An amazing singer and songwriter who burst on to the music scene in the early 80’s, George Michael began with the dancy, poppy hits from his band WHAM! WHAM! broke barriers as a pop band, namely, by not only having infectiously catchy, whimsical pop songs that no one could forget, but also, by being openly flamboyant and later, openly gay. Women loved Wham! and straight kids that were anti-gay made fun of them–yet still couldn’t help but know the melodies and words. The world embraced them, including of course–MTV which, along with American Bandstand, the radio, and later VH1, helped launch their career.
George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25th, 1963, in East Finchley, London. He attended Bushey Meads School, where he meets future band mate Andrew Ridgely, who he started the legendary 80’s pop group with–WHAM!
It was June 16th, 1982, when Wham!’s first single, “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)” was released. It later peaked at #8 on the UK singles chart. A cute, rebellious, lighthearted pop-rap hit, the song actually carried a profound message, telling the world–“Don’t do work that you are not happy doing. Find what you love, and then only do that which makes you happy.”
Two years later, May 14th, 1984, WHAM! reached superstar status with their #1 Hit “Wake Me Up (Before you Go Go) that gave the world yet another cute, highly danceable, and utterly unforgettable song. During the height of the abortion rights debates, George Michael pushed politics with the hit video, wearing a snow white t-shirt with the words emblazoned “CHOOSE LIFE” on the front and back of it, as well as worn by his band mates. Shedding any attempt at machismo, George embraced portraying himself however he felt; political, flirty, cute, and before he publicly declared it–gay.
When WHAM! stopped making music together, lead singer George Michael soon later burst back on to the scene with dark, brooding, soulful songs that hit the top of the charts, and gained even more fans around the world. Those that loved WHAM! were hooked, and even those that didn’t now had a new appreciation for a man who proved to have even greater talent, soul, and passion than the world realized.
Shattering any idea that he was simply a one hit wonder with nothing deep to say after “Wake me Up,” George Michael released a searing, melancholic, solo ballad, yet still under The Wham! title. Just two months later in July 24th, 1984, “Careless Whispers–” like “Wake me Up,” dominated the charts, and brilliantly made George Michael a certified star, worthy of respect.
Handsome, charming, and with a voice like silk, George Michael was here to stay. Yet far from merely a lighthearted pop star with a brooding ballad, George’s music was filled with a dark side, dealing with subjects including lost love, rebellion, disappointing ones parents, religion, sex, and death.
On June 1st In 1987, “I Want Your Sex”, the first single from George’s debut solo album, Faith, was released. Despite being banned by the BBC, the song hits #3 on the UK charts and #2 in the U.S. Ending with the slogan “Explore Monogamy.” George’s hit song “I want Your Sex” proved daring not only due to the provocative subject matter of the song, but also pushing inter-racial sex relations, with a pretty Chinese woman he tries to seduce in the video.
A stellar singer and songwriter, George Michael was also a great model, who loved fashion and was embraced by the fashion world. On October 30th, 1990, George Michael’s hit song “Freedom! ’90” single was released–directed by David Fincher–reaching the top 10 on the U.S. charts. The video features supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz and Christy Turlington, showing his love for fashion and supermodels, and their love for George.
Performing with many stars of his time including Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Elton John among more, George Michael was recognized by his peers as a true great–a star who deserved it.
Up as a nominee for the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017, the award should certainly be awarded to George Michael, which is an accolade that recognizes the work and contributions of composers and lyricists who create great music around the world. George has been nominated as a performer/songwriter for his extensive catalog of songwriting credits including chart-toppers including the beautiful “Careless Whisper,” the romantic “Father Figure,” and the timeless “Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go.” The voted winner will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at the Annual Awards & Induction Gala on June 15, 2017.
George Michael was busy putting the finishing touches to his special documentary film “Freedom” before he passed on. He had discovered some incredible, unseen archive footage and was busy shooting additional interviews for the project, with the film planned to air in March 2017. To coincide with the film’s broadcast, George and Sony Music had decided to move the reissue of the Listen Without Prejudice album to the same time.
On Christmas Day, December 25th, 2106, George Michael passed on. He never had the chance to get old, and like his wish–stayed forever young. George Michael was a truly great artist, an AMAZING and beautiful spririt, who will be missed, and remembered always.