George Michael was a Grammy Award-winning vocalist who was a major pop phenomenon in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1987, his album 'Faith' was nominated for a Grammy for best album of the year.
George Michael started the band Wham! with high school classmate Andrew Ridgeley when he was a youngster. The duo's first global success, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," came in 1984. Two years later, Michael struck out on his own, producing the chart-topping Faith, which has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. Michael came out as homosexual in 1998, following an arrest for obscene behavior in a public washroom. Michael continued to perform, and in the mid-2000s, he relaunched his career with the publication of his greatest hits collection Twenty Five. He continued touring and devoted a large portion of his time and fortune to charity. On December 25, 2016, Michael died in his home in England of heart and liver problems. He was 53 years old.
Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in East Finchley, London, England, on June 25, 1963. He grew raised in and around London, where he acquired an early affinity for music. While in high school, Michael met Andrew Ridgeley, with whom he had a passion for pop music, and the two began collaborating on songs. According to some accounts, Michael and Ridgeley formed an odd partnership. Michael was plump and reserved, but Ridgeley was handsome and gregarious.
After dropping out of high school, Michael and Ridgeley formed the Executive, a short-lived ska band. That band lasted barely a few shows before disbanding, but Michael and Ridgeley quickly achieved success. They signed a record deal with Innervision Records in 1982 and became known as Wham! Their debut album, Fantastic!, was released in 1982 in the United Kingdom and peaked at No. 4 on the charts (it was released in the United States the following year). Wham! quickly gained a passionate following among young girls due to their youthful attractive features.
Wham! lived up to the title of their second album, Make It Big, with its infectious, Motown-influenced sound (1984). They achieved their first US number one with "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." "Everything She Wants" and the ballad "Careless Whisper" also charted at the top in the United States. Michael also collaborated with the charity Band Aid in 1984 on the holiday record "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in support of Ethiopian famine relief. Additionally, Michael and Ridgeley contributed the revenues from their chart-topping holiday song "Last Christmas"/"Everything She Wants" to Band Aid's philanthropic endeavours.
Wham! made history a year later, on April 7, 1985, when they became the first Western pop group to perform in China.
Wham! performed at Live Aid again on July 13, 1985, to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief, and it was there that Michael and Elton John sang John's classic "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" at London's Wembley Stadium.
Michael established himself as the group's star as the lead vocalist and primary songwriter. It was just a matter of time until he struck out on his own. He quit the group following the 1986 release of Music from the Edge of Heaven. While the album was not as successful as their previous attempts, it did have numerous chart-topping singles, including "Where Did Your Heart Go?" and "I'm Your Man."
While Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 garnered favourable reviews, the album only sold around one million copies. Michael became embroiled in a legal struggle with Sony, his record label. He desired to terminate his recording contract due to his belief that they had failed to adequately market the record. Michael released just a few singles over the course of the fight, which lasted several years.
In 1991, Michael returned to charity with a rendition of his duet with Elton John, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." It was a chart-topping single, with earnings benefiting London Lighthouse, an AIDS hospice, and the Rainbow Trust Children's Charity. Later that year, Michael charted with "Too Funky," a cut from the AIDS charity album Red Hot and Dance.
Michael released the album Older in 1996, after he was finally liberated from his contract with Sony. Two singles, "Jesus to a Child" and "Fastlove," as well as the album, reached the top ten in the United States. Nonetheless, the album's sales fell short of his previous efforts, with some attributing the dip to Michael's time away from the mainstream music industry. Michael did, however, get numerous honours for his efforts, including Best British Male at both the BRIT Awards and the MTV Europe Awards that year.
Michael made news again in 1998, but this time it was not for his music. He was detained for obscene behaviour in a men's restroom at a Los Angeles public park. Following the event, Michael made a broadcast interview in which he admitted to being gay. Although there has been considerable conjecture over the years regarding his sexual orientation, this was his first public comment on the subject.
His subsequent musical endeavour, Songs from the Last Century, was a collection of cover songs (1999). While the album garnered some favourable reviews, sales were disappointing, and it was his lowest charting album in the United Kingdom. Over the next several years, Michael released many songs, including a duet with Whitney Houston on the song "If I Told You That" in 2000.
Patience, Michael's fourth solo album, was released in 2004. He achieved success on the dance charts rather than the pop ones. "Flawless" and "Amazing" both received favourable reviews from dance music lovers. Following the release of this album, Michael made noises about retiring from the music profession, although his supposed retirement would prove brief. In 2005, Michael published A Different Story, a documentary about his life and work.
Michael had another run-in with the authorities in February 2006, when he was detained in London on suspicion of illicit narcotics possession. According to a Rolling Stone magazine story, the artist stated in a statement that "as usual, it's my own foolish fault." A few months later, Michael announced his first tour in 15 years. In the United Kingdom, he also published a compilation of his songs named Twenty Five. Michael's 25-year career in music was commemorated in this piece, which featured some new songs.
In 2008, Michael resurrected his career in the United States, where he made multiple performances, published Twenty Five, and appeared as a musical guardian angel on the television series Eli Stone. Additionally, the programme included some of his greatest classics. He then sang on the series finale of the renowned singing competition show American Idol before going on a summer 2008 nationwide tour.
Michael released a rendition of Stevie Wonder's 1972 song "You and I" in April 2011 as a pre-wedding present to Prince William and Kate Middleton. In August of that year, Michael began performing as part of his Symphonica Tour, which was cut short due to Michael's pneumonia diagnosis a few months into the series. Michael sang "Freedom! 90" and "White Light" at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games at London's closing ceremony the following year.
In May 2013, Michael, 49, was evacuated to a hospital in London, England, following an accident on the M1 near St. Albans. Michael was allegedly discovered uninjured at the site of the crash by paramedics.
Michael had a 13-year relationship with Kenny Goss, which ended in 2009. Michael began dating renowned hairstylist Fadi Fawaz that year and remained with him till the pop icon's sad demise in 2016. Michael was working on Freedom, his second documentary on his life, at the time of his death. It was released in 2017.
Michael died at the age of 53 on December 25, 2016. Following an autopsy, it was determined that the pop star died of natural causes associated with heart and liver problems. Michael's spouse Fawaz discovered him dead on Christmas morning at his Oxfordshire home.
"It is with great regret that we announce George, our beloved son, brother, and friend, died peacefully at home during the Christmas holiday," his publicist said in a statement.
Following Michael's death, several charities and individuals spoke on social media about his selfless charitable activities and how he frequently contributed his time and a large portion of his riches anonymously. The pop artist stayed out of the spotlight for his numerous acts of generosity, which included working at a homeless shelter, paying for a woman's reproductive treatments, and tipping a waitress thousands of dollars to assist her in repaying her nursing school loans. He also made anonymous donations to charity, notably Childline, a counseling service for children in the United Kingdom. "No one outside the foundation knew how much he provided to the country's most vulnerable children," the charity's founder, Dame Esther Rantzen, told the British news station ITN.