George Michael, was an English singer, songwriter, and record producer who rose to fame as a member of the music duo Wham before launching a very successful solo career.
Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, known better by his professional name, George Michael is an English pop singer / songwriter who first rose to fame in the 1980s as one half of the pop duo Wham!
Childhood: George Michael’s father, a Greek Cypriot moved to England in the 1950s and changed his name to Jack Panos. His mother was Lesley Angold Harrison. George was born and raised in North London.
Career: Wham! formed in 1981 and propelled George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley to chart success with massive hits such as Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Club Tropicana and Last Christmas. Wham! split in 1986 after releasing a farewell single for their fans, entitled Edge of Heaven.
Solo Career: In 1984, Careless Whisper was released as a solo single for George. This was followed in 1986 with ‘A Different Corner’, which won George Michael a Grammy Award. In 1987, George recorded a duet with Aretha Franklin. ‘I Knew You Were Waiting reached number one in the UK and US singles charts.
Faith was George Michael’s first solo album release, which hit the stores in 1987. ‘I Want Your Sex’ was the debut single from the album and was banned from a number of stores for its highly sexualized lyrics. The track was featured on the soundtrack to Beverley Hills Cop II. Regardless of censorship efforts, the track charted at number two in the US and three in the UK. The title track from the album was released as the second single and was a huge success, reaching number one in the US and two in the UK. Faith has been awarded a Diamond certification and has sold over 20 million across the globe.
Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1 was released in 1990. George Michael refused to take part in any promotional activities for the album and as a result, no videos were made for the singles from this album. Despite this, ‘Praying For Time’ still reached number six in the UK and was a number one hit in the United States. The album was denied a number one position in the States but in the UK, he reached the lucrative top spot. In 1992, the album was certified four times platinum and has sold over eight million copies worldwide. The single ‘Freedom 90’ was supported by a music video but George refused to appear in it. Instead, he drafted in a group of supermodels, to appear in the video and mime the words to the song.
At the end of 1991, George Michael’s duet with Elton John on Elton’s ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ was released and became a huge success and was the only modern number one single to have been recorded at an outdoor venue (Wembley Arena).
George Michael’s intended third album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2 became the victim of a feud with his record label, Sony. Michael scrapped the album and the single ‘Too Funky’ was the final release for Sony before George became embroiled in lengthy proceedings to release himself from his contract.
After a brief break from music, George released the single ‘Jesus to a Child’ in 1994, the song was a tribute to his lover, Anselmo Feleppa, who had died the previous year. The single went straight to number one in the UK and seven in the US. Its follow-up, ‘Fastlove’ was also a UK number one. The accompanying album, Older, was George’s first in six years.
George Michael’s greatest hits package, Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael was released in 1998. Songs from the Last Century was released in 1999 and featured a number of re-workings of songs by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sting.
Patience, released in 2004 was George Michael’s first album of original material in eight years. The lead single ‘Shoot The Dog’ sparked some controversy for its open criticism of the British and US involvement in the war in Iraq.
George’s second greatest hits release, Twentyfive, was released in 2006 and was a number one hit in the UK. The 2-CD set contained some songs from the Wham! era as well as three new songs, including a duet with Mutya Buena of Sugababes and a version of ‘Heal the Pain’, recorded with Sir Paul McCartney. George undertook a 50-date arena tour to promote the album.
Personal Life: In the past, there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding George Michael’s sexuality. During his time in Wham! there were a number of tabloid articles which speculated on his relationships with actresses such as Whoopi Goldberg and Brooke Shields. His homosexuality was later made public and George has stated that he hid his sexuality because he was worried about the impact it may have on his mother.
In 1998, George Michael was arrested in Los Angeles, for ‘engaging in a lewd act’ in a public toilet. He was fined $810 for the incident and was forced to undertake 80 hours of community service. The video for his song ‘Outside’ was a humourous take on the incident and featured men dressed as policemen kissing in a public toilet. The arresting officer, Rodriguez, took George Michael to court, claiming that the video mocked him and that he had been slandered by Michael in interviews. The case was dismissed by the courts.
In 2006, George Michael was arrested for possession of cannabis, then after several arrests for drugs offences. In 2010 George was fined and given a five-year driving ban and a prison sentence after admitting driving under the influence of drugs, having crashed his Range Rover into a Snappy Snaps photo store in Hampstead.
Nonetheless, he had evidently rediscovered his appetite for performing and recording. In 2011 he made a cover version of New Order’s hit True Faith for the Comic Relief charity, and recorded an MP3 version of Stevie Wonder’s You and I as a wedding gift for Prince William and Kate Middleton.
He launched his Symphonica Tour in Prague in August 2011. However, it was cut short when he fell ill with severe pneumonia in November, after the tour had reached Frankfurt, and he was admitted to hospital in Vienna.
He spent a week in intensive care and was not discharged from hospital until 21 December. Two days later he made a public speech outside his home in Highgate, north London, saying that the staff at the Vienna general hospital had saved his life. He suffered a further medical emergency in May 2013, when he had to be airlifted to hospital after he fell out of a car travelling on the M1.
In June 2012 Michael released the single White Light to mark the 30th anniversary of Wham Rap!. In March 2014 he released Symphonica, which became his seventh solo album to top the UK chart.
In 2016, Michael announced that a second documentary on his life, entitled Freedom, was set to be released in March 2017
Michael was found dead at home on Christmas Day 2016 of suspected heart failure.