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George Michael

George Michael was the biggest British pop star of the 1980s, spinning a series of infectiously catchy pop singles into global stardom that saw him sell over 100 million albums worldwide. Blessed with good looks, a fine voice, and a knack for writing engaging melodies that worked well with dance-friendly rhythms, Michael became the rare teen sensation who matured into a respected star as an adult, though his life after achieving pop icon status was not without personal and creative challenges. Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25, 1963 in the North London suburb of East Finchley; his father was a Greek Cypriot restaurant owner who changed his name from Kyriacos Panayiotou to Jack Michael when he immigrated to England in the 1950s. Michael's family relocated to Bushey, Hertfordshire when he was in his early teens, and he struck up a friendship with one of his new schoolmates, Andrew Ridgeley. Both Michael and Ridgeley were interested in music, and in 1979 they formed a ska band called the Executive; the group didn't go far, but it gave them a taste for the spotlight, and they took what they learned and in 1981 formed a pop duo called Wham! The early Wham! demos impressed executives at Innervision, an independent record label that signed the group to a contract. By 1982, Wham! had hit the U.K. pop charts with "Wham Rap" and "Young Guns (Go for It)," and scored an American record deal with Columbia. However, Michael and Ridgeley soon discovered how unfavorable their deal with Innervision was, and they opted out of their contract by forfeiting all future royalties on material from their first album, Fantastic, to sign with Sony worldwide. The choice proved to be shrewd; Wham!'s second album, 1984's Make It Big, transformed them from British hitmakers to a genuine international sensation, as "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," "Everything She Wants," "Careless Whisper," and "Freedom" became wildly successful in the U.K., Europe, and the United States. Wham! soon became one of the biggest new acts of the era, and in 1985 they became the first Western pop group to tour the People's Republic of China. But Michael displayed an ambition that went beyond Wham!'s new success, and the "Careless Whisper" single was released with the credit "Wham! Featuring George Michael," setting the stage for him to strike out on his own. In 1986, after Michael had released a proper solo single, "A Different Corner," Wham! announced their breakup and said farewell to their fans with a sold-out concert at London's Wembley Stadium. Michael wasted no time making his mark on his own, releasing his first solo album, Faith, in 1987. He produced and arranged the album, as well as writing the songs, and it managed to top Wham!'s phenomenal success, spawning a series of major hit singles (including "I Want Your Sex," "Father Figure," "Kissing a Fool," and the title track) and selling over 20 million copies worldwide (close to ten million in the United States alone). Michael promoted the album with a series of stylish, sexy music videos and a concert tour that found him playing 137 shows over the space of 16 months. Faith left no doubt that Michael was one of the new icons of pop music, and after recording successful duets with Elton John ("Wrap It Up" and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me") and Aretha Franklin ("I Knew You Were There [Waiting for Me]"), he proved he had the respect of veteran acts as well as the younger audience. However, Michael felt reined in by his image as a sexy pop singer, and after taking a well-deserved vacation in 1989, he released Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 in 1990, a set that was noticeably more somber, sophisticated, and personal than his previous work. Presumably to put the focus on his music rather than his image, Michael refused to appear in any music videos for the album and declined to tour in support; the album fared well commercially, but not as well as Faith, and Michael began expressing dissatisfaction with Sony, declaring his contract was financially inequitable and creatively stifling. Michael sued Sony to end his contract, leading to a long and costly legal battle that ended in 1995, with Michael signing to the newly launched DreamWorks Records label in the United States and Virgin in the rest of the world. (During the interim, Michael released a live EP that included material he performed with the surviving members of Queen at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.) In 1996, Michael finally released his third solo effort, Older, which followed in the more contemplative vein of Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. While the album went platinum in the United States, it was considered a commercial disappointment considering the success of Michael's previous work, though it fared better in Europe and the U.K. In 1998, Michael released Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael, a two-disc anthology that featured solo material as well as recordings with Wham! It also included a new song, "Outside"; the song and its video were created in response to a widely publicized incident in which Michael was arrested by an undercover cop in Los Angeles for "performing a lewd act" in a public restroom. After the arrest made headlines, Michael publicly acknowledged his homosexuality, and in time it was revealed that the song "Jesus to a Child" from Older was written in tribute to his late partner Anselmo Feleppa, who died of AIDS-related illnesses in 1993. In 1999, Michael released an album of covers, Songs from the Last Century, which was released worldwide by Virgin after Michael parted ways with DreamWorks. In 2002, Michael signed a new record deal with Polydor and released the single "Freeek," with a new album expected to follow. However, the subsequent full-length release, Patience, didn't arrive until 2004, and in a surprising move, it was issued not by Polydor, but the Sony-affiliated Epic label after Michael returned to the company he'd left nine years earlier. Michael also told journalists that he expected it to be his final commercially released album, adding he hoped to release future material online, with any proceeds going to charity. A second two-disc collection, Twenty-Five, was issued in 2008, and arrived after Michael once again found himself the subject of some controversy. In 2006 and 2007, he had been arrested on drug-related offenses in the U.K., and in 2010, he'd served four weeks in Suffolk's Highpoint Prison after pleading guilty to driving under the influence of cannabis. During a 2006 television interview, Michael smoked what appeared to be a joint and spoke openly of his marijuana use, saying, "I'd say it's a great drug, but obviously it's not very healthy. You can't afford to smoke it if you've got anything to do." Michael continued with the Twenty-Five tour in 2008, touring North America for the first time in 17 years. Over the next five years, Michael toured regularly, starting the Symphonica tour in 2011. This orchestral pop show was captured on record by producer Phil Ramone, who died before the album could be released. Michael completed the album and issued it under the title Symphonica in March 2014; it reached number one in the U.K., and number 60 in the U.S. His next project was a documentary, Freedom, plus the announcement that he was working on new recordings, but he died before anything was released, succumbing to heart failure on Christmas Day of 2016. ~ Mark Deming
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Stations Featuring
George Michael

