If you can remember as far back as October 1998, you'll no doubt remember the moment when a simple pop music video was invaded by the glorious sight of glittery urinals, 70s porn parody and the finest handlebar moustache this side of the Village People.

The artist was George Michael, the song was 'Outside' and the message was clear - after years of keeping it hidden from the public, this time his sexuality was firmly at the forefront of his act.

Michael's refusal to compromise was already the stuff of legend - he famously shunned the more commercially successful pop sound of his solo debut Faith for the darker tones of Listen Without Prejudice (which he refused to promote) and his masterpiece Older.

However, his sexuality remained shrouded in mystery throughout his time as a bona fide pop idol in 1980s duo Wham!, despite persistent rumours that he was in fact gay. It wasn't until April 1998 and his arrest for 'engaging in a lewd act' in a public toilet in Beverley Hills that he came out, later admitting that hiding his sexuality had made him feel 'fraudulent'.

Four months later, the video for comeback single 'Outside' parodied the incident, and a defiant George Michael cemented his position as one of the most prominent pop stars of his day.

This DGAF attitude may have made him a few corporate enemies but Michael, admirably, refused to dance to the beat of someone else's drum machine.

Tales of his generous and charitable nature appeared everywhere in the wake of his death, but there was always the same key point to the story: Michael asked that his good deeds went unreported he remained unconcerned about any press attention, positive or otherwise.

Sean Smith, author of George: A Memory Of George Michael, explains that "he never forgot receiving stick for singing Wham! songs at a Miners Benefit in the 1980s and he was concerned that some of the performers from Band Aid and Live Aid were just cashing in on the charity du jour.

"So it was as Georgios Panayiotou, his real name, that he quietly and discretely gave away millions."

George Michael died on Christmas Day 2016, and even at the tail-end of a year that saw too many musical icons leaving us early, there was something about the passing of the smooth-voiced megastar that struck a chord in the British psyche. Michael's tongue-in-cheek attitude and nonchalant approach to the press endeared him not just to his legions of fans but the public at large.

His final television performance was during the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. He performed one of his biggest hits, 'Freedom', and a brand new song nobody had ever heard, 'White Light'.

It may have confused some corners of the TV viewers but, for fans and admirers everywhere, it was exactly the kind of singular move that we had come to admire, as Smith explains.

"He was criticised for not singing a crowd pleaser like 'Careless Whisper'," says the author, "but he wanted to share with the world something far more personal - his near-death experience (the 'white light') when he almost died from pneumonia in Vienna in November 2011.

"The lyric is about a man at the crossroads of life and death, keeping breathing while a God decides if this is his day.

"In the end he declares joyfully that he wants to live - 'I'm alive', he sings. Sadly he left us five years later and we are the poorer for his passing."

The message, as always, was clear - George Michael was going to do whatever he wanted.

Words: James Wilson-Taylor

Featured Image Credit: PA

arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up camera clock close comment cursor email facebook-messenger facebook Instagram link new-window phone play share snapchat submit twitter vine whatsapp logoInline safari-pinned-tab Created by potrace 1.11, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2013