never talked about sex or feelings or anything at all for that matter. His overt sexuality was exciting and intriguing for me as I was still trying to understand what the heck sex actually was. And his deep sadness and longing for belonging resonated with me, though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate that at the time.

George Michael provided the soundtrack and the backdrop for a good 10 years of my life. I was obsessed with owning every piece of music he’d ever released, as I hwham-in-chinaunted down 45″ singles for their B-side instrumental versions, relentlessly called in to obscure radio shows requesting elusive instrumental versions I hadn’t been able to hunt down anywhere, and special ordered t-shirts and the Wham! in China video on VHS that my mother had to drive to a far-away mall to pick up for me. I scoured magazines for even the tiniest mentions of George to see what he was up to and what he looked like “in real life.” In the days before the internet, it took real effort and persistence to be a hardcore fan. It was a labour of love.

My high school lockers were full of George Michael photos, my room was plastered in George posters, my binder was a George Michael binder. I wore a gold cross earring my girlfriends gave me for my birthday one year. When I got punished at home, my mother took away all my George Michael stuff – posters, cassettes, magazines, everything – and hid it, saying I’d have to earn it back one piece at a time. In that moment, I despised her with such rage that I suddenly understood how wars were started. I found where she had stashed everything and secretly made copies of all the tapes and smuggled out posters. Nothing was going to stand between me and my George Michael!

George Michael was my first concert ever, and when I heard that he’d named Elton John and Billy Joel as musical influences, I started listening to them too. He shaped my musical taste for years to come.

Sometime after Listen Without Prejudice, I lost track of George Michael. I had become a mother at age 18, life had gotten busy and he hadn’t released any new music for a while. When he finally did release a new CD, the music seemed really.. old? boring? I was a busy, energetic twenty-something, I couldn’t relate to his style at all anymore. And at some point I heard something about a lewd act. I didn’t really know what had happened but felt vaguely embarrassed as people smugly mocked my former fandom. Every June 25 I had a fleeting remembrance that it was his birthday, but otherwise he gradually faded out of my life.

And now he’s gone and I can’t seem to stop trying to fill ingeorge-and-anselmo the gap of everything I missed about his life over the last twenty years. I didn’t know his father had been so critical of him. I didn’t know he had been so conflicted about his sexuality and that his ‘lewd act’ had ultimately resulted in his coming out. I didn’t know he had fallen in love with a man who heartbreakingly ended up dying just a couple of years later. I didn’t know he’d fallen into deep depression after his mother died. I didn’t know he’d almost died of pneumonia a few years ago.

I didn’t know he was an addict. I imagine he couldn’t have been easy to live with, especially when you add his perfectionism on top of it. I also didn’t know he was such a generous humanitarian, anonymously donating to multiple charities and anonymously volunteering at a homeless shelter.

I’m learning all this about him and appreciating what a complex individual he was, full of struggle and hope and love. His messiness and imperfection are resonating deeply for me.

george-michael-olderI’m taking the time to discover his post-Listen Without Prejudice music and now that I’m older and more mellow, it doesn’t feel boring to me anymore. It’s beautiful in its pain. Life is hard, I feel that in his music. (The first time I heard his version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” a couple of days ago – posted below – it literally brought me to tears.) Maybe there is a reason for his music coming into my life again at this point,  maybe I wouldn’t have been ready for it sooner.

I feel a sense of loss and sadness that I wasn’t there for the whole ride, but I’m so incredibly grateful for everything George Michael has been and is going to be for me in my life. Despite his flaws and vices, he did good in the world and brought love to those around him, and I feel a weird sort of pride to have been his fan. The world – my world – doesn’t feel the same without him.

Rest in peace, George.

Quest for Running Songs: “Delilah”

After a long hiatus, I’m finally getting back up and running – literally! – and am excited to introduce some of my new musical discoveries to fellow runners out there. Today’s selection Delilah comes from Florence + the Machine’s new album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. 

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge that I have never been a fan of this band. When everyone else was going crazy for Dog Days Are Over, I didn’t get what the fuss was about; it just wasn’t my thing. But when I heard Delilah for the first time earlier this year, I was blown away. Within the first few seconds, this song pulled me in with its dark desperate drama, starting with a foreboding undertone that made me want to stick around to find out where it was heading. Hints of anger and frustration pepper the song as it slowly builds with an urgent energy to the driving chorus with the recurring line “It’s a different kind of danger”. Everything about this chorus – the lyrics, the duelling vocal layers, the driving rhythm – combines brilliantly to tap into my primal fight or flight instinct and gets my feet moving as if my own life depended on it.

Not only is this a great song for your next run, it’s really a great song all around. Just one tip: listen to it loud. 🙂


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Quest for Running Songs: “Planetary (GO!)”

I’m usually late to the party as far as music goes (and fashion, and slang, and well pretty much everything really). Today’s post is a prime example. As much as I had originally planned to keep these Quest posts to current music released within the last year, I have recently discovered My Chemical Romance, a band that was around for 12 years and broke up 2 years ago. But hey, if I missed them then maybe someone else did too, right?

Although their song Teenagers totally perked up a long run last week, this song “Planetary (GO!)” from 2010 is my go-to song from these guys right now. It is so high energy, I challenge you to try to sit still through it – you won’t be able to! Big sound and driving rhythm back these infectious lyrics:

If my velocity starts to make you sweat,
Then just don’t let go
And if their Heaven ain’t got a vacancy
Then we just, then we just, then we just
Then we just get up and go!

