George Michael's Faith Revisited: "I Want Your Sex" | "Faith" | "One More Try" | "Monkey" | "Kissing a Fool"
According to the singer, George’s own father, Kyriacos Panayiotou, a hard-working Greek emigrant restaurateur, was absent and largely adversarial: He dismissed his son’s musical ambitions so thoroughly that George insisted on proving his father wrong. If he didn’t become a superstar, George believed he’d never earn his father’s love. He desired masculine approval so much that he thought his own sexuality was seeded in it.
When he started Wham! with his hetero pal Andrew Ridgeley, George believed he was bisexual. He was genuinely, physically attracted to women. But once he left his teens and his own carnal knowledge grew, George realized he was emotionally bonded to men. That was so clear in early Wham! videos that one could be forgiven for believing George and Andrew were lovers -- George’s erotic interest in females and yearning for kinship with males sent out mixed messages that attracted a particular kind of woman who didn’t always click with traditional straight guys.
Among them was Princess Diana. “She was very like a lot of women that have been attracted to me in my life because they see something non-threatening,” George admitted in a 2009 interview. “I think we clicked in a way that was a little bit intangible, and it probably had probably more to do with our up bringing than anything else. Maybe because I take care of my sisters and I’m so protective of my sisters, women seem to smell that. So women who had a hard time growing up... when I was still sleeping with women, my God, it was absolutely all of the time.”
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These are the threads woven into “Father Figure.” On the surface, it’s a traditional love ballad, the particularly passionate kind George mastered when he wrote “Careless Whisper” with Ridgeley when they were both 17. This one is far more churchy. Like his idol and contemporary Prince, George searched for something “sacred” in sexuality; a healing balm that will protect both him and his beloved. He aims to provide it, both with his reassuring words and steadfast delivery – whispery and intimate during the verses, commanding and declamatory during the chorus.
Both approaches are necessary, for George knows all too well the complications of loving a guy like him. “Sometimes I think you’ll never understand me,” he admits way up front. That’s the first clue there’s something unusual happening here. Illegality is also on his mind, as he mentions it twice: “I have had enough of crime,” he promises, while admitting, soon after, “Sometimes love can be mistaken for a crime.” Both renouncing what’s verboten and suggesting it’s a question of perception, George delivers the song’s strangest, most brazen taboo with the simplest, most unsettling command: “Put your tiny hand in mine.”
Jailbait love is no stranger to rock ‘n’ roll: It’s explicit in classics like “You’re Sixteen,” a hit both in 1960 when its original singer, Johnny Burnette, was 26, and again in 1973, when Ringo Starr revived it at age 33. At 24, George was young for a father figure, and perhaps not an obvious candidate: Although his stubbly, swarthy, and hirsute appearance made him more masculine and mature than his androgynous (and often childlike) ‘80s pop peers, his plucked eyebrows, eyeliner, and jewelry made him a likely model for “the little f----t with the earring and the makeup” referenced in Dire Straits’ 1985 chart-topper “Money for Nothing.” So it was rather subversive for a pretty boy, who only three years earlier had pranced around in short shorts and florescent yellow gloves for Wham’s omnipresent “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” video, to be suddenly playing Pops.