Aug 13

GEORGE MICHAEL – “Jesus To A Child”

Popular46 comments • 7,302 views

#732, 20th January 1996

Jesus To A ChildWriting 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.



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  1. 31
    Another Pete on 20 Aug 2013 #

    This must be around the time of the famed Chris Eubank “at number 6 Cecilia by Suggs” TOTP episode. I was never too sure if he was in on the joke or not.

  2. 32
    Patrick Mexico on 20 Aug 2013 #

    Yeah I’m with Chelovek on this. Given most of my posts so far have involved cod-nostalgic “Are you a true 90s kid?” frippery (not that there isn’t a market for that), it would be wrong to speculate too much on a song of such sensitive and heartfelt content. I’ll admit it’s a little too long to be truly iconic, but a thing of real dignified panache, and Michael (who both my parents are fond of for slightly different reasons..) after what seemed like centuries (and some messy legal troubles apparently) returns to number 1 in style. 7.

  3. 33
    Elmtree on 25 Aug 2013 #

    I like that this scored higher than ‘the best number one George Michael’s been involved with’ (ADC), which got 8.

  4. 34
    Patrick Mexico on 3 Sep 2013 #


    What? (Discuss. 20 marks. You may not use a calculator.)

  5. 35
    Mark G on 3 Sep 2013 #

    Beg Pudding? Or is that one of those “previous spam message deleted, rendering messg #34 incomprehensible” things?

  6. 36
    Patrick Mexico on 4 Sep 2013 #

    No. Cast. Cast. Cast. John Fashanu. John Fashanu. JOHN Fash-AR-nu.

  7. 37
    DJBobHoskins on 5 Jan 2014 #

    It is a gorgeous song. But too long. I found the DJ edit a few months ago (which they refused to put on the single or any compilation) and its relative brevity does the song more justice. It may sound shallow, but I always thought till then that it was a beautiful song that lessened its impact somewhat by outstaying its welcome.

  8. 38
    Billy Hicks on 5 Jan 2014 #

    I’ve sometimes made my own ‘iPod edits’ of songs in the past to bring them down to a more listener-friendly length if no short radio edit is available – or sometimes if the radio edit cuts out the best parts of the song and I think I can do better.

    Tears for Fears ‘Sowing the Seeds of Love’ is an example of the former, and Leftfield’s ‘Release the Pressure’ the latter, bringing together the best bits of the Leftism album version and the vocal single edit a year later.

  9. 39
    wichitalineman on 6 Jan 2014 #

    Intriguing, Billy. Can we hear them?

  10. 40
    Erithian on 3 Jan 2016 #

    Bit of a jolt up there revisiting this entry and seeing Wichita abbreviate it as “JTAC” now that I associate those initials with the Joint Terrorism Advisory Centre – but anyway…

    Re-reading Tom’s review about facing the premature loss of a loved one, and listening to the song again, I’m reminded of losing my dad at the young age of 57 (which I’m just a few years away from at the moment). Obviously not the same type of relationship George is singing about, but I remember later that year when I was having a tough time (just arrived for my year in Brittany and having various difficulties) I had a dream in which I was with Dad – can’t recall anything happening in the dream but an overwhelming sense of being with him – and the warmth this gave me on waking, and the strength it gave me to carry on, I remember to this day. So I find this song extraordinarily moving for much the same reason – the one who’s gone sustaining you with their love. And in a cold January that warmth, and the beauty of the arrangement, will have sustained and inspired many.

  11. 41
    hectorthebat on 29 Feb 2016 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Theater van het Sentiment, Radio 2 (NL) – Top 40 Songs by Year 1969-2000 (2013) 4
    Musikexpress (Germany) – The 700 Best Songs of All Time (2014) 458
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Spex (Germany) – Singles of the Year 47

  12. 42
    AMZ1981 on 26 Dec 2016 #

    I didn’t rate everything George Michael ever did but when he found his mark (A Different Corner, Praying For Time, Spinning The Wheel) I considered him close to untouchable. Jesus To A Child was his masterpiece and, for me, one of the best records ever to top the charts. It needs a few listens but few songs have ever conveyed such pain tempered with beauty and hope. Few singers have been brave enough to put something so personal in the public domain and it now stands as a memorial in a year that has seen too much loss.

  13. 43
    Ella on 11 Jan 2017 #

    This song is a work of art. I first listened to it when a close friend of mine almost died.

    I said ‘goodbye’ to him several times… So this song felt very raw and still brings back those memories. It resonates intensely.

    I understand what the title means. It’s not about religion per se, but ultimate compassion, acceptance, wisdom and kindness in the context of a ‘goodbye’. I’m guessing that’s how his lover looked at him as he was dying.

    The final change at the end: ‘so the words you could not say – I’ll sing them for you’ is masterful. This song is hugely underrated.

  14. 44
    Bryan Daniels on 9 Apr 2021 #

    Slinky, seductive and sad, but ultimately long-winded. However still on 8/10 from me.

  15. 45
    Gareth Parker on 29 Apr 2021 #

    George Michael weaves a gorgeous tapestry on this sublime mid 90s no.1. An 8/10 from me.

  16. 46
    Mr Tinkertrain on 8 Feb 2022 #

    Been reading this site a lot of late and now I’m actually able to log in, so, even though I’m several years late to the party, I figured I may as well add my comments on the number ones I can actually remember. Since I started paying attention to pop music at some point in 1996 (when I was 10/11), this seems like as good a place to start as any.

    I thought this was tedious as hell when I was a kid (it was on Now 34, as someone mentioned), but it’s grown on me over the years. It’s still too long, and You Have Been Loved off the same album works a little better for me, but I can appreciate the craft. 6 from me.

    Other chart highlights: Cast hit the top 10 with Sandstorm this week; that album (All Change) was one of the first albums I ever got and I saw Cast perform it in full the other week. Sandstorm gets a nostalgic 8.

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