Grammy-Winning George Michael was one of the most prominent pop stars in the 1980s and 90s. The world was shocked and devastated to hear about the 53-year-old’s unexpected death, on Christmas Day 2016. Read below to find out more of this music legend’s life and facts that have emerged after his passing.
He Is Of Greek & English Descent
George Michael was born Giorgio Kyriacos Panayiotou, on June 25, 1963, in East Finchley, London. His father, Kyriacos Panayiotou, was a Greek restaurateur and moved to England in the 1950s. After the move, his father changed his name to Jack Panos. His mother, Lesley Angold, was an English dancer. George spent most of his childhood in Kingsbury, London.
Wham! Partner Andrew Was His Classmate
George eventually moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire, with his parents. He attended Bushey Meads School, where he met Andrew Ridgeley. Ridgley was in a ska group called “The Executive” and George had been DJing in local clubs in Bushey and Watford. The two came together to form “Wham!,” in 1981.
Wham! Becomes A “Fantastic” Success
Wham!’s first album “Fantastic,” was released in July 1983. It hit number one, on the UK charts. The album included singles like “Young Guns”, “Wham! Rap” and “Bad Boys,” and “Club Tropicana.” There was also a hidden track on the album. A tune played on a honky tonk-style piano, which is added onto the last 20 seconds of “Young Guns (Go for It!).” George wrote most of the songs on the album.
Wham! Was Definitely Making It Big
Wham! released their second album “Make It Big,” in October 1984. “Make It Big,” reached number one, on the US and UK charts. The album included one of Wham!’s best known songs “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” which also reached number 1, on the charts. George was the the sole credited producer on this album and it has been certified 6× Platinum in the US. This album also gave the public a first taste of George’s solo career with “Careless Whisper.”
Wham! Broke Down Cultural Barriers
Wham!’s 1985 performance, in China, was a monumental one. After the Cultural Revolution, China was just beginning to open their doors to outside influences. Wham!’s manager sat down with Chinese officials and convinced them letting Wham! perform would project a good image to the rest of the world. The duo became the first Western band to perform inside the country. Before Wham!, many types of music were forbidden by the country.
In 1987, George released a duet single, with Aretha Franklin, titled “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).” The song reached number one in both the UK Singles Chart and Billboard Hot 100. The song was also Franklin’s first and only UK number-one hit. The song remained number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. This was George’s 4th number one hit in the U.S., including his songs with Wham!.
Suggestive Lyrics Lead To Censorship
George’s single “I Want Your Sex,” was released in June 1987. It was a hit track on the “Beverly Hills Cops II” soundtrack. However, it also cause quite a frenzy. The suggestive and risque lyrics led the song to be banned from many radio stations in the UK and US. MTV only broadcasted the music video in last hours of the night. An edited version to “I Want Your Love,” was created and was accepted by mainstream media.
George Shares His “Faith” With The World
In 1988, George Michael embarked on his Faith World Tour. He began his tour in February in Tokyo. From there he traveled to Australia, Europe and the United States. While performing in LA, Aretha Franklin joined him on stage to sing their duet “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).” He finished the tour, in July, in Barcelona. His tour of 137 shows was completely sold out! By the end of 1988, he was one of the top-selling artists in the US.
Second Solo Album Was A Commercial Disappointment
In 1991, George released his second solo album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1.” After his first album “Faith,” was a huge hit, his second solo album had a much less positive result. Although it did very well in the UK, he only sold 2 million copies in the US. One single from the album “Praying For Time,” had a particularly somber feeling. The lyrics spoke about the social injustices and ill wills of the world.
Tragedy Strikes George’s Love Life
George’s life was shattered after his lover Anselmo Feleppa, only after 6 months of dating, told George, he was was HIV positive. George originally met Feleppa after spotting him at one of his concerts. George is quoted with saying Feleppa was his first love. Feleppa died in 1993, and it sent George into a depression. George pays tribute to his first love in his song, “Jesus to a Child.”
Fighting For Control
In 1994, George entered a legal battle with Sony Music Entertainment. Michael claimed that Sony had failed to promote his album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1,” as punishment when the artist decided to downplay his status as a sex symbol. He also claimed he had no control over the music he created. The court rejected Michael’s claims. Sony sold his contract to Virgin Records and DreamWorks Records.
