The “George Michael’ “Last Christmas special set to air on Channel 5 on UK television Friday December 25, 2020. Jody Watley was interviewed for the broadcast and reflects on his legacy, favorite songs, their duet (1 of the 3 he did in his career), Band Aid and more.
The first time I performed the tribute to George Michael was 2016 not long after he’d passed away..it’s still hard to fathom. Since then I’ve included it in my concert a few times including Unplugged this summer in Hawaii where I was able to share more of the back story and add a few more music bits as well.
Gone physically – never forgotten.
A bit of my Tribute to George Michael from my first Jody Watley: Unplugged concert experience (accompanied by Roland Hamilton on piano and Naz Chambi on guitar.. Before I went into the song, I talked about why I selected this song from his catalog, how we met (Band Aid ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas), our duet on my solo debut and more. I really enjoyed this experience and thinking about what venue we should pitch it to for the next one.
The Historic Band Aid Single “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”
#OnThisDay London, 1984 – in one incredible day, I was fortunate to be asked to be a part of this charity single along with the best of the best of British pop and rock at the time. We recorded this single for Band Aid. Four days later it was released in the UK and it has been played at this time of year ever since and one of the biggest singles of all time in the U.K. and mega seller worldwide. It’s an experience none of us involved will ever forget and a song that made a huge difference.
” I don’t need the Approval from those that don’t approve of me” –
When trying to get a solo deal in the U.S. after leaving the group Shalamar in 1983 each meeting I went in with a plan, who I wanted to collaborate with, demo’s, what my vision was .. no ones ingenue.
I told them George Michael was on board to do a duet with me..certain execs scoffed – didn’t believe it, pop superstar of Wham already agrees to do a song with you and you’re unsigned – ok yeah right was the tone. I’d asked George at Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas” if I ever got a solo deal would he do a duet with me because that day he told me how much he loved my voice – I gushed how big of a fan I was of Wham – and loved his voice too- we kept in touch speaking on the phone often – George said yes and kept his word when it happened which said a lot about him,he’d become an even bigger superstar but was still down with what he’d agreed to several years before.
The song “Learn To Say No” was produced by Bernard Edwards (Chic, Power Station) – this photo is from that session considered one of his great collaborations, it was fun, I’m honored to be amongst his work. It was a single because his lable said no.. industry politics — spent most of Christmas day offline present w family enjoying the day…deeply sad and shocked to see news about George Michael – another great one gone too soon- couldn’t /can’t believe it – reading it is surreal. I’m deeply saddened and really just like -wow 2016 not another one — nice man, gifted singer, songwriter, producer – as well he stepped out against the changing climate in major label culture when CBS became Sony and he felt under supported by the new regime. As an artist also seeing the changing infrastructure of labels (my label MCA became Universal Music Group) – George was on the front lines. Losing the case – he had to pay a whopping 40 million dollars to get his release. That’s a lot to recover from while wanting to push an artistic vision while fighting for respect, and trying to overcome the ‘ole boys network’ that runs this industry. For more on that read: here
..glad to have known and worked with him. I too remained a massive fan and was looking forward to whatever he created next and his triumph of personal and health woes. Prayers to his family, friends and fans who all loved him so much. His stellar music will live on. The media as it does, often exploited his tribulations in recent years with less attention on the great artist, songwriter, producer he was. I believe he wrote the classic ‘Careless Whisper’ at 17..17. When Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was released – one of my favorites..no sexy photo, wanting to remove himself from videos and the expectations of the past..it resonated with me then and now. His boldness is undervalued. Artistry.
Life is precious – cherish each day and those you love. Don’t waste it on how others think you should live it, each of us has our own journey, fulfill your dreams, make new memories, laugh, love, spread kindness and joy – it’s not the years of life but life in the years. Love to all.
George Michael Greatest Collaborations:
It began with a phone call. I’d been living on London with my best friend Jermaine Stewart after leaving my post as the original female lead vocalist of Shalamar on the 4th of July in 1983. The phone call came from Mariella Frostup, who at the time was the publicist for Phonogram Records. I’m told this was at the behest of organizer Sir Bob Geldof who was assembling some of the greatest pop and rock artists of the time and Shalamar had been blazing hot in the UK in this era. The only other American act included were members of Kool and the Gang with lead vocalist J.T. Taylor who were touring the UK at the time with a string of hits as well.
As a side note, Phonogram was very keen to sign me as a solo artist at the time at the helm of executive Chris Briggs – I feel so blessed to have been a part of this historic musical charity event helping to raise millions of dollars which also subsequently inspired USA For Africa.
This Official Band Aid Magazine with it’s 40 pages was sold in local newsstands and convenience stores selling-out quickly for 1.25 p. Imagine if we’d all had smartphones, iPhones, etc. with cameras and video back then to capture the recording and the total camaraderie and slight chaos that went on that day. At the time I thought Bananarama blowing cigarette smoke my way were unfriendly but we had a good laugh about it recently at Giorgio’s dancing the night away. The Mr. Marilyn keep the atmosphere light with his quick wit and exchanges with Boy George and everyone.
As I’ve said in interviews, it was at this recording that I asked George Michael, if I signed a deal would he duet with me – and he kept his word on my solo debut in 1987. There was some friendly flirting directed my way from John Taylor of Duran Duran and Paul Young as well. This was another blessed and memorable experience I was fortunate to be a part of.
One of the producers of my forthcoming “Nightlife” Julien Aletti (Count De Money) single (coming August 2013), came up with this fun mash-up (two or three songs mixed together) includes George Michael’s “Fast Love” and a splash of Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” just for fun. Included in the backing vocals for “Nightlife” is Gerald Brown original lead singer of Shalamar – “it’s in the music!” Sashay, twirl, workout, share!
One of the most monumental and memorable musical moments I’ve been blessed to be a part of was Band Aid – which just happens to have made musical history and influenced other such charitable recordings.
“Do They Know It’s Christmas” – Band Aid; was released on November 29, 1984, and went straight to No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart, outselling all the other records in the chart put together. It became the fastest- selling single of all time in the UK, selling a million copies in the first week alone. It stayed at No. 1 for five weeks, selling over three million copies and becoming easily the biggest-selling single of all time in the UK. In October 1984, a BBC repprt was aired in the UK highlighting the famine that had hit the people of Ethiopia. Irish singer Bob Geldof saw the report and wanted to raise money and wrote the song with Midge Ure and featured some of the biggest music stars of Great Britain and Ireland including Duran Duran, George Michael, Sting, Bono of U2, Boy George, Phil Collins and more.