George Michael takes steps to put record straight on gay lifestyle

George Michael will record a new album with a "collective" of gay musicians, aimed at a young gay audience, as an apology for the homophobia that he believes his turbulent private life has inadvertently generated.

Michael said yesterday that the album would reflect his experiences as an openly gay, middle-aged man. "I'm looking to work with gay and gay-friendly artists," he said. "It will be a gay collective with some songs sung by myself and some songs by unknown gay artists.

"I have a serious problem with the fact that every time I made a big mistake, I definitely felt I was letting young gay people down because of the homophobia that was thrown at me and the wording of that homophobia," he added.

"I am going to try and make up for some of the damage that I have inadvertently caused just by making myself so newsworthy and putting myself on the back foot... where there was no room or space to defend gay children from some of that language."

Michael was jailed last September for crashing his Range Rover while under the influence of cannabis, the latest in a series of brushes with the law since he came out in 1998.

Matthew Todd, the editor of Attitude magazine, said Michael's album would be welcomed by gay people.

"George Michael reflects the experiences of a lot of gay men," Todd said. "There is a higher level of drink and drug abuse because of what they go through growing up.

"Although many young gay men are too young to remember George's superstar days, they probably don't believe he has caused homophobia," he added. "They are more likely to see him as an inspirational figure."

Michael admitted that the new album could alienate some of his long-term fans who flocked to his "greatest hits" tour four years ago.

But he said that the type of gay-friendly dance music he wanted to make was now topping the charts, courtesy of best-selling artists such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

Michael, 47, also announced a tour during which he will be accompanied by a symphony orchestra. The 47-date tour will include a performance at the Royal Opera House in London – where he announced his plans yesterday – a charity concert in memory of Dame Elizabeth Taylor, and a show at the Paris Garnier opera house for Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's Born HIV Free charity.

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