Loss Caused Depression
Shortly, after Anselmo Feleppa’s death, George came out to his parents. After taking a hiatus from the public scene, due to drug addiction and depression, George released his third solo album “Older,” in 1996. The album contains the song “Jesus to Child,” which he wrote for his recently passed lover. Unfortunately, he lost his mother to cancer, in 1997. The loss of his lover and mother within a few years of each other, caused George spiral downward even more.
Felon To Social Justice Fighter
Michael turned his 1998 arrest into a positive, by using it as a platform to highlight social injustices and prejudices. He released the single “Outside,” in 1998, off his greatest hits album “Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael.” In the music video, Michael dresses as an LA cop, and is dancing in a public restroom. Numerous couples are arrested for performing “lewd acts.” The video ends when two police officers are secretly watched pasionately embracing.
Fourth Studio Album
“Songs from the Last Century” was the fourth studio album by George Michael, released in 1999. This is the only solo album, of Michael’s, that did not reach number one on the UK Charts. It was beat out by Shania Twain’s “Come On Over.” The album includes Michael’s renditions of “Roxanne” (originally by The Police) and “Miss Sarajevo” (originally by U2 with Luciano Pavarotti). The album has been certified 2x platinum in the UK.
George Michael On Politics
In 2002, George releases the single “Shoot The Dog.” The song causes some anger as it is a politically directed song. The song deals with the relationship between the US and UK government. It is also very anti-Tony Blair and George W. Bush and the way they handled their involvement in the war in Iraq. The music video was completely animated. This song was the second single from his album “Patience.” However, it was released a year and a half before the album dropped.
“Patience” Is A Virtue
In 2003, George resigned with Sony Music Entertainment. In 2004, George release “Patience,” his first album of original music in 8 years. The album shot to number 1 in the UK, and became one of the fastest selling albums in the country, as well. The album originally hit number 29 in the US. However, after some promotion and TV appearances, it quickly rose to its rightful spot of number one. All of the songs on this album were produced by George Michael.
Twenty Five Years Of Music
In 2006, George released his greatest hits album “Twenty Five.” The release celebrated his 25th anniversary of his music career. The album contained many of his solo songs, however a few Wham! songs were also included. The album was sold in two different versions: a 2-CD set and a limited edition 3-CD set. A Twenty Five DVD, including 40 of his music videos, was also released the same year.
The World Wanted More
George Michael’s 25th Anniversary world tour, also known as 25 Live, began 23 September 2006. This was Michael’s first tour in 15 years! The tour began in Barcelona. It was originally supposed to finish in London, but more dates were added due to such high demand, and the tour finished in 2008, in Abu Dhabi. After 106 shows in 41 countries, the tour grossed more than $200 million.
In 2006, George was arrested on a drug-related charge. In 2007, he was arrested for using his car while “unfit to drive through drugs.” He pled guilty to that charge and was banned for driving for 2 years. In 2008, he was arrested again for possession of Class A & Class C drugs. In July 2010, while returning from a Gay Pride Parade he was arrested for driving under the influence, after crashing his car in a store. He was sentenced to 8 weeks in jail, 4 of which he served.
The End of A Love Story
Kenny Goss and George Michael met at a Fred Segal restaurant in Los Angeles. The two began dating in 1996, but didn’t bring their relationship to the public until 1998. After 13 years, the couple split in 2009. However, the split was not confirmed until the opening night of Michael’s Symphonica tour, where he said “In truth Kenny and I haven’t been together for two and a half years.”
Symphonica World Tour Comes To A Halt
The Symphonica Tour was announced in May 2011. The tour began in Prague in August 2011. He continued to tour until November. It was then announced tour dates had to be postponed, due to an illness. George resumed his tour in September 2012 in Austria, and finished the tour in October in London. During his tour, he performed at the Opera House in Paris. He was the first contemporary artist to do so.
Touch of Death
While on tour in 2011, George came down with pneumonia. He had battled the sickness for a month before he ended up in an intensive care unit at an Austrian Hospital. He downplayed his illness so he would not worry his fans. During a press conference, after returning home from the hospital, George is quoted as saying “It was by far the worst month of my life, but I am incredibly, incredibly fortunate to be here – and to have picked up the bug where I did.”
A New Love Found
Celebrity hairstylist, Fadi Fawaz, began dating George Michael shortly after his split with Kenny Goss. It has been reported Fawaz was with Michael when he was being treated for pneumonia in 2011. The last time the couple was publicly photographed together was 2015. However, Fadi claims they were still together up until George’s death. Fawaz was the one who found Michael’s body on Christmas Morning.
