George Michael

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George Michael
George Michael 25LIVE.jpg
George Michael performing during his 25 Live tour in 2008.
Background information
Birth name Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou
Born (1963-06-25) 25 June 1963 (age 51)
East Finchley, London, England
Genres Post-disco, dance-pop, blue-eyed soul, pop
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, drums, percussion, horns
Years active 1982–present
Labels Aegean, Columbia, Sony
Associated acts Wham!, Band Aid, Boogie Box High, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Mary J. Blige, Mutya Buena, Whitney Houston
Website georgemichael.com
Notable instruments
Piano
John Lennon model "Z" Steinway[1]
from the BBC programme Desert Island Discs, 5 October 2007.[2]

Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (born 25 June 1963) known by his stage name George Michael (sometimes stylised George Michæl), is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer.[3] Michael rose to superstardom during the 1980s and 1990s with his style of post-disco dance-pop.[4] He has also been characterised as a blue-eyed soul singer, although his material draws more from middle-of-the-road pop than soul music.[5]

As one of the world's best-selling music artists, Michael has sold more than 100 million records worldwide as of 2010.[6] His 1987 debut solo album, Faith, has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and made several records and achievements in the United States.[7] Michael has garnered seven number one singles in the UK and eight number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked Michael the 40th most successful artist on the Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists list.[8]

Michael has won numerous music awards throughout his 30-year career, including three Brit Awards—winning Best British Male twice, four MTV Video Music Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards from eight nominations.[9][10]

In 2004, the Radio Academy named Michael as the most played artist on British radio between the period of 1984–2004.[11] The documentary A Different Story was released in 2005; it covered his personal life and professional career.[12] In 2006, George Michael announced his first tour in 15 years, the worldwide 25 Live tour, spanning three individual tours over the course of three years (2006, 2007 and 2008).[13]

Early life[edit]

Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (Greek: Γεώργιος Κυριάκος Παναγιώτου) in East Finchley, North London.[14][15] His father, Kyriacos Panayiotou, a Cypriot restaurateur, moved to England in the 1950s and changed his name to Jack Panos.[16] Michael's mother, Lesley Angold (née Harrison, 1937–1997),[17] was an English dancer. Michael spent the majority of his childhood in Kingsbury, North West London, in the home his parents bought soon after his birth, where he attended Kingsbury High School.[18] While in his early teens, the family moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire. There Michael attended the Bushey Meads School in the neighbouring town of Bushey, where he met Andrew Ridgeley. The two had the same career ambition of being musicians.[19] Michael would busk on the London Underground, performing songs such as "'39" by Queen.[20]

His involvement in the music business began with his working as a DJ, playing at clubs and local schools around Bushey, Stanmore and Watford. This was followed by the formation of a short-lived ska band called The Executive with Ridgeley, Ridgeley's brother Paul, Andrew Leaver, and David Mortimer (aka David Austin).[21]

Musical career[edit]

1981–1986: Wham![edit]

Main article: Wham!

Michael first found success after forming the duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The band's first album Fantastic reached No. 1 in the UK in 1983 and produced a series of top 10 singles including "Young Guns", "Wham Rap!" and "Club Tropicana". Their second album, Make It Big reached No. 1 on the charts in the US. Singles from that album included "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" (No. 1 in the UK and US), "Freedom", "Everything She Wants", and "Careless Whisper" which reached No. 1 in nearly 25 countries, including the UK and US, and was Michael's first solo effort as a single.[22][23]

Michael sang on the original Band Aid recording of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and donated the profits from "Last Christmas/Everything She Wants" to charity. In addition, he contributed background vocals to David Cassidy's 1985 hit "The Last Kiss", as well as Elton John's 1985 successes "Nikita" and "Wrap Her Up". Michael cited Cassidy as a major career influence and interviewed Cassidy for David Litchfield's Ritz Newspaper.[24]

Wham!'s tour of China in April 1985, the first visit to China by a Western popular music act,[25] generated enormous worldwide media coverage, much of it centred on Michael. The tour was documented by film director Lindsay Anderson and producer Martin Lewis in their film Foreign Skies: Wham! In China.[26]

