Her disenchantment with fame turned into depression over the next few years. In June 1994, just over a year after Feleppa’s death, Michael lost the Sony case. In 1997, her beloved mother, Lesley, died of cancer. And in 1998 he was arrested in a Beverly Hills park for committing a “lewd act” with an undercover police officer, which was when he came out as gay and said, “I don’t feel no shame.”
Amid these troubles, he released a 1996 album, “Older,” which included the top 10 hits “Jesus to a Child,” written as a tribute to Feleppa, and “Fastlove.” (Michael called “Older” “my greatest moment,” and an expanded edition will be reissued July 8.) But he’s only made one album of more original songs in the 20 years since his death.
“Freedom Uncut” invigorates Michael for younger generations who didn’t experience ’80s Pop Star Wars. He loved and imitated black music, which created controversy at the time – George Benson’s eyes have almost turned around in his head when he announced Michael’s victory at the American Music Awards in 1989 in the category of favorite soul/R&B album. But time often breeds empathy, and the singer is now seen as an ally. “Michael’s journey as a gay white man from working class London who loved black music and black culture gave him an intersectional legacy that few artists (except Prince) will ever achieve,” Jason Johnson wrote. in The Root, a website that focuses on Africa. American problems, two days after the death of the singer.
The fact that Michael was able to write, arrange and produce at such a high level puts him in “the rarefied air of Sly Stone, Prince or Shuggie Otis”, added Mark Ronson during a telephone interview. “It’s crazy, because he made amazing R&B music, but he didn’t go to America to record it” with black musicians, he noted. “There wasn’t the insecurity of being a white soul boy from England.”
Ronson also hears melancholic or even gloomy qualities in Michael’s music: “Many of our favorite artists sound catchy and bouncy, but when you peel back a layer or two you see someone dealing with serious inner demons.”