2016 has been a cruel beast, made even crueller on Christmas Day by the untimely death of musical icon George Michael, who tragically passed away aged 53. In the public sphere, the former Wham! singer was known for a wealth of hits across a three decade career that included 100 million record sales worldwide.
Away from the shining lights, red carpets and music videos, the man behind the public persona was generous beyond imagination. Shortly after the announcement of his death, news began to emerge of the musician's awe-inspiring philanthropy in the form of acts of kindness Michael wanted to keep off the radar.
In one particularity heartfelt move, after a contestant on British game show Deal or No Deal explained that she was hoping to win £15,000 for IVF treatment, Michael phoned the show the next day in secret, and gave her the full amount of money. It was also revealed he tipped a bartender £5,000 to clear the debt she had from studying as a student nurse, and worked anonymously at a homeless shelter.
George Michael's Private Philanthropy
However, such personal acts were only the tip of the altruistic iceberg. Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen revealed Michael donated all royalties from his 1996 number one single Jesus to a Child to the charity, on top of millions since then, having a huge impact for hundreds of young people in the UK. Speaking of Michael, Rantzen said:
"For years now he has been the most extraordinarily generous philanthropist, giving money to Childline, but he was determined not to make his generosity public so no-one outside the charity knew how much he gave to the nation's most vulnerable children."
As well as his work for Childline, Michael was a prominent activist for LGBT rights and a tenacious fundraiser for HIV/AIDS charities — his partner, Anselmo Feleppa, died of an AIDS related illness in 1993 — in particular donating royalties from his 1991 duet with Elton John, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, to the Terrence Higgins Trust. Jane Barron, from the organization, said:
"George also often thought of us to kindly donate experiences and gifts that were used to raise vital funds to help us support people living with HIV.
His donations contributed to a vision of a world where people living with HIV live healthy lives free from prejudice and discrimination."
Free Concerts And Humanitarian Effort
In 2007, a decade after Michael's mother Lesley died of cancer, the artist put on a free concert for NHS staff as a show of gratitude for the care his mother had received; singer Billy Bragg highlighted how acts such as this illustrate why Michael was much more than an icon of pop, but also a man with a humanitarian message. He Tweeted:
As an indication of the level of thought behind Michael's donations, in 2000, he purchased the piano John Lennon used to create the song Imagine for £1.4m, and then donated it to the Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool, explaining that the item was "not the type of thing that should be in storage somewhere or being protected, it should be seen by people."
Journalist Sali Hughes also revealed that Michael was one of the few contestants to star on Who Wants to be a Millionaire with the mindset of risking everything. Not because he didn't care, but because he was prepared to cover any potential losses himself.
Forgetting the fame, glitz and glamour, Michael's selfless and thoughtful acts prove the wealth of a person is much more than the money they make.
(Source: The Guardian)