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Taking Names: Recovering George Michael greets fans in London

- - Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fighting back tears, singer George Michael appeared outside his London home Friday to acknowledge that he nearly died during his monthlong battle with pneumonia.

He said it had been "touch and go" while he was in the intensive care unit of a Vienna hospital battling an extremely dangerous form of pneumonia but that his representatives had "played it down" to avoid alarming his fans, the Associated Press reports.

"They spent three weeks keeping me alive basically," said the singer, who appeared to have lost weight during his ordeal. "I don't want to take you through all of it because some of it I want to protect my family from and I'm sure I'll get it all written down, but it was by far the worst month of my life."

He seemed short of breath and at times had trouble speaking during his 10-minute appearance.

"I'm very weak, but I feel amazing," the pop star said, wearing a gray overcoat and scarf as he stood in front of a decorated Christmas tree outside his imposing red brick home in the Highgate neighborhood of north London.

The singer behind hits such as "Careless Whisper," "Faith" and "Father Figure" said the experience would make him more spiritual and appreciative of his life.

"I have an amazing, amazing life and if I wasn't spiritual enough before the last four or five weeks, then I certainly am now," he said.

Mr. Michael seemed overcome with emotion as he expressed gratitude for being alive and thanked the medical staff in Vienna for taking such good care of him.

"I really, really, really, really, from the bottom of my heart, thank everybody who sent messages and everybody in that IC unit that made sure I'm still here today," Mr. Michael said.

Mr. Michael did not provide many medical details about his illness, which forced him to cancel an extensive European tour.

He had streptococcus pneumonia, a bacterial form of the disease that sometimes can lead to fatal complications.

Mr. Michael spoke about having "woken up" 10 days ago, implying that he had been in a coma.

He also revealed he had undergone a tracheotomy while in the hospital. This treatment would have helped him to breathe.

"I spent the last 10 days since I woke up literally thanking people for saving my life which is something I have never had to do before and never want to do again," he said.

Very few details were released during his hospital stay, although Mr. Michael's doctors did say publicly he is not suffering from any underlying medical problems.

Mr. Michael, 48, vowed to resume his career and perform for everyone who had a ticket for his canceled shows. He also said he wants to play one show for the doctors who worked so hard to keep him alive.

Richard Gere to receive Eastman humanitarian award

Richard Gere is getting a George Eastman Award in upstate New York for his contributions to movies and humanitarian causes.

The star of such films as "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Pretty Woman" will be honored Feb. 16 during a ceremony at Rochester's George Eastman House, the restored home of the founder of photography pioneer Eastman Kodak Co.

Mr. Gere has appeared in more than 40 films. In 1991, he founded the Gere Foundation, which gives grants for public health, education and emergency relief in Tibet. He has long been prominent in the fight against HIV-AIDS.

Past recipients of the George Eastman Award include Lauren Bacall, Martin Scorsese and Meryl Streep.

Kid Rock's foundation teams with church to help needy

Kid Rock teamed up with a Detroit church to give away hundreds of gift baskets and retail gift certificates to needy families in the area where he got his start and still calls home.

According to the Associated Press, the musician's nonprofit organization joined Hartford Memorial Baptist Church on Wednesday to distribute 100 gift certificates for Meijer retail and grocery stores, along with more than 300 gift baskets.

Kid Rock, who was born Robert Ritchie, grew up and lives in suburban Detroit. He and the Kid Rock Foundation have been honored this year for their philanthropic contributions by Goodfellows Detroit and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Detroit branch.

Common battled through low point to make album

Most people are excited before recording a new album, but Common didn't particularly feel that way.

According to the Associated Press, he said before making his ninth album, "The Dreamer/The Believer," he was at a low point musically.

"I hadn't figured out what I was going to do, what label I was going to work with," he said. "I wasn't inspired."

Common had major success with 2005's "Be" and "Finding Forever," which came two years later. The albums reached gold status and each earned multiple Grammy nominations, including a win for best rap performance by a duo or group for "Southside" with Kanye West. Both albums were mainly produced by Mr. West.

But 2008's "Universal Mind Control," produced by the Neptunes, was a commercial disappointment, only selling 245,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan; the CD, however, did earn a Grammy nomination for best rap album.

Common parted ways with Universal Music, where he's released five of his nine albums. Now, on Warner Bros. Records, the rapper said he's got his mojo back, mainly thanks to producer and longtime friend No I.D.

"He was willing to be like, 'Yo, let's go! Let's get it. Let's go get on this hip-hop,' " Common recalled. "So I think that meant a lot to me and from there we just continued to grow."

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.