How Beyoncé, Future, Whitney, Nas and more found inspiration in George Michael
Through covers, samples, and collaborations, this was his influence.
Music took a major loss when it was announced on Christmas Day that singer-songwriter and influential icon George Michael had died. If one needed any indication of his reach, they could look to the range of fellow entertainers who took to social media to mourn the fallen star, many of them legends and musical virtuosos themselves: from Paul McCartney and Elton John, to Madonna and Mariah, to Sam Smith, Mark Ronson, and Questlove. And if one needed further proof of Michael’s fandom, they could look to the ones who sought him out to collaborate with and chose his distinct classics to sample and cover.
“Careless Whisper” was covered by Tamia on her self-titled debut album, was sampled by Nas, AZ, and Nature for their own track “Time,” and its melody was borrowed by Future for the chorus of “Rock Star,” his collaboration with Nicki Minaj.
“Father Figure” was largely sampled by LL Cool J for his own “Father” and, as Mark Ronson remembered in his Instagram tribute, its “keyboard lick…comprised the bones for the Jungle Bros.’ classic, underground club destroyer ‘J Beez Comin’ Through.’”
(Ronson also recalled: “As a DJ in hip-hop clubs in New York City in the late 90’s, George/Wham’s ‘Everything She Wants’ was one of maybe three or four tunes by white artists that you could follow Michael Jackson, Frankie Beverly, or Roy Ayers with.”)
“Faith,” the title track from his Grammy-winning Album of the Year (1989), was interpolated by Estelle for “No Substitute Love.”
During a 2009 show at London’s O2 arena, Beyoncé brought Michael out as a surprise guest for a duet performance of “If I Were a Boy.” And, once the shrieking screams subside, both the harmonization and mutual adoration take center stage. [1:45 mark].
Despite “If I Told You That” appearing as a solo cut on Whitney Houston‘s 1998 multi-platinum album My Love Is Your Love, she recruited Michael for a reworking of the track that would then go on to be released as the first UK single and the second US single from her Whitney: The Greatest Hits compilation.
Mary J. Blige and Michael joined forces for a cover of Stevie Wonder‘s classic Songs in the Key of Life cut “As”; it appeared on his Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael LP.
“I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” Michael’s collaboration with Aretha Franklin, not only nabbed them the 1987 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance (Duo or Group), but reached the top of both the U.S.’s Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart (making it Franklin’s first and only UK number-one hit).
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