Another icon of a generation, one of those voices that was with us throughout our lives, has left us this 2016. On Christmas Day, December 25, the sad news of the death of singer George Michael spread throughout the globe. He was 53 years old.
- George Michael’s biography: the first years and Wham
- George Michael goes solo
- George Michael gets serious: Listen without Prejudice
- Ladies and Gentlemen: the late stage of George Michael
- The end of George Michael: drug addiction and health problems
George Michael’s Biography
George Michael was born in England on June 25, 1963, in the town of East Finchley in London. His original name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. He was of greek ascent, his father was a restaurant owner, and his mother was an English dancer.
Michael went to school in Kingsbury, and then later at Bushey Meads. There he met Andrew Ridgeley, with whom he would create the group Wham! Later on. George Michael was known for singing in the London Underground, and liked songs like “39” by Queen.
His first formal experiments in the world of music, included DJing in bars in London, and with Ridgeley’s Brother, he formed a ska band called The Executive.
In 1981 George Michael became famous after founding Wham with Andrew Ridgeley. Their first album Fantastic, went to number one in the UK in 1983. From this album came 10 singles, which would rise to the top ten positions individually. Among these singles were Young Guns, Wham Rap and Club Tropicana.
But the real smash hits began for George Michael with the album Make It Big, from 1984. This album contains three of the most memorable songs of Wham: Wake me up before you go-go, Freedom and Careless Whisper. Careless Whisper is ranked by many as one of the best saxophone songs in history.
George Michael goes solo
Wham! separated in 1986, and that’s where George Michael began his solo career. In 1987 he did a duet with Aretha Franklin, that became another of his most memorable songs, “I Knew you were waiting for me”. In that same year, Michael released his album Faith, which is the most successful and widely recognized so far.
Faith was characterized by moving away from the smooth, soft pop style that Wham had, and went on to define the style that George Michael would carry for the rest of his career. An overtly sexual style, full of explicit references, that sought to transcend the limits of what the music industry considered appropriate at any given time.
The most controversial single from the album Faith was I want your sex, which received wide coverage and dissemination, thanks to being included as part of the soundtrack of the Eddie Murphy film, Beverly Hills Cop 2. The album had been a local controversy in England, and suddenly it became a worldwide scandal. George Michael became famous in the new continent. Many stations in United States objected to the song’s suggestive content. MTV issued a partial ban on the video, showing it only in the late night hours.
Casey Kasem, one of the most influential DJs in the US, was so appalled by the song that he flat out refused to say its title in his American Top 40 show, even when the song reached the top positions. Kasem simply referred to the song as “the new single from George Michael”.
The Faith album occupied Top 10 Billboard sales for 51 weeks and was at #1 for 12 weeks. Besides I want your sex, Faith had the single of the same name, which became another of George Michael’s best known songs. Aside from those two, Faith produced Monkey, Father Figure, One More Try and others.
George Michael gets serious: Listen Without Prejudice
Despite the huge success Faith had, George Michael was ultimately not satisfied with the results on a personal level. In 1990 he told Sony records he did not want to repeat the Faith experience, and definitely did not want to become the a teen idol of the moment.
It was then that he wrote the album Listen Without Prejudice, with which he aimed to present a new image of himself: much more professional and sophisticated than before. George Michael did not appear in any of the videos from this album, in order to make people understand that the important thing was his music, not him as an artist. The content of the album was not as sexual as the previous one, and rather focused on social and global issues. Although Listen Without Prejudice had some success in the UK, Sony was not satisfied with the result and that led to a legal battle between the artist and the record label. Michael ended his business relationship with Sony in 1995.
In the end, most of the profits from Listen Without Prejudice were donated to social charities, among them the Red Hot organization, who ran awareness campaigns for HIV / AIDS. This organization received all the profits from the single Too Funky, and other songs on Listen without Prejudice.
Over the next four years, George Michael had no new productions, and simply toured on concerts and performances in different parts of the world.
In 1994, George Michael returned with a new album: Older. The only single on Older that became widely popular was Fastlove. Apart from that, Michael promoted the single Jesus to a Child, yet that single did not receive recognition, until many years later. The single was dedicated to Michael’s lover, Anselmo Feleppa, who had died a year earlier. But as George Michael has not revealed his true sexual orientation yet, at that time no one really paid attention to the single.
Neither did they pay much attention to the content of Fastlove: sex without commitment, until many years later. It wasn’t until George Michael confessed that at the end of the Wham period he suffered a personal crisis,a result of unable to forge lasting relationships with the women he knew that everyone took notice of the song’s content. George Michael would later confess that he realized that the crisis came when he realized that he was not bisexual, as he liked to think he was, but rather homosexual.
Ladies and Gentlemen: the late stage of George Michael
During the late stage of George Michael’s career, his musical production recovered much of the sexual tone he had been using in his youth, and also continued to follow the social issue line.
In 1998 came the album “Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael”, which apart from having his greatest hits, had the single Outside. With Outside he explored sexual themes and satire with a new outlook. That same year Michael had come out of the closet. Outside, it turns out, explores George Michael’s fantasies with cops in a satirical manner, following his arrest in a London park for “lewd behavior” in a public restroom.
The new millennium brought the album Patience in 2004. Although some songs like Shoot the Dog had been released years before.
Patience was controversial from two points of view: political and sexual, and so it’s said that this album was the culmination of Geoge Michael’s controversial nature. With Patience, he managed to piss off everyone at the same time.
Shoot the Dog takes a very open shot at British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush, who formed an alliance that eventually culminated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although the song didn’t achieve the objective originally sought by George Michael: people took it as an attack on George Bush, when it was really meant as an attack on Tony Blair.
Freeek, the second single from Patience, came to occupy positions in 22 “top” lists worldwide. Freeek was a production in the style of Fastlove and I Want Your Sex, but did not generate as much controversy as its musical predecessors.
Patience was the last album produced by George Michael. From then on he devoted himself to producing free music, which could be downloaded via the Internet free of charge. All George Michael asked in return, was that people donate to their favorite charitable organizations.
The end of George Michael: drug and health problems
After the release of the Patience era, George Michael’s life became marked by problems with the law, drug abuse, and health issues. Between 2006 and 2010, George Michael was arrested multiple times for possession of drugs and controlled substances. In several interviews he admitted he had problems, mainly with the use of marijuana, and was trying to quit this addiction in any way possible.
Then in 2011, George Michael had to cancel several concerts as a result of infections. It was later revealed that he had been suffering from pneumonia, and had been in the intensive care unit. The infections caused psychological trauma for which doctors recommended he receive treatment. George Michael received a tracheotomy while in the ICU in order to keep him alive, which severely impaired his voice.
In 2013, while traveling down the highway in his car, George Michael fell out and received a serious head injury. According to the driver who was with him, Michael was trying to close the car door, and dropped from the vehicle. Following the injury, he had to be airlifted to a hospital. Eventually he recovered and continued his personal life, secluded and away from the public eye.
In 2015, the drug problems returned. George Michael entered a rehab clinic in Zurich. He was seen several times in city restaurants and art exhibitions. At that time, it also came to light that Michael had also used cocaine at some point, although it was never revealed whether cocaine was part of his addiction, or just an experiment without consequences.
On December 25, 2016, an ambulance was dispatched to the singer’s home in England. A few hours later, his publicist revealed that the singer had died, for reasons unspecified. The police conducted an inspection and found that there were irregular conditions warranting further investigation.