With the success of Michael's solo singles, "Careless Whisper" (1984) and "A Different Corner" (1986), rumours of an impending break up of Wham! intensified. The duo officially separated during the summer of 1986, after releasing a farewell single, "The Edge of Heaven" and a singles compilation, The Final, plus a sell-out concert at Wembley Stadium that included the world premiere of the China film. The Wham! partnership ended officially with the commercially successful single "The Edge of Heaven", which reached No. 1 on the UK chart in June 1986.[27]

Solo career[edit]

The beginning of his solo career, during early 1987, was a duet with Aretha Franklin. "I Knew You Were Waiting" was a one-off project that helped Michael achieve an ambition by singing with one of his favourite artists, and it scored number one on both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 upon its release.[28][29]

George Michael performing on stage during the Faith World Tour in 1988

For Michael, it became his third consecutive solo number one in the UK from three releases, after 1984's "Careless Whisper" (though the single was actually from the Wham! album Make It Big) and 1986's "A Different Corner". The single was also the first Michael had recorded as a solo artist which he had not written himself. The co-writer, Simon Climie, was unknown at the time, although he would have success as a performer with the band Climie Fisher in 1988. Michael and Aretha Franklin won a Grammy Award in 1988 for Best R&B Performance – Duo or Group with Vocal for the song.[30]

1987–1989: Faith[edit]

During the autumn of 1987, Michael released his first solo album, Faith. In addition to playing a large number of instruments on the album, he wrote and produced every track on the recording, except for one, which he co-wrote.[31]

The first single released from the album was "I Want Your Sex", during the summer of 1987. The song was banned by many radio stations in the UK and US, due to its sexually suggestive lyrics.[32] MTV would broadcast the video, featuring celebrity make-up artist Kathy Jeung in a basque and suspenders, only during the late night hours.[32] Michael argued that the act was beautiful if the sex was monogamous. Michael even recorded a brief prologue for the video in which he said: "This song is not about casual sex."[33] One of the racier scenes involved Michael writing the words "explore monogamy" on his partner's back in lipstick.[34] Some radio stations played a toned-down version of the song, "I Want Your Love," which was mainly the word "love" replacing "sex."[35]

When "I Want Your Sex" reached the US charts, American Top 40 host Casey Kasem refused to say the song's title, referring to it only as "the new single by George Michael."[35] In the US, the song was also sometimes listed as "I Want Your Sex (from Beverly Hills Cop II)", since the song was featured on the soundtrack of the movie.[36] Despite censorship and radio play problems, "I Want Your Sex" reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 in the UK.[22][37]

The second single, "Faith", was released during October 1987, just a few weeks before the album. "Faith" would become one of his most popular songs. The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and maintained that position for four consecutive weeks.[23] It also reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart.[22] The famous video provided some definitive images of the 1980s music industry in the process—Michael in shades, leather jacket, cowboy boots, and Levi's jeans, playing a guitar near a classic-design jukebox.[38]

On 30 October, Faith was released in the UK and in several markets worldwide.[36] In the United States, the album had 51 non-consecutive weeks in the top 10 of Billboard 200, including 12 weeks at No. 1. Faith had many successes, with four singles ("Faith", "Father Figure", "One More Try", and "Monkey") reaching No. 1 in the US.[39] Faith was certified Diamond by the RIAA for sales of 10 million copies in the US.[40] To date, global sales of Faith are more than 25 million units.[41] The album was highly acclaimed by music critics, with AllMusic journalist Steve Huey describing "Faith" as a "superbly crafted mainstream pop/rock masterpiece" and "one of the finest pop albums of the '80s".[42] In a review by Rolling Stone magazine, journalist Mark Coleman commended most of the songs on the album, which he said "displays Michael's intuitive understanding of pop music and his increasingly intelligent use of his power to communicate to an ever-growing audience."[43]

In 1988, Michael embarked on a world tour.[44] The nightly set list included from the Wham! era "Everything She Wants" and "I'm Your Man", as well as covers of "Lady Marmalade" or "Play That Funky Music". In Los Angeles, Michael was joined on stage by Aretha Franklin for "I Knew You Were Waiting". It was the second highest grossing event of 1988, earning $17.7 million.[45] In February 1989, Faith won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 31st Grammy Awards.[46] At the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards on 6 September in Los Angeles, Michael received the Video Vanguard Award.[47]

