Monday, December 26, 2016

GEORGE MICHAEL (1963 - 2016)

The Christmas holiday took a very sad turn when it was announced that we lost another iconic artist. George Michael, the music superstar who first found fame as part of the pop act, Wham! in the '80's before finding even greater success after going solo, passed away suddenly on December 25th. Few details have been given to date but he was found at his home in Goring in Oxfordshire, England and had died of heart failure.

Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in East Finchley, London, he dreamed of being a singer since he was a child. While a teen, he worked as a DJ for school parties and clubs before meeting classmate, Andrew Ridgeley and together they were going to conquer the music world.

They put together an act called Wham! and recorded their first single, "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" in 1982. The song introduced a little bit of rap which was still a very American sound and relatively unfamiliar in pop music at the time. It didn't have much impact initially although it would find chart success later after Wham!'s follow-up single, "Young Guns (Go for It)" became a top-five hit on the UK pop chart. With the release of the debut album, "Fantastic" in 1983, the now-named, George Michael and Ridgely became one of the hottest pop acts in Britain. Then with their second album, "Make It Big" and the singles, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Careless Whisper", Wham! would become international superstars.

The duo would ride the massive wave of success with several hit singles, being part of Band-Aid to help with African famine with the charity single, "Do They Know It's Christmas", performing at the concert Live Aid and becoming the first Western pop act to tour China in 1985. Not long after, Michael was ready to leave behind his teen idol image and pursue a more mature musical sound and announced the end of Wham! in 1986.

Michael's first album as a solo artist was "Faith" and released the following year. This became a major hit thanks to the title track, the controversial, "I Want Your Sex", "Father Figure", "Monkey", "Kissing a Fool" and "One More Try" in addition to a single, "I Knew You Were Waiting", a duet with the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The record would go on to sell twenty-five million copies worldwide and win the Grammy Award for Album of The Year.

But this overwhelming popularity and fame put a lot of pressure on Michael. He tried to regain some control by not doing live performances nor having his image on album covers or music videos for his next album, "Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1" in 1990. While the album sold well, it didn't do nearly as well as "Faith" which created friction between Michael and his label, Sony. Each accused the other with failing to properly promote the record and a lawsuit followed.

After eventually settling the dispute, Michael returned to creating music and released the deeply personal, "Older" in 1994. The first single, "Jesus To a Child" was a loving tribute to Anselmo Feleppa who had recently passed away. That he had been his lover or that Michael was even gay was not publicly known at this time but the singer would come out in a big way a few years later after he was arrested for lewd behavior in a public restroom in Beverly Hills, CA.

Other legal problems would plaque Michael later as he had several issues regarding drugs and alcohol abuse. He also had health issues with him nearly dying in 2011 from a viral infection and suffering from a serious head injury after falling out of a moving car in 2013.

Michael only released five studio solo albums over his career but he went on to sell over one hundred million records. His last album released was "Symphonica" in 2014 which featured live performances from his extensive European tour that featured a full orchestra.

An amazing talent and generous spirit, George Michael will be greatly missed. Here a just a few of my favorite song from this unforgettable artist:


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