Singer Sam Sparro is slated to perform in an upcoming George Michael tribute show in Sydney. Jess Jones spoke with Sparro about the late musician’s lasting impact.

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A STAR-studded cast will perform a huge tribute show to George Michael in July. Appearing in Sydney alongside performers including Brendan Maclean and Jade MacRae is long-time George Michael fan Sam Sparro.

The show will feature George Michael songs from throughout his career, from Wham! to his later solo work, accompanied by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

“I’m really excited about it,” says Sam. “It’s going to be really beautiful.

“It’s going to be epic with the orchestra. Some of the songs will take on a completely different identity, I think.”

A fan of George Michael from way back, Sam was honoured to be asked to join the performance.

“It was instantly a yes,” he says. “I’d been thinking about him so much since he passed, that there hadn’t been enough fanfare and the tributes hadn’t been done right.

“I think of it as me doing a service to George, to carry on his music and his legacy and bring the songs to life onstage again.”

George Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016, ending a tragic year in which we also lost music icons David Bowie and Prince.

“At the end of it, to have George die, it was just too much,” Sam says.

“All three of those men, something they had in common was that they broke the constructs of what it means to be a man. They all challenged that in different ways. In such a positive way, they each broke the constructs of male sexuality and what your image should be as a man.

“I think we’ve regressed since then – there’s been a big return to toxic masculinity in the music industry. There aren’t a lot of men to look to who challenge the binary norms.”

Sam has always been inspired by George Michael’s musicality and voice, calling him “an incredible songwriter” and “effortlessly versatile”.

“One thing I love about George Michael is he covered the whole spectrum of human emotions,” he says.

“You couldn’t pigeonhole him as just a dance artist or just a balladeer. He wrote great corny pop songs, but he also wrote about passion and suffering and politics, the full gamut. I think that’s amazing.”

Sam’s favourite George Michael album is Older.

“I think I was about 12 when it came out,” he recalls. “That was the album where I just bonded with him. The lyrics are so personal.”

Sam also loved the unapologetic queerness of Fastlove, released two years before George Michael came out.

“Before I’d come out myself, I knew that there was a connection with this man, this music, for a reason that I didn’t know,” he says. “My gaydar was vibrating.”

George Michael’s incredible range as a singer does make performing his songs a challenge.

“The songs are really hard to sing,” Sam laughs. “Because he had such a wide range, which I’m more aware of now that I’m rehearsing them.

“My favourite to perform in my bedroom used to be Outside. I think I did a pretty good performance of that in my mirror with a hairbrush.”

It’s been a few years since Sam has been home to Australia, and he’s looking forward to returning for the show.

“I’ll be back in Australia again later in the year,” he adds.

George Michael: Praying for Time is playing at the Sydney Opera House from July 6–8. Tickets are available from the Sydney Symphony website at: www.sydneysymphony.com.

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