A few weeks ago, a snippet from a George Michael interview in 2003 started to do the rounds on Twitter. In it, BBC News’ Tim Sebastian tries to catch Michael out, and make him look foolish or uninformed. That’s mostly down to the fact that they’re not talking about music, or Michael’s sex life, or HIV/AIDS, as so many of the crass and prodding interviews with Michael tended to. Nah – Michael is sharing his views on Blair, the so-called war on terror and the ripple effects of 9/11 as felt in the UK.
Sebastian opens the interview with “Why Iraq? 'Cos it's fashionable?” to which Michael replies “Oh God, no. I have absolutely no desire to be here today. I've got absolutely - I'm really reluctant to be here,” before Sebastian tries to bait Michael into admitting he’s doing the interview for publicity’s sake. In the clip that trickled down my feed, you’re dropped into a moment where Michael’s talking about the failures of New Labour and Labour centrism.
“I’ve been very distressed by Mr Blair's behaviour for several years, in terms of the way I think he's removed the idealism from politics; by taking a left – a supposedly left-of-centre party and calling it Labour, or New Labour, and then basically saying, 'we have to be pragmatic.'” Later, he’s interrupted by Sebastian, but sticks to his point: bin this Prime Minister, who’s let me down. I bring this up now because, like so much else that we’ve learned since Michael’s death in 2006, he lived a life often widely misunderstood by the public, or obscured from our limited understanding of him entirely. From his political views to his quiet philanthropy, it's felt – especially for younger fans – as though more and more of Michael's complex and inspiring character has come to light since he died.
This week's news, of a massive lot of his private art collection going up for auction online and in London by Christie's, adds to that narrative. The Christie's George Michael collection goes up for its main auction on Thursday 14 March, with some pieces available online from this afternoon. And, according to the press release, proceeds will go toward continuing Michael's philanthropic work. Usually, these sorts of auctions tell a similar story: the family of the relevant person, or the person themselves, sell a bunch of things to boost their cash reserves.
So it's totally befitting of Michael's legacy, as an almost ridiculously generous person, that at least some of this money is due to benefit charities or causes that need it most. If you were also a child at the peak of Michael's fame, or grew up once he'd come over the crest of that wave, otherwise everyday stories like this one – 'famous person's estate sells famous person's things' – take on extra meaning. Between the stigma he faced as a gay man and the relentless tabloid focus on his sex life, stories about his interest in the Young British Artists movement would've been easily buried. You don't need to rummage around in your wallet in order to appreciate learning about this intensely private side to this once very public man. It's one hell of a legacy to leave.
The George Michael Collection auction runs in London at Christie's at 7PM next Thursday. An online auction opens on Friday 8 March, and you can find out more on that here.
You can find Tshepo on Twitter.