Ladies and gentlemen:
Truth is now acceptable
Fame is now injectable
Process the progress
This core is critical
Faith is unavailable
Lives become incredible
Now, please understand that,

I can’t slow down
I won’t be waiting for you
I can’t stop now
Because I’m dancing
This planet’s ours to defend
Ain’t got no time to pretend
Don’t fuck around,
This is our last chance

So what are you waiting for? Click play and just, just get up and go! (And since you’ll probably want to sing along, you can check out the rest of the lyrics here. :))


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Quest for Running Songs: “Not Today”

Yesterday I was on a really hot, humid, sweaty run just grinding out the miles when one of my favourite new songs came on: “Not Today” from the newly released Blurryface album by Twenty One Pilots. To me, this song is a celebration of defeating that voice in our heads that tells us we can’t do something, we can’t accomplish what we want to accomplish. I don’t know about you but that voice talks to me a lot when I’m running, telling me I should just stop because I’m too tired, too hot, not strong enough, etc. But when this song came on mid-run yesterday, it crushed that self-defeating voice with its chorus:

Heard you say “not today”
Tore the curtains down, windows open now make a sound
Heard your voice, there’s no choice
Tore the curtains down, windows open now make a noise

I got a huge grin on my face, picked up my pace and may have even air drummed a bit – apparently I had energy to spare! There’s something about the trumpet in the background, the never-give-up message and the build up to sheer joy at the end that makes me burst with energy.This song makes my heart so happy, I already can’t wait to run to it again. Give it a listen!


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Quest for Running Songs, Week 4: “Savages”

One of the things I love most about running is that it affords me the luxury to let my mind wander and to ponder any thought that flits by while my feet are moving.

I chose this week’s song because not only do I love the chorus, but some of the questions it poses got me thinking and totally distracted me from the last big hill I encountered towards the end of my run yesterday. For example:

All the hate coming out from a generation
Who got everything and nothing guided by temptation
Were we born to abuse, shoot a gun and run
Or has something deep inside of us come undone?
Is it a human trait, or is it learned behavior
Are you killing for yourself, or killing for your savior?

I’m already inclined to delve into nature versus nurture arguments and to try to make sense of why people do bad things, so this song is right up my alley. If it’s not quite your thing, try “Froot” by the same band – it’s a catchy song with much lighter lyrics.


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Quest for Running Songs, Week 3: “Stand By Your Gun”

This song was a pleasant little surprise this week! I have absolutely no idea what this song is about – I haven’t picked up on the lyrics and haven’t bothered to look them up – but the vibe is so utterly pleasant that it instantly puts me into a good mood when I hear it. It’s the kind of song I imagine would play in a movie when someone steps out of their house, smiling up at the sun shining while chirping birds flit all around, and marvels at how the day just feels unbreakably perfect.

It’s not a song that’s going to help you PR, but it has the potential to make part of a mile just a lovely, feel-no-pain experience. Enjoy!


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My Secret Life as a 15 Year Old

Do you ever feel like you have a secret life? Maybe it’s a side of you your coworkers would never expect, or a secret hobby your best friend knows nothing about, or a way of thinking your family would never identify as being yours. Regardless of what it is, it’s something you keep secret because somehow it just feels safer than putting it out there for the judgement of others.

This morning, I realized one of my secret selves is a 15 year old girl. When I woke up today, I saw a post that my favourite band had finally – finally! – released a new song and video, and the new album is finally – finally! – being released in May, and they’re going on tour in the Fall! My heart immediately started racing and I wasted not a second as I pressed play on the video link. Then I watched it again on the official band website, and then again on YouTube where I read the comments and started to notice some of the subtleties in the video.

At this point I should have been doing grown up things like my morning yoga, making a healthy breakfast and showering, but instead I checked Twitter to see what everyone was saying about the song, posted my own excitement about the release, checked the singer’s Twitter feed, then the drummer’s, and then the official Twitter feed for the band.

I eagerly soaked up everyone’s perspectives and, after watching the video five more times, I finally came to my own understanding of the lyrics and the excitement and anticipation for the new album began to explode inside me. I haven’t felt this excited about (perhaps even addicted to) a band in at least twenty one years. It’s a fun and weird place to be as a 40 year old woman.

Yesterday at work we had talked about age and life stages, and this experience has reminded me just how much my life stages are out of order. I had a baby when I was a teenager, so I lived two decades of serious adulthood and responsibility at a time when my friends were partying and exploring and self-discovering. Now, when society dictates I should be responsible and mature, I feel like I’m going back to finish that interrupted experience of adolescence.

Officially, to outsider eyes, I’m too old to be feeling this way and behaving this way. But really can you give me any good reason why? We’re all looking for something to relate to in life and, with all the crazy censorship and stigma around certain topics, if music is saying something I can connect to then of course I’m going to gravitate towards it. The messages in these songs have so much more authenticity and meaning than 90% of the conversations I engage in with the people around me on a day to day basis. Something about adulthood makes us feel like we need to be “fine” and “have it all together” or “fake it til we make it” – we stop having honest interactions; we learn to suppress and endure.

At some point I’d like to work up the courage to foster absolute authenticity in my real adult life, but I’m still figuring things out and not quite ready to fuse the fragments of my self into one coherent, public identity. I can’t help but wonder, though, how many of us actually have that soundly formed identity and how many of us are living secret lives just pretending we’ve got it all figured out. I wonder if anyone else I know has a secret teenager inside that comes out when they’re alone.

I wish I knew, I wish we talked about that, because I think it would be pretty cool for our teenagers to hang out sometime.