George Michael, one the world’s best known stadium packing performers who rose to fame in the 1980’s and went on to sell more than 100 million record worldwide, has already lived a well-documented eventful life.
But – in the strangest twist yet – Michael recently revealed that last year it got a whole lot weirder.
Speaking in a candid interview with Radio 2, the 48-year-old said that when he was admitted to a hospital in Vienna in November 2011 with pneumonia, he lapsed into a three week coma from which he awoke three weeks later.
Here’s the wild part: The first words out of the singer’s mouth were “I’m the King of the World” and they were said in a West Country accent. (Note: The West Country is a term sometimes used to describe the South-west region of the UK. Inhabitants speak with a particular accent.)
According to Michael, his extraordinary accent shift was due to his pre-illness “obsession” with a BBC TV sitcom Nighty Night, which stars UK actress Julia Davis – herself a West Country native.
The Grammy award winning singer also said he lost five weeks of his memory and had to re-learn the simple act of walking after his muscles wasted away.
”It’s like I just dodged a bullet,” Michael said.
After falling ill during his “Symphonica” tour last year, it became clear the singer was in trouble when successive dates in the Czech Republic were cancelled. Michael admits his illness and resulting coma could have been avoided if he’d followed medical advice to have a health check weeks earlier.
In fact, cancellation of an October 2011 date at London’s famous Royal Albert Hall after his temperature and heart rate increased, raised early alarms that all was not well with the singer.
”I cancelled that show but didn’t get myself checked out,” said the Faith, Lets Go Outside singer. “I went and played for another three weeks in Europe.
“And then one afternoon I was having lunch and suddenly felt really odd and said to everyone that I need to go and lay down for half an hour on my own. And that’s the last thing I remember for five weeks. It was three weeks of them trying to save my life and two weeks awake.”
But back to that West Country accent.
Michael says that on hearing his ‘new’ accent hospital staff were,
“worried I had this condition where people wake from comas speaking French or some other language,” he said. “Mine was two days of this vague Bristolian [Note: Bristol is a city in the South-West of England] accent and they were afraid I’d have it for life.”
The singer explains, “There’s nothing wrong with a West Country accent – but it’s a bit weird when you’re from North London.”
According to Wikipedia, Foreign Accident Syndrome, is a “rare medically recognised condition which is a speech impediment that usually occurs as a resulting side effect of brain injury, such as a stroke or head trauma.” So Michael’s belief that his accent was inspired by a sitcom may just be credible after all.
The singer says he was “very close” to death during this fraught time and has written a new single “White Light” directly inspired by his experiences.
”I think maybe the reason I find it still a little bit upsetting to talk about is that because it was so random,” Michael says. “When something like that happens in such a random fashion I think it takes a while to think that life is safe again.”
On a brighter note, Michael is due to perform at the closing ceremony of the Olympics, which kicks off on July 27 in the UK.