‘Swing, Man’: Frank Sinatra’s Letter to George Michael

On September 9, 1990, Frank Sinatra wrote this letter to George Michael. The British singer had bemoaned his fame in a 1990 interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Calendar magazine.





Sat in his manger’s Marina Del Rey apartment, Michael lamented his changing status:

“It’s quite simple, really. I decided that the thing I really enjoy… the thing I really needed was my songwriting. I didn’t need the celebrity.”

Would George Michael become fashionably elusive? He’d only agreed to three US newspaper interviews to discuss his latest album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. (the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and USA Today); there were no videos to accompany the singles; he’d made no plans to tour.

To a cynical pop world that has heard everyone from Frank Sinatra to David Bowie threaten to say goodbye to the microphone, the latest vows of George Michael may seem like little more than a calculated publicity move. After all, he’s obviously still doing interviews.

Michael anticipated the question.

“I’m sure a lot of people are going to believe all this is just some sort of gimmick… just another way to stir interest. But I’m also sure that most people find it hard to believe that stardom can make you miserable. After all, everybody wants to be a star. I certainly did, and I worked hard to get it. But I was miserable, and I don’t want to feel that way again.”

Was all this ‘I vant to be alone [sic]’ stuff a marketing ploy? No, surely not. But George was driven:

“People have always thought my career has been incredibly calculated and premeditated but it runs along pretty well parallel lines with most people’s careers. It’s just that the decisions I have made personally have been much more… correct.”


1990 frank-sinatra-george-michael-letter


Having been name-checked, Sinatra put pen to paper.


September 9, 1990

Dear Friends,

When I saw your Calendar cover today about George Michael, “the reluctant pop star,” my first reaction was he should thank the good Lord every morning when he wakes up to have all that he has. And that’ll make two of us thanking God every morning for all that we have.

I don’t understand a guy who lives “in hopes of reducing the strain of his celebrity status.” Here’s a kid who “wanted to be a pop star since I was about 7 years old.” And now that he’s a smash performer and songwriter at 27 he wants to quit doing what tons of gifted youngsters all over the world would shoot grandma for – just one crack at what he’s complaining about.

Come on George, Loosen up. Swing, man, Dust off those gossamer wings and fly yourself to the moon of your choice and be grateful to carry the baggage we’ve all had to carry since those lean nights of sleeping on buses and helping the driver unload the instruments

And no more of that talk about “the tragedy of fame.” The tragedy of fame is when no one shows up and you’re singing to the cleaning lady in some empty joint that hasn’t seen a paying customer since Saint Swithin’s day. And you’re nowhere near that; you’re top dog on the top rung of a tall ladder called Stardom, which in latin means thanks-to-the-fans who were there when it was lonely.

Talent must not be wasted. Those who have it – and you obviously do or today’s Calendar cover article would have been about Rudy Vallee – those who have talent must hug it, embrace it, nurture it and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you.

Trust me. I’ve been there.



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