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June 25, 2024

30 Amazing Photographs of George Michael on Stage From the 1980s

George Michael (June 25, 1963 – December 25, 2016) was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in East Finchley, London, England. One of the leading artists in popular music in the 1980s and 1990s, he grew up in and around London, where he developed his passion for music at an early age.

While in high school, Michael befriended Andrew Ridgeley, with whom he shared a love of pop music and they began playing music together. By some reports, Michael and Ridgeley were an unlikely duo. Michael was pudgy and shy, while Ridgeley was attractive and outgoing.

Dropping out of high school, Michael and Ridgeley started a short-lived ska band called the Executive. That band only played a few gigs before it fell apart, but Michael and Ridgeley soon found success. In 1982, they landed a recording contract with Innervision records and became known as Wham! Their first album, Fantastic!, was released in the United Kingdom in 1982, and climbed as high as the No. 4 spot on the charts there (it was released in the United States the following year). With their youthful good looks, Wham! soon developed a devoted following among teenage girls.

With their catchy, Motown-influenced sound, Wham! lived up to the title of their second album, Make It Big (1984). They scored their first number one hit in the United States with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” The up-tempo hit “Everything She Wants” and the ballad “Careless Whisper” also reached the top of the U.S. charts. In 1984, Michael also performed with the charity Band Aid on the holiday single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to benefit Ethiopian famine relief. Michael and Ridgeley also donated the proceeds of their hit holiday single “Last Christmas”/“Everything She Wants” to Band Aid’s charitable efforts.

A year later on April 7, 1985, Wham! made history as the first Western pop group to perform in China. On July 13, 1985, Wham! performed to raise funds for Ethiopian famine again, at Live Aid, and it was there that Michael and Elton John sang John’s classic “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me,” at Wembley Stadium in London.

As the lead vocalist and main songwriter, Michael emerged as the star of the group. It was not long before he broke out on his own. He left after the group’s 1986 recording, Music from the Edge of Heaven. While it was not as big of a hit as their earlier efforts, the album still had several popular singles, including “Where Did Your Heart Go?” and “I’m Your Man.”

As a solo artist, Michael earned his first Grammy Award for a duet with soul icon Aretha Franklin. Their single, “I Knew You Were Waiting,” won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1987. That same year, he made an impressive debut with Faith (1987). Trying to shed his teen heartthrob image, he went for an edgier look, often sporting a leather jacket and a few days’ worth of stubble. Musically, he took a funkier direction as well with the album. Driven in part by the number one title track, the recording reached the top of the album charts. Other hits included “Father Figure,” “Monkey,” and “One More Try.”

Michael also courted controversy with another track on the album—“I Want Your Sex.” Some radio stations in the United States refused to play it because of its explicit content while others would only play it late at night for the same reason. Despite the censorship, Faith went on to sell more than 25 million copies worldwide and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1988.

Continuing his musical evolution, Michael incorporated soulful and jazz elements into his songs on Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (1990). The album featured a few hits, including “Praying for Time.” Further distancing himself from his pop image, he chose not to star in the video for “Freedom 90.” Instead, the video featured such models as Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford.


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