According to Michael in his film, A Different Story, success did not make him happy and he started to think there was something wrong in being an idol for millions of teenage girls. The whole Faith process (promotion, videos, tour, awards) left him exhausted, lonely and frustrated, and far from his friends and family.[48] In 1990, he told his record company Sony that, for his second album, he did not want to do promotions like the one for Faith.[36]

1990–1992: Listen Without Prejudice[edit]

Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was released in September 1990. For this album, Michael tried to create a new reputation as a serious-minded artist; the title is an indication of his desire to be taken more seriously as a songwriter.[49] Michael refused to make any kind of promotion for this album, including no music videos for the singles released.[36] The first single, "Praying for Time", with lyrics concerning social ills and injustice, was released in August 1990 to critical acclaim. James Hunter of Rolling Stone magazine described the song as "a distraught look at the world's astounding woundedness. Michael offers the healing passage of time as the only balm for physical and emotional hunger, poverty, hypocrisy and hatred."[50] The song was an instant success, reaching No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 in the UK despite the absence of a video.[23] A video was released shortly thereafter, consisting of the lyrics on a dark background. Michael did not appear in this video or any subsequent videos for the album.[49]

The second single "Waiting for That Day" was an acoustic-heavy single, released as an immediate follow-up to "Praying For Time". It reached No. 23 in the UK[22] and No. 27 in the US.[23] in October 1990. The album was released in Europe on 3 September 1990 (and one week later in the United States). It reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart[22] and peaked at No. 2 on the US Billboard 200.[23] It spent a total of 88 weeks on the UK Albums Chart and was certified 4 times Platinum by the BPI.[51] The album produced 5 UK singles, which were released quickly, within an at eight-month period: "Praying for Time", "Waiting for That Day", "Freedom! '90", "Heal the Pain", and "Cowboys and Angels" (the latter being his only single not to chart in the UK top 40).[22]

"Freedom '90" was the second of only two of its singles to be supported by a music video (the other being the Michael-less "Praying for Time").[52] The song alludes to his struggles with his artistic identity, and prophesied his efforts shortly thereafter to end his recording contract with Sony Music. As if to prove the song's sentiment, Michael refused to appear in the video (directed by David Fincher), and instead recruited supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, and Cindy Crawford to appear in and lip sync in his stead.[52] It also featured the reduction of his sex symbol status.[53] It had contrasting fortunes on each side of the Atlantic—a No. 8 success on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US,[23] but only No. 28 on the UK Singles Chart.[22]

"Mother's Pride" gained significant radio play in the US during the first Persian Gulf War during 1991, often with radio stations mixing in callers' tributes to soldiers with the music.[54] It reached No. 46 on Billboard Hot 100 with only airplay.[23] In the end, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 sold approximately 8 million copies.[55]

At the 1991 Brit Awards, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 won the award for Best British Album.[56] Later in 1991, Michael embarked on the "Cover to Cover tour" in Japan, England, the US, and Brazil, where he performed at Rock in Rio.[57] In the audience in Rio, he saw and later met Anselmo Feleppa, the man who would become his partner.[54] The tour was not a proper promotion for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. Rather, it was more about Michael singing his favourite cover songs.[57] Among his favourites was "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", a 1974 song by Elton John; Michael and John had performed the song together at the Live Aid concert in 1985, and again for Michael's concert at London's Wembley Arena on 25 March 1991, where the duet was recorded. The single was released at the end of 1991 and reached No. 1 in both the UK and US.[58]

In the meantime, the expected follow-up album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2, was scrapped due to Michael's lawsuit with Sony.[59] Among Michael's complaints was that Sony had not completely supported the release of his second album, resulting in its poor performance in the US as compared to Faith. Sony responded that Michael's refusal to appear in promotional videos had caused the bad response.[60] Michael ended the idea for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2 and donated three songs to the charity project Red Hot + Dance, for the Red Hot Organization which raised money for AIDS awareness,[61] while a fourth track "Crazyman Dance" was the B-side of 1992's "Too Funky". Michael donated the royalties from "Too Funky" to the same cause.[62]