A Song Fit For Royalty
In 2011, Michael created a buzz after he announced he would be creating a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You and I,” as a wedding gift for Prince William and Kate Middleton. Michael claimed he did not create the cover for promotional gains, and only for the happiness of the royal couple. Michael had a close friendship with Princess Diana after they met at the AIDS Charity benefit concert.
Eye Candy In A Video
In August 2012, George releases the song “White Night.” The song was to commemorate the 30th anniversary since his first single entered the UK charts. The song was inspired by his near death experience after coming down with pneumonia in 2011. The music video features supermodel Kate Moss. It was reported George approached Kate to be in the video after she publicly stated she was sad she was unable to participate in the “Freedom” music video.
Check-In To Rehab
In 2013, Michael had a stint in a rehab facility in Australia. He retreated to the Sanctuary, in Byron Bay, for 2 months. He was being treated for “emotional anxiety and other issues.” The Sanctuary reportedly costs $46,000 per week. It has also been reported his boyfriend Fadi Fawaz stayed with him in one of the Sanctuary’s luxury home. However, Fawaz has denied this, saying he was visiting his mother in Queensland.
In May 2013, Michael got into an accident after falling onto the M1 motorway in England. Michael was reportedly adjusting his door when he fell from a Range Rover onto the roadway. He was airlifted to a specialist trauma hospital, in London. He was in the hospital for 10 days. Michael was only a passenger in the car, and he was not fined for not wearing a seatbelt. A spokeswoman for local police believed it was against public interest to pursue prosecution.
Last Album Release
In March 2014, George released “Symphonica,” his first album for new recordings since “Patience,” in 2004. The album contains mostly live versions of songs, from his 2011-2012 world tour. However it also included 6 of his own works, and the rest being covers. This was the final work by both producer Phil Ramone and George Michael. The album debuted at #1 on UK Charts.
In 2015, Michael checked himself into rehab again. However, this time he openly admitted he had a drug addiction to cannabis. He checked himself into the Kusnacht Practice in nearby town of Zolliko. The clinic cost £190,000-a-month. At one point, Michael admitted he was smoking cannabis 25 times a day. Michael’s agent said the treatment was part of an ‘extended break’ on the continent.
George Michael had future projects planned, before his untimely demise. It was announced he was working on a new album with producer Naughty Boy. A documentary titled “Freedom: George Michael,” was in the works. The film was going to document the period in which he recorded and released “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1.” Michael was going to narrate the film, and there would be guest appearances by Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Mary J. Blige and more.
Who Will Receieve His Inheritance?
It has been reported George Michael collected a net worth of over $200 million. As he has no legal spouse or children, people are wondering where his estate will go. It was recently reported his godchildren will receive much of it. George was godfather to Roman and Harley Moon Kemp, the children of his Wham! bandmate Shirlie Holliman and bassist Martin Kemp. It is also possible former Spice Girl Geri Horner’s daughter, Bluebell, may receive some money. Bluebell is the goddaughter of George’s ex-boyfriend Kenny Goss.
Extraordinary Anonymous Donations
Millions of tributes and stories poured in after the loss of George Michael. It was recently revealed that beside an amazing musical talent, he was a very generous philanthropist. It is reported that he once anonymously donated £15,000 to a woman who couldn’t afford In Vitro Fertilization. He helped a stranger after seeing her crying, in a cafe, because she was overwhelmed by debt. He had the waitress give her a check for £25,000, after he left. He volunteered at homeless shelters, and asked others to keep it a secret. The stories go on and on.
Gone But Not Forgotten
George Michael was one of the best selling artists of all time. He had 10 albums reach the Billboard 200. He was nominated for 49 music awards, 17 of which he won, including the AMA for Favorite Album and Grammy for Best Album. He sold over 100 million records. His influence in music has been noted by many singers who have come after him. George Michael’s legacy will certainly live on forever.
The Loss Of A Legend
George Michael passed away Christmas Day 2016. George’s body was discovered by his current partner, Fadi Fawaz, in Michael’s Oxfordshire home. The 53-year old was found in his bed lying peacefully. George’s manager, Michael Lippman, told “The Hollywood Reporter,” George had died from heart failure. The exact cause of death is still not confirmed. Many have expressed their sorrow and love to the singer via social media and leaving tributes at his house in London.