Finer Points: George Michael

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Michael was the biggest British pop star of the 1980s. Blessed with handsome good looks and a great voice, he was prolific in writing engaging melodies with dance-friendly rhythms. After achieving pop-icon status, his fame was not without personal and creative challenges.

1963

Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou was born in London on June 25, 1963. His father was a Greek restaurateur and his mother was an English dancer. He later changed his name to George Michael.

#1

In 1984, along with school friend Andrew Ridgeley, the duo became known as Wham! They had their first worldwide #1 hit with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.”

Last Christmas

Released as a charity record in 1984, “Last Christmas” is the biggest-selling single in U.K. chart history not to reach #1. The  Last Christmas” music video was the last time Michael was filmed without a beard.

“No one had ever seen anything like that before.”

Said Kan Kijun, Chinese stage host and television presenter, when Wham! made history as the first Western pop group to perform in China on April 7, 1985.

1987

Michael earned his first Grammy Award in 1987, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, for a duet with soul icon Aretha Franklin on “I Knew You Were Waiting.”

Banned from Radio

The first single released from the album Faith was “I Want Your Sex” in 1987. The song was banned by many radio stations in the U.S. and the U.K. for its suggestive lyrics. MTV only played the video during the evening. To ease the controversy, he recorded a prologue for the video, which said, “This song is not about casual sex.”

25 Million

Michael’s debut solo album Faith sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1989.

Beating Michael Jackson & Bobby Brown

In 1989, Michael won Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist. Faith won Favorite Soul/Rhythm & Blues Album, beating albums by Gladys Knight and the Pips and Keith Sweat.

George Michael & BMW

I miss my baby tonight , So why don’t we make a little room in my BMW, babe
Searchin’ for some peace of mind, Hey, I’ll help you find it
I do believe that we are practicing the same religion…
-Fastlove

Michael owned several BMWs. In 1996, the single “Fastlove” was released, referencing BMW. The song was his last top 10 hit in the U.S. and last top 40 hit during his lifetime.

Coming Out

In 1998, Michael announced he was gay after being arrested for lewd conduct in a public restroom. Later on, he was quoted as saying, “I have never thought about my sexuality being right or wrong. To me it has always been a case of finding the right person.”

Twenty Years

In 2004, the Radio Academy named Michael the most-played artist on British radio for a 20-year period, from 1984-2004.

You and I

In April 2011, Michael released a cover of Stevie Wonder’s 1972 song, “You and I,” as a gift to Prince William and Kate Middleton prior to their wedding.


Michael died of heart failure on Christmas morning, December 25, 2016, at his home in England, at the age of 53. 
I have to believe that somebody up there thinks I’ve still got some work to do.
– George Michael
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