"Too Funky" was a commercial success, reaching No. 4 in the UK singles chart[22] and No. 10 in the US Billboard Hot 100.[23] It did not appear on any George Michael studio album, although later it was included on his solo collections Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael in 1998 and Twenty Five in 2006. The video featured Michael (sporadically) as a director filming supermodels Linda Evangelista, Beverly Peele, Tyra Banks, Estelle Lefébure and Nadja Auermann at a fashion show.[63]

1993: Five Live[edit]

Main article: Five Live (EP)

"George Michael was the best. There's a certain note in his voice when he did "Somebody to Love" that was pure Freddie."

—Queen guitarist Brian May on Michael's performance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.[64]

George Michael performed at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on 20 April 1992 at London's Wembley Stadium.[65] The concert was a tribute to the life of the late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, with the proceeds going to AIDS research.[66] In his last ever radio interview Mercury had praised Michael adding that he loved his track "Faith".[64] Michael performed "'39", "These Are the Days of Our Lives" with Lisa Stansfield and "Somebody to Love". The performance of the latter was released on the "Five Live" EP.

Five Live, released in 1993 for Parlophone in the UK and Hollywood Records in the US, features five—and in some countries, six—tracks performed by George Michael, Queen, and Lisa Stansfield."Somebody to Love" and "These Are the Days of Our Lives" were recorded at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. "Killer", "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone", and "Calling You" were all live performances recorded during his "Cover to Cover Tour" from 1991. Michael's performance of "Somebody to Love" was hailed as "one of the best performances of the tribute concert".[67][68] The idea of having George Michael take over as full-time lead singer of Queen was even given serious consideration.

All proceeds from the sale of the EP benefited the Mercury Phoenix Trust.[69] Sales of the EP were very strong through Europe, where it debuted at number 1 in the UK and several European countries.[22] Chart success in the United States was less spectacular, where it peaked at number 40 on the Billboard 200 ("Somebody to Love" reached No.30 on the US Billboard Hot 100).[23]

1994–1997: Older[edit]

Main article: Older (album)

During November 1994, after a long period of seclusion, George Michael appeared at the first MTV Europe Music Awards show, where he gave a performance of a brand-new song, "Jesus to a Child".[70] The song was a melancholy tribute to his lover, Anselmo Feleppa, who had died in March 1993.[71]

The song was Michael's first self-penned success in his homeland in almost four years; it entered the UK singles chart at No. 1 and No. 7 on Billboard in the same month of release.[22][23] It was also Michael's longest UK Top 40 single, at almost seven minutes long. The exact identity of the song's subject—and the nature of Michael's relationship with Feleppa—was shrouded in innuendo and speculation, as Michael had not confirmed he was homosexual and did not do so until 1998. The video for "Jesus to a Child" was a picture of images recalling loss, pain and suffering. Michael consistently dedicates the song to Feleppa before performing it live.[72]

The second single, released in April 1996, was "Fastlove", an energetic tune about wanting gratification and fulfilment without commitment. The song was somewhat unusual for a popular song, in that it did not have a defined chorus and that the single version was nearly five minutes long. "Fastlove" was supported by a futuristic virtual reality-related video. It scored No. 1 in the UK singles chart, spending three weeks at the top spot.[22] In the US, "Fastlove" peaked at No. 8, his most recent single to reach the top 10 on the US charts.[23] Following "Fastlove", Michael finally released Older, his first studio album in six years and only the third in his ten-year solo career. The album's US and Canada release was particularly notable as it was the first album released by David Geffen's (now-defunct) DreamWorks Records.[73]

Older was particularly notable for the release of its six singles. Each of them reached the UK Top 3, a record for the most singles in the British Top 3 released from a single album.[74] At the time of release of the album's fifth single, "Star People '97", chart specialist James Masterton noted George Michael's success on the singles charts, writing: "George Michael nonetheless makes an impressive Top 3 entry with this single. The Older album has now proved itself to be far and away his most commercially successful recording ever. Five singles now lifted and every single one has been a Top 3 hit. Compare this with the two Top 3 hits produced by Faith and Listen Without Prejudice's scant total of one Top Tenner and one single which missed the Top 40 altogether. This sustained single success has, of course, been achieved with a little help from marketing tricks such as remixes – or in this case a new recording of the album track which gives it a much-needed transformation into a deserved commercial smash."[75]

