“From a really early age, I believed I was going to be a star,” the late singer told writer Rob Tannenbaum at the time. “I remember being on a bus when I was a child, about 8 or 9. I’d had a bad day at school — I’d been picked on — and I remember thinking it would be OK when I was older, because I wasn’t going to be like everybody else. That’s the reason kids want to be stars. They think they’ll be able to rise above their problems because they’re famous — which obviously isn’t true.”
Despite his later success and fame, Michael, who was found dead at his home in Oxfordshire, England, on Sunday, December 25, at age 53, never felt fully comfortable with his status as a heralded sex symbol, his former manager Rob Kahane told Billboard.
“He never thought he was good-looking,” Kahane said. “When he looked in the mirror, he’d still see a pudgy, homely kid.” As a result, the “Faith” singer often sold himself short, even failing to appear at the 1987 Grammy awards because he was so sure that he’d lost the race for Album of the Year for his hit album Faith. (He won.)
The former Wham! band member was, however, stubborn in his love for pop music, and once told Tannenbaum that he was unashamed of his loyalty to the genre.
“You either see pop music as a contemporary art form or you don’t,” Michael said. “I do, very strongly. It’s the only day-to-day, moving art form.” According to Kahane, the superstar so loved pop music that toward the end of his life, he had started working on new music again following an 18-month stint in rehab — this time along the vein of his hit 1987 album, Faith.
“I called him, and he said, ‘I’m good.’ He sounded fine,” Kahane told Billboard in the new piece, adding that Michael’s new music was “totally pop, like something that would’ve been on Faith. The songs weren’t depressing. That’s why I thought everything was OK with him.”
According to Kahane, the “Freedom” singer had always thought he might succumb to an early death and had come to peace with the prospect. “He was obsessed with saying, ‘I know I’m going to die young,’” Michael’s former manager said. “He’d say, ‘It’s OK. I’ve had a great life.’”