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December 18th, 2008:

Professor George Michael?

Okay, this article speaks for itself, so I’ll only preface it with – Huh, what are they thinking? The concept is good (breaking street violence through encouragement of artistic endeavours) but I don’t know if the practice works if George Michael is to be relied upon for seeing this through. No offence to Mr. Michael, but I don’t believe that he has a reputation of being particularly reliable:

Anne Lu – Celebrity News Service News Writer

London, England (BANG) – George Michael’s neighbors want him to fight knife crime. Residents and school officials in Highgate, north London, wrote to the “Faith” singer asking him to support a scheme designed to reduce knife crime in the area where he lives.

A source said: “In the interests on discouraging knife crime, a safer neighborhood group in Highgate has written to ask George for help.”

The former “Wham!” star – who sponsored this year’s Highgate Summer Festival – has been asked to get involved with a program that encourages children to express themselves through music instead of violent behavior.

The source added to Britain’s Daily Star newspaper: “They’re trying to get local children to focus on the challenges they face living in the area and express it in creative songwriting instead of violence. They’ve asked George to use his contacts ideally in organizing a songwriting competition in schools.”

Since January, 65 British teenagers have died as a result of violent crime. Almost 60 percent were stabbed to death.

The 45-year-old singer – whose fans can download his festive single “I Dreamed of Christmas” for free on Christmas Day – is yet to respond to the request.

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Esther O’Connor on Songwriting

Emerging Scottish singer-songwriter, Esther O’Connor, provides some of her fresh thoughts on songwriting in an online article here. Faith plays a part in Ms. O’Connor’s artistry and she is alive to its process in her songwriting and her performing, however, it’s not only “praise and worship” music that she writes, as she’s been described as “somewhere between Suzanne Vega and Sheryl Crowe” by BBC Radio.

“When I was about 14,15, I began to sing with my friends, writing songs and playing about on a guitar. I started to showcase for major record companies while I was still at school. I remember going away for a week and I was supposed to be studying but instead of studying, I took my guitar and wrote half a song. So I was definitely much more interested in music than I was in biology.”

After some success in landing a publishing/recording deal with a major music company at 17, that led to nowhere, she did not give up, but perservered.

But despite the big publishing and record deals nothing got issued and eventually Esther was released from the contracts, seemingly another talent whose potential hadn’t been realised. Then, in 2003, Esther decided to record and release an independent album. Under the simple billing of Esther, the singer/songwriter put out ‘The Place Where We Are’. Explained Esther, “The album was recorded after I’d just come out of my deal. I was in a bit of a space that things had not exactly gone as I’d pictured or wanted. It was an album I enjoyed making. I felt it was a therapy thing for me, getting back into the studio and writing and channelling all the different experiences – relationship experiences, career experiences, spiritual experiences and channelling those things that you feel life is kind of teaching you into your art and into your craft. It gave me a great sense of fulfilment.”

And on her new album, ‘Right Here’, can be found a lifetime of influence.

“It’s an album that’s got a lot of continuity and it’s got an Americana-Celtic-y, folky, pop sort of feel to it and all the songs just sort of locked in together. My musical influences are reflected in it as well. I’ve got quite a lot of ’70s stuff in my collection, people like Bonny Rait and Janis Joplin, James Taylor, Carole King and Joni Mitchell – these fantastic greats. Fleetwood Mac was another big influence.”

To have been “developed” as a teenager and, to be melodramatic here, “cast aside” by EMI without any production (though there appears to be no bitterness in Ms. O’Connor’s version of events), and then to still realize the dream on one’s own must be wholly satisfying… it gives me inspiration (spiritual and otherwise) and confirms the Muse is with Esther O’Connor… and may she be with us all…

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