In 1996, Michael was voted Best British Male, at the MTV Europe Music Awards and the Brit Awards;[76][77] and at the British Academy's Ivor Novello Awards, he was awarded the prestigious title of 'Songwriter of The Year' for the third time.[16] Michael performed a concert at Three Mills Studios, London, for MTV Unplugged.[78] It was his first long performance in years, and in the audience was Michael's mother. The next year, she died of cancer.[79]

1998: Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael[edit]

Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael was Michael's first solo greatest hits collection released in 1998. The collection of 28 songs (29 songs are included on the European and Australian release) are separated into two halves, with each containing a particular theme and mood. The first CD, titled "For the Heart", predominantly contains Michael's successful ballads, while the second CD, "For the Feet", consists mainly of his popular dance tunes.[80] It was released through Sony Music Entertainment as a condition of severing contractual ties with the label.[81]

The album is notable for containing a large number of compilation tracks and duets that had not previously appeared on his albums, including his duet with Aretha Franklin, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)"; "Desafinado", a duet in Portuguese with Brazilian legendary singer Astrud Gilberto; and the Elton John duet "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me".

Ladies & Gentlemen was an instant success, peaking at number one on the UK Albums Chart for 8 weeks.[22] It has spent over 200 weeks in the UK Charts, and it is the 38th best-selling album of all time in the UK.[82] It is certified 7 times platinum in the United Kingdom and Multi-Platinum in the United States, and it's George Michael's most commercially successful album in his homeland having sold more than 2.8 million copies.[51] To date, the album has reached worldwide sales of approximately 15 million copies.[83]

The first single of the album, "Outside" was a humorous song about his arrest for soliciting a policeman in a public restroom. "As", his duet with Mary J. Blige, was released as the second single in many territories around the world. Both singles reached the top 5 in the UK Singles Chart.[22]

1999: Songs from the Last Century[edit]

Songs from the Last Century is a studio album of cover tracks. It was released in 1999 and was the final George Michael album to be released through Virgin Records. To date, the album has peaked the lowest of his solo effort. The album debuted at number 157 on the American Billboard 200 albums chart, which was also the album's peak position.[23] It was also his lowest-charting album in the UK, becoming his only solo effort not to reach number 1. It peaked at number 2 in the UK Albums Chart.[22] It consists of old standards, plus new interpretations of more recent popular songs such as "Roxanne", "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"; and the Frank Sinatra classic "Where or When". Each of the 11 tracks was co-produced by Phil Ramone and George Michael.[84]

2000–2005: Patience[edit]

In 2000, Michael worked on the hit single "If I Told You That" with Whitney Houston, a song which was meant to feature Michael Jackson, initially. Michael co-produced on the single along with American producer Rodney Jerkins. It was also Michael's second consecutive duet.

Michael began working on what would be his fifth studio album, spending two years in the recording studio. His first single "Freeek!", taken from the new album, was successful in Europe going to number one in Italy, Portugal, Spain and Denmark in 2002 and reaching the top 10 in the UK and the top 5 in Australia.[85] It made 22 charts around the world. However, his next single "Shoot the Dog" proved to be highly controversial when released in July 2002. It was highly critical of George W. Bush and Tony Blair in the leadup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[86] It reached number one in Denmark and made the top 5 in most European charts.[87] However, in Britain it peaked at only number 12 in the UK Singles Chart.[22]

In February 2003 George Michael unexpectedly recorded another song in protest against the looming Iraq war, Don McLean's The Grave. The original was written by McLean in 1971 and was a protest against the Vietnam War. Michael performed the song on numerous top rated TV shows including "Top of the Pops" and "So Graham Norton". The video featured extensively on MTV. It was released as part of the War Child charity album Hope. Michael also performed the song on long-running British chart show Top of the Pops on BBC Television on 7 March 2003, introduced by the writer and stand-up comedian (and fan of George Michael) Ben Elton. It was Michael's first appearance on the show since 1986, when he performed "The Edge of Heaven" as one half of Wham!. He ran into conflict with the show's producers for an anti-war, anti Blair t-shirt worn by some members of his band.

