George Michael is a well-known musician with hits including ‘Faith’ and ‘Round Here’.
Before becoming a solo artist, George Michael was part of the music duo Wham! He released ‘Careless Whisper’, his first track as a soloist in 1984, and his website credits this as the song that “started George Michael’s solo career.”
Read more about George Michael and his early music below.
George Michael was born in London in 1963, named Georgios Kyracos Panayiotou. His father was Greek and owned a restaurant.
Michael described a disconnected childhood. “I was never praised, never held,” he says.
He discovered music early in life. As a child, he found a gramophone and began creating music, though he didn’t receive support from both parents in this endeavor.
“My father always used to say that he didn’t think I could sing,” Michael said in a magazine interview. Despite this, the young musician began dreaming of his future career, with a key moment occurring after a childhood accident.
“At the age of about eight I had a head injury and I know it sounds bizarre and unlikely, but it was quite a bad bang, and I had it stitched up,” he explains, “Suddenly, all I wanted to know about was music.”
In high school, he became friends with Andrew Ridgeley, and the two formed a music duo. Deciding to focus on this, they dropped out of school.
After Michael’s death, Simon Napier-Bell, who had previously worked as his manager, spoke to the press about his belief that Michael had suffered a childhood trauma that had pushed him into drug use in adulthood. “It was childhood trauma that happens well before you’re 12 or 13,” Napier-Bell told the press.
Details of the alleged trauma were never revealed, with Napier-Bell adding “He didn’t tell the public and he may not have even told himself.”
Michael’s teenage duo with Ridgeley would eventually become known as Wham! and in 1982, they bagged a recording contract. They released their first album in the UK that same year, with a US release following in 1983, and soon developed a fanbase.
Their second album, ‘Make It Big’, included the track ‘Wake Me up Before You Go-Go’. The upbeat song topped the US charts, marking their first of three number one hits.
Later that year, Wham! performed in the Band-Aid charity single, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
The duo eventually split, with Michael breaking out as a solo artist. Decades after the event, Ridgeley spoke to the media.
“I had achieved my ambition of being in a band and playing live and I wanted him to go on and realize his talent as much as did,” he says.
Michael’s first solo single, ‘Careless Whisper’ was released on a Wham! album, however, the track lists Michael as the artist, rather than the band.
Following the band’s split, Michael released a duet with Aretha Franklin called ‘I Knew You Were Waiting’. In 1987, he won a Grammy for this song, taking home the award for best R&B performance by a duo or group.
His debut solo album, ‘Faith’ achieved commercial success, selling more than 25 million copies and bringing him his second Grammy win.
In 1990, his second solo album, ‘Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1’ was released. The album didn’t achieve the same levels of success as ‘Fath’ had, and a lawsuit ensued where Michael accused his record label of failing to properly promote the work.
A third album, ‘Older’ followed in 1996.
Michael is known for his charity efforts. ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me’, which he sang alongside Elton John, raised funds for two charitable causes. His track ‘Too Funky’ was also included on a fundraising album, with profits donated to an AIDS charity.
Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016, aged only 53. A coroner declared that the musician had died of natural causes.
His death prompted an outpouring of grief from celebrity friends, including his former bandmate Ridgeley. In a tribute, Elton John said that he had lost a friend in Michael and described him as “the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist.”
James Corden, the presenter of the Late Late Show, also paid tribute, saying that Michael was “An absolute inspiration.”