While George Michael leaned more toward classic R&B and soul during the peak years of his career, he — like many of the better singer/songwriters — both enjoyed and absorbed a wide variety of music, which in turn influenced his own songwriting and performances. He “paid back” these influences to a degree on his 1999 covers collection Songs from the Last Century (a failure in the U.S., but a success to varying degrees throughout Europe), which pretty much covered the entire 20th century (ranging from 1928’s “My Baby Just Cares for Me” to 1995’s “Miss Sarajevo”). Even in this abbreviated selection, we have tracks by Don McLean and Was (Not Was) rubbing up against Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers.
But I’m going to start off this list with what I think is the best of the bunch, George Michael’s transcendent cover of Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go,” from Michael’s highly underrated 1990 Faith follow-up, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1.
George Michael – They Won’t Go When I Go (Stevie Wonder)
George Michael – The Grave (Don McLean)
George Michael – Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (Bing Crosby / Rudy Vallee)
Wham! – Where Did Your Heart Go (Was (Not Was))
George Michael – I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)
George Michael (w/Queen) – Somebody to Love (Queen)
Wham! – If You Were There (Isley Brothers)
George Michael – Roxanne (The Police)
George Michael – Secret Love (Doris Day)
One thing that’s tragically missing from this post is a significant flip side to this cover coin, and that is anything from what has become Michael’s own version of Smile, or maybe his Chinese Democracy: the many-times-planned-but-never-released Trojan Souls. It was an album designed to complete his early ’90s transition from performer to full-time writer and producer: a set of songs specifically written and produced by Michael for various other singers, such as Aretha, Elton, and Stevie Wonder. The completed masters were kept by Sony after Michael lost his lawsuit against them in 1994, and even he later returned to Sony, and again went through a period a few years ago where he said he was retiring from performing and returning to Trojan Souls, nothing has come of it.
Personal note: of the songs I’ve written over the years, I label the dozen or so best as an “album” — meaning the ones I’d record and release if I ever got the chance. The name of that “album”?: Trojan Souls (to be followed by my second album, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 2. Seriously).
But since neither Trojan Souls, or….Trojan Souls is available, here’s a perfectly adequate cover of “Faith”:
The Boy Least Likely To – Faith
And if that wasn’t enough, instead of that, here’s a very…um….interesting take on Wham’s “Last Christmas”:
Erlund Ã˜ye – Last Christmas
See you again in a few hours, with some new grooves for your Saturday night.