In response, McLean issued a statement, through his website, praising George Michael's recording: "I am proud of George Michael for standing up for life and sanity. I am delighted that he chose a song of mine to express these feelings. We must remember that the Wizard is really a cowardly old man hiding behind a curtain with a loud microphone. It takes courage and a song to pull the curtain open and expose him. Good Luck George."[88]

On 17 November 2003, George Michael re-signed with Sony Music, the company he had left in 1995 after a legal battle. When Michael's fifth studio album, Patience, was released in 2004, it was critically acclaimed and considered the album of George Michael's comeback to the spotlight in the new millennium. It went straight to number 1 on the UK Albums Chart,[22] and became one of the fastest selling albums in the UK, selling over 200,000 copies in the first week alone.[89] In Australia it reached number 2 on 22 March.[90] It reached the Top 5 on most European charts, and peaked at number 12 in the United States, selling over 500,000 copies to earn a Gold certification from the RIAA.[23] To date the album had sold around 7 million copies worldwide and spawned four (of six) new hit singles.[91]

"Amazing", the third single from the album, became a number one hit in Europe.[92] When Michael appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on 26 May 2004, to promote the album, he performed "Amazing", along with his classic songs "Father Figure" and "Faith".[93] On the show Michael spoke of his arrest, revealing his homosexuality, and his resumption of public performances. He allowed Oprah's crew inside his home outside of London.[94] The fourth single taken off the album was "Flawless", which used the sample of The Ones' original dance hit "Flawless". It was a dance hit in Europe as well as North America, reaching no.1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and became Michael's last number one single on the United States Dance chart.[22]

In November 2004, Sony released the fifth single – "Round Here". It was the least successful single taken from Patience when it stalled the UK charts at no. 32.[22] In 2005, "John and Elvis Are Dead" was released as the sixth and final single from the album; it was released as a download single and was therefore unable to chart in the United Kingdom.[95]

Michael told BBC Radio 1 on 10 March 2004 that future music that he puts out will be available for download, with fans encouraged to make a donation to charity.[96]

2005–2010: Twenty Five and concert tours[edit]

Main article: Twenty Five (album)
George Michael performing in Antwerp, Belgium in 2006.

Twenty Five was George Michael's second greatest hits album, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his music career.[97] Released in November 2006 by Sony BMG, it debuted at no.1 in the UK.[98]

The album contains songs chiefly from George Michael's solo career but also from his earlier days in Wham! It comes in two formats: two CDs or a limited edition three-CD set. The 2-CD set contained 26 tracks, including four recorded with Wham! and three new songs: "An Easier Affair"; "This Is Not Real Love" (a duet with Mutya Buena, formerly of Sugababes, which peaked at No.15 in the UK Charts); and a new version of "Heal the Pain" recorded with Paul McCartney. The limited edition three-CD version contains an additional 14 lesser known tracks, including one from Wham! and another completely new song, "Understand".[99]

Twenty Five was released in North America on 1 April 2008 as a 29-song, two-CD set featuring several new songs (including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige and a song from the short-lived TV series Eli Stone)[100] in addition to many of Michael's successful songs from both his solo and Wham! career. To commemorate the Twenty Five album, George Michael toured North America for the first time in 17 years, playing large venues in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Tampa/St. Pete, Chicago and Dallas.[101] The DVD version of Twenty Five contains 40 videos on two discs, including seven with Wham!.[102]

During the 2005 Live 8 concert at Hyde Park, London, Michael joined Paul McCartney on stage, harmonising on The Beatles classic "Drive My Car". Michael was one of several remixers commissioned in 1990 to work on dance mixes for Bananarama's "Tripping on Your Love". Bananarama covered "Careless Whisper" for their Exotica album in 2001, and the track was also released as a single in France.

