The George Michael biography is a story of the struggle of a popular musician who lived life outside of the media spotlight and of a songwriter who has constantly fought to be appreciated as a serious and deliberate artist instead of a teeny bopper pop master. George Michael has seen many highs and lows in his career, but he has managed to remain one of the biggest selling and most beloved musicians in history.
George Michael Biography - The Early Years
George Michael was born George Kyriacos Panayiotou in London, UK on June 25, 1963. His first foray into music came in his early teen years when he formed a ska band called The Executives with school friends, including Andrew Ridgley. The ska band was more of a hobby than anything else for most of the members, but George and Andrew were more serious about making it in music. In 1981, the two struck out on their own and formed Wham!.
Wham! found massive success in their native UK with their first release, Fantastic. The first single, Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do?) became an instant classic for UK music fans and their album debuted at number one in the charts. That album spawned several top ten hits for them in Britain.
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
U.S. success didn't come for George Michael until Wham!'s second album, Make It Big. This album, combined with the single Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, became one of the biggest selling albums of the 1980s and cemented their places as global music superstars.
Although Wham! was on constant rotation on MTV and their songs were blaring out of radios all over the world, there was tension behind the scenes. Michael was the driving songwriting force behind the band, and he wanted to move away from the pop friendly music they had become famous for into a more soul/R&B direction - the kind of music that had inspired him to become a musician. He was also finding the spotlight difficult to cope with. Ridgley wanted to continue in the same vein. The public got a taste of the tension when the song Careless Whisper from Make It Big was released as a George Michael solo single - a rather bizarre move for their label, and especially ironic as this was the only Wham! song Ridgley had co-written since their first single. Shortly after Careless Whisper, Wham! parted ways.
George Michael Biography - The Solo Years
Michael was determined to shake off the pop image he had with Wham!, and after splitting with Wham!, his first new release was a duet with Aretha Franklin, I Knew You Were Waiting For Me - a song that went to number one in both the U.S. and UK.
If Michael was at all worried how the world would receive his solo career, he needn't have been. His first solo album, Faith, released in 1987, sold tons of millions of copies. It's popularity was propelled, in part, by the uproar over the first single from the album, I Want Your Sex. The song title sent the censors into a tizzy, and it was banned by many radio stations. Those that did play it often bleeped out the word "sex." MTV would only show the video late at night. Despite the relative lack of radio play, the song went all the way to number two in the U.S. charts, an unusual accomplishment for a song not in heavy rotation.
Post Faith, Michaels took another new direction. He was tired of the pressures of fame and withdrew from the spotlight almost completely. His subsequent albums have been more introspective, and he frequently refuses to appear in the videos for his songs or do press junkets for promotion. Faith has been his biggest selling solo album to date, but his subsequent efforts have continued to earn good sales. His solo discography includes:
- Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
- Songs from the Last Century
George Michael Biography - Personal Life
Although Michael frequently dated women, including Brooke Shields, during his Wham! days, he had long suspected he was gay. By the 1990s, he was involved in a relationship with a man, although he kept his personal life out of the press. His orientation was forced into the open when he was arrested for lewd conduct in an L.A. restroom with an undercover police officer. Since then, he has gone public with his relationship with a Dallas, Texas art gallery owner, who has been his partner since 1996.
Michael has had a few brushes with the law over drugs and in 2007 was banned from driving for two years in the UK for driving under the influence of drugs.