Grieving fans on Monday mourned the death of George Michael as British charities revealed that the pop star had secretly been a major behind-the-scenes donor who gave his time and money to support cherished causes.
The man with the reputation for self-indulgence had actually given millions of pounds (dollars) to charities involved with helping children, cancer victims and AIDS sufferers, AP reported. He was also remembered for small acts of kindness: helping his village in north London get a Christmas tree, and volunteering at a homeless shelter.
He donated all of the royalties from Wham!’s single “Last Christmas/Everything She Wants” to famine relief in Ethiopia after the single was released in 1984. At the time, Ethiopia was hard-hit by communist red terror and man-made famine under the brutal regime of communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam between 1983 and 1985. More than 400,000 people died.
The singer’s death was announced late Sunday. Many paid tribute on Facebook and Twitter and others cited years of good works that received little publicity—largely because Michael insisted on keeping his charity work out of the limelight. Fans placed flowers and other tributes at his homes in north London and in Goring, England, where he died of apparent heart failure.
Among the groups he supported were the Terrence Higgins Trust, which helps people with AIDS, Macmillan Cancer Support, and Childline, which offers confidential phone counseling for young people.
Childline founder Esther Rantzen said Michael gave royalties from his 1996 hit “Jesus To A Child” to the charity along with many other donations.
“Over the years he gave us millions and we were planning next year, as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations to create, we hoped, a big concert in tribute to him—to his artistry, to his wonderful musicality but also to thank him for the hundreds of thousands of children he helped,” she said.
She said Michael was determined that no one outside the charity should know “how much he gave to the nation’s most vulnerable children.”
Jane Barron from the Terrence Higgins Trust said Michael made many donations and gifts, including the royalties of his “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” duet with Elton John in 1991.
Other charitable acts were revealed.
“A woman on ‘Deal Or No Deal’ told us she needed £15k for IVF treatment. George Michael secretly phoned the next day and gave her the £15k,” game show host Richard Osmond tweeted Monday.
“George Michael worked anonymously at a homeless shelter I was volunteering at. I’ve never told anyone, he asked we didn’t. That’s who he was,” Emilyne Mondo tweeted, per the New York Daily News.
Another user wrote, “I wrote in a piece ages ago about a celeb I’d worked with tipping a barmaid £5k because she was a student nurse in debt. Was George Michael.” Someone else confirmed the user’s story.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.