Writing this post could have felt awkward. I have been very lucky: I’ve never had to face the premature loss of a loved one, and having never been tested by grief in that way I can’t fully grasp what George Michael was finding in himself to make “Jesus To A Child” after his lover’s death.
On the other hand, this is an exceptionally generous, welcoming record. If the “stages of grief” have any veracity – and as I say, I’m fortunate enough not to really know yet – then surely this is acceptance, or as close to it as the bereaved can ever come. However measured Michael’s performance is, in places it’s heartbreaking. But even as he sings “the lover I still miss” I don’t feel like a voyeur – this is his monument, a work Michael needs his public to hear. Even though few at the time knew the story behind it, the sincerity, and the will to somehow pass on something extraordinary and vanished, is palpable. It’s a heartfelt celebration of the effect love can have on a life, and it’s a songwriter consciously setting himself his hardest possible task, and achieving it.
It also sounds beautiful. “Jesus To A Child” is very long for a Number One, but the slow bossanova rhythms winding through it make it inviting, even beguiling, where more hymnal, stately chart-toppers are suffocating. The synth banks and high flutes could easily have sounded marbled and cold, but the rhythms divert that: this is the sound of something waking, allowing itself to feel again. So when Michael reaches the crux of this remarkable song – “the love we would have made, I’ll make it for two” – I believe him.