When I was in high school, instead of collecting signatures in my yearbooks, I’d write down lyrics from songs significant to me that year. It was my way of marking the moment, and remembering where and who I was just then. Several years ago, I started making mixes to mark my birthdays and sharing these mixes with my friends. So it’s my 46th birthday and I’m sharing the present with you. It’s a piñata. Beat it until candy comes out.


Ages ago, when I was in high school, instead of collecting signatures in my yearbooks, I would write song lyrics from songs significant to me from that year. As a way of marking the moment and to remember where and who I was just then. Several years ago, I started making mixes to mark my birthdays and sharing these mixes with my friends. So it’s my 45th birthday and I’m sharing the present with you. I hope you enjoy.

mrmoth: call on your stars

A song to celebrate a love that survives time and distance and changing circumstances. If the love you feel is genuine, it never leaves you.

Bidding goodbye to George Michael and 2016

George MichaelGeorge Michael was a man gifted with multiple blessings: Most notably, he possessed a beautiful, vulnerable voice that could go low and lusty, fierce and funky and then on a moment, soar into the elegant and emotional before settling into the elegiac. His voice was just as versatile authorially as his songwriting craft was refined over years studying pop, rhythm and blues, soul, hip-hop and jazz. Most of his recorded works wouldn’t be complete without visiting each style in some way and it wasn’t just restlessness: he had a dizzying acumen for arrangement in any style that suited him and most did.

Of course, his most obvious gift was that he was physically a very beautiful man, and that gift was a source of trouble for him over the years it seems. His reckoning with his image in the post-Faith era led him to abandon using his face for promotion altogether on his second album, the masterpiece, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. I. His personal life, while sometimes quite visibly exploited in the press, was a personal one and no one outside of his inner circle likely knows the truth of how he spent his years. At the very least, with the exception of a couple of well-documented relationships, outwardly, and perhaps unfairly, it looked rather chaotic at times.

But this isn’t a music blog, nor a celebrity gossip blog and it shouldn’t be an obituary blog (though 2016 has threatened to turn it into one). This blog is about me and you may well wonder why it is that I am remembering a pop artist like George Michael on this page. Fair question. I’ve not exactly cultivated an image that would belie an appreciation for gay pop singers. Admittedly, it is a little out of keeping with my normal output.

In the hours after Michael’s death was publicized, Twitter switched into its odd, global-funeral-mode and George Michael fans spilled out of the woodwork. I follow former Thelonious Monster and Porno for Pyros bassist, Martyn LeNoble there and he noted, “I love that John Frusciante, @marklanegan @justinmj @justinwarfield and many of my friends share a love for @GeorgeMichael’s music. R.I.P.” These are people who have made aggressive, dark, albeit often beautiful music all speaking to their appreciation of the man’s legacy. So certainly, it cannot be so strange that I appreciated him too? In my own personal CD library a row or two of George Michael CDs sit just in front of Ministry. Those two acts sitting alongside each other there has always made me chuckle. There’s a dichotomous balance in that. I suspect they’d have more in common than most would guess.

I observed in my David Bowie remembrance earlier this year that certain artists served as surrogate fathers of sorts for me. Michael, who actually penned “Father Figure” was not one of these. Much closer to me in age than Bowie, I always rather thought of him as an older brother to my status as an only child. What was special and important about him to me was the way in which he wore his emotional vulnerability and frank sexuality on his sleeve. As a young adolescent, he was essential to traversing the terrain of heartache and lust that goes with those years. Each generation has one of these guys. My parents’ generation had Orbison. I think the so-called millennials have great women who serve that purpose, without any special regard to gender.

To be an artist is to take the most personal of life experience, look at it in different lights and elevate it in an ambiguous way so that many may approach it and find something in it to relate to. Michael was fearless in this. Notably, when he was exposed as gay through his infamous, Los Angeles bathroom arrest, he made a hilarious disco song and video out of it, putting equality for gay people in front of the revelation. He wasn’t seemingly afraid, or maybe he was, but he saw his truth through the doubts regardless.

Over the years, as I have in my small way, tried to champion gay causes, I have sometimes ironically observed that it’s one of my life’s great ironies that I didn’t actually end up gay myself. Certainly, I was accused of being gay frequently when I was young. I was a creative kid who in his small Kansas town, abandoned his football team before the last game of the season for the lead role in the school play. I listened to strange music made by people with wildly creative fashion sense, who sometimes wore make-up and flirted with sexual taboos and indeed, I sometimes mirrored these influences as much as I could get away with.

One of my most visceral memories of my teen years was taking six direct punches to the jaw from the town’s toughest dude, all for the unforgivable sin of wearing a white, naval waistcoat with gold buttons to a nightclub – hey… it was the 80’s. He later let it slip to others that he respected that I just took the shots, without crying or running… Great(?). I wasn’t normally one to not fight back, but the rumor in town was that he had actually stabbed someone and I had presence of mind to not try and make our uneven footing worse. Also, I worried that fighting might end up hurting the jacket.

I’ve always found it easy to be an ally to my gay friends because I never saw a difference between us (apart from the most obvious one). As far as the small-minded people in my town were concerned, I was gay enough. Perhaps, in a less direct way, it was because the people I had selected as family and friends were the ones I identified with and I wanted them to be protected. Certainly in a way I was not, being publicly attacked without cause.

To George Michael, I have a debt. Songs like “A Different Corner” and “Cowboys and Angels” saw me through some of the worst heartbreak a vulnerable young boy can experience. “Jesus to a Child,” and his masterful interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go” have been extremely important songs for me in my adult years. When you’re at the bottom of that ravine, any lifeline thrown to you from someone who’s traversed it and survived it is a blessing. Those are only a handful of songs among a rich catalog of original compositions and nearly definitive interpretations.

I was a lifetime fan and his infrequent, sporadic releases over the latter years were like letters from long lost friend you were once close to but whose path had taken them far afield. I worried for him when his health was threatened on his final world tour. One heard rumors one didn’t want to believe, and even now, I’m not even sure I want to know how his life slipped his grasp. I don’t suppose I will get a choice.

Having lost so many important musicians this year, it becomes apparent how important it is that we have this music. The flesh may not survive, but the spirit is locked in amber in the music, preserved for as long as they can hold the memories. George Michael has so many for me and his passing is an inconvenient yet inescapable reminder that this is only going to continue, eventually visiting everyone we know, until we are ourselves the subject of such remembrances.

It is the way with 2016 that these reminders have been nearly constant, and indeed this week, we’ve been reeling as a new one follows before we can even process the last. It’s too much at times, but it is the way of the future. If life has meaning, it is beautifully revealed in its loss. Our time is short and if we are lucky, we will touch and be touched by others before we pass on. It is only in embracing the new that the passing of others is endured. Goodbye 2016 and those who left us therein. Hello, 2017. Please bring us wonderful new possibilities to replace all the beautiful memories that 2016 has taken with it.