Read Frank Sinatra’s Open Letter to George Michael From 1990

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George Michael
Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images

In 1990, when George Michael was shying away from his considerable fame, Frank Sinatra decided it was time to step in with his own advice. Responding to a Los Angeles Times’ Calendar magazine cover story in which Michael talked about the strain of his celebrity, Old Blue Eyes wrote an open letter to George Michael that ran in the same publication the next week. “Come on, George. Loosen up. Swing, man,” Sinatra told the younger star. The crooner said Michael should be happy for his stardom: “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.” He also remarked that Michael should see his popularity as a sign of his talent and therefore should celebrate it: “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.”

While the advice for young stars to embrace their talent, even if it means the loss of privacy that comes with fame, might ring true to some readers, it should also be noted that at the time Michael was also living in the closet. Though he would later become a gay icon, the Wham! singer did not reveal his sexuality until a 1998 interview with CNN, which may have contributed to some of the pop star’s secrecy and mixed feelings about celebrity.

Read Sinatra’s letter (via Letters of Note) below.

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.

Read Sinatra’s Open Letter to George Michael