    Awesome '80s

    Awesome '80s
    5 songs

    Classic Hits

    Classic Hits
    2 songs

    Smooth Jazz

    Smooth Jazz
    3 songs

    Love Songs

    Love Songs
    3 songs

    Patriotic Songs

    1 song

    Lite Hits

    1 song

    Gay Anthems

    3 songs

    '90s Pop

    1 song

    Shuffle Hits

    1 song

Albums by
George Michael

Top Songs by
George Michael

  1.   Song
  2.   Faith
  3.   Father Figure
  4.   One More Try
  5.   Freedom! '90
  6.   I Want Your Sex, Pt. 2
  7.   Careless Whisper
  8.   Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
  9.   Monkey
  10.   Fastlove
  11.   Freedom
  12.   Praying for Time
  13.   Too Funky
  14.   Fantasy by Nile Rodgers
  15.   As
  16.   Heal the Pain
  17.   Jesus to a Child
  18.   Kissing a Fool
  19.   Fantasy
  20.   A Different Corner
  21.   Somebody to Love
  22.   Hard Day
  23.   Move On
  24.   Miss Sarajevo
  25.   Flawless (Go to the City)
  26.   Let Her Down Easy
  27.   Amazing
  28.   The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
  29.   Killer/Papa Was a Rollin' Stone
  30.   Through
  31.   Last Christmas by Wham!
  32.   Outside
  33.   Waiting for That Day
  34.   I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)
  35.   Hand to Mouth
  36.   Roxanne
  37.   Older
  38.   Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
  39.   I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)
  40.   You Know That I Want To
  41.   Cowboys and Angels
  42.   Desafinado by Astrud Gilberto
  43.   To Be Forgiven
  44.   The Strangest Thing
  45.   Star People
  46.   White Light
  47.   Safe
  48.   My Baby Just Cares for Me
  49.   You've Changed
  50.   The Strangest Thing '97
  51.   They Won't Go When I Go
  52.   A Last Request (I Want Your Sex, Pt. 3)
  53.   Understand
  54.   Precious Box
  55.   Cars and Trains
  56.   I Can't Make You Love Me
  57.   Waiting (Reprise)
  58.   Soul Free
  59.   It Doesn't Really Matter
  60.   Where or When
  61.   December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas)
  62.   Love's in Need of Love Today
  63.   This Is Not Real Love
  64.   An Easier Affair