George Michael on stage in Munich in 2006

In 2006, Michael started his first tour in 15 years, 25 Live. The tour began in Barcelona, Spain, on 23 September and finished in December at Wembley Arena in England. According to his website, the 80-show tour was seen by 1.3 million fans. On 12 May 2007 in Coimbra, Portugal, he began the European "25 Live Stadium Tour 2007", including London and Athens, and ending on 4 August 2007 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. There were 29 tour dates (as of 21 April 2007) across Europe. On 9 June 2007 Michael became the first artist to perform live at the newly renovated Wembley Stadium in London, where he was later fined £130,000 for over-running the programme for 13 minutes.

On 25 March 2008, a third part of the 25 Live Tour was announced for North America. This part included 21 dates in the United States and Canada. This was Michael's first tour of North America in 17 years. Following news of Michael's North American tour, Twenty Five was released in North America on 1 April 2008 as a 29-song, 2-CD set featuring several new songs (including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige and a song from the short-lived TV series, Eli Stone) in addition to many of Michael's successful songs from both his solo and Wham! career. In addition, a companion 2-disc DVD of 40 videos was also made available.

Michael made his American acting debut by playing a guardian angel to Jonny Lee Miller's character on Eli Stone, a TV series that was broadcast in the United States. In addition to performing on the show as himself and as "visions", each episode of the show's first season was named after a song of his. Michael appeared on the 2008 finale show of American Idol on 21 May singing "Praying for Time". When asked what he thought Simon will say of his performance, he replied "I think he'll probably tell me I shouldn't have done a George Michael song. He's told plenty of people that in the past, so I think that'd be quite funny."[103][104][105] On 1 December, Michael performed in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as part of the 37th National Day Celebrations.

On 25 December 2008, Michael released a new track "December Song" on his website for free. It was hoped that fans who download the song would donate money to charity. Though the song is not available any more on his website, it remains available on file sharing networks[106] and on 29 October 2009 the BBC said that George Michael was to join the race for the UK Christmas number one as a remastered version of "December Song" would go on sale on 13 December. The popularity of the single was boosted by a promotional appearance that Michael made on The X Factor, where he performed the song with David Austin playing piano.

At the end of 2009, Michael announced, after months of speculation, that he would be performing shows in the Australian cities of Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, his first concerts in Australia since 1988.[107] On 20 February 2010, Michael performed his first show in Perth at the Burswood dome to an audience of 15,000.[108]

On 5 March 2010, Michael confirmed that he would be a guest performer at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras After Party, where he performed at 1 am, followed by Kelly Rowland at 3 am.[109]

On 2 March 2011, Michael announced the release of his cover version of New Order's 1987 hit "True Faith" in aid of the charity Comic Relief.[110] Michael released a cover of Stevie Wonder's 1972 song, "You and I" on 15 April 2011, as an MP3 gift to Prince William and Catherine Middleton on the occasion of their wedding on 29 April 2011.

Although the MP3 was released for free download,[111] Michael appealed that those who do download the special track that make a contribution to "The Prince William & Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund".[112]

2011–2014: Symphonica and concert tours[edit]

George Michael performing during his Symphonica tour in Nice in 2011.

On 11 May 2011, the Symphonica Tour was announced. Only European dates were released. The first show on the tour was performed at the Prague State Opera House on 22 August.[113] In October 2011, Michael was announced as one of the final nominees for the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.[114] In November, he had to cancel the remainder of the tour as he became severely ill with pneumonia in Vienna, Austria.[115]

Michael told fans over Twitter in January 2012 that he did not think his vocal cords would be ready for performance "till the summer", and that the tour will probably take place in September of that year, and may include previously unheard songs.[116] In February 2012, two months after leaving hospital, Michael made a surprise appearance at the 2012 Brit Awards at London's O2 Arena, where he received a standing ovation, and presented Adele the award for Best British Album.[117]

On 19 June 2012, George Michael released a single "White Light" in order the celebrate the 30 years since the release of Wham Rap. The single also contains a cover version of "Song to the Siren", and two remixes.[118]

Michael's album Symphonica was released on 17 March 2014, and became his 7th solo number one album in the UK, and 9th overall including his Wham! chart-toppers. The album was produced by Phil Ramone (his last production credit) and Michael.[119]

Personal life[edit]

Sexuality[edit]

At the age of 19, Michael told Andrew Ridgeley and close friends that he was bisexual.[120] Michael also told one of his two sisters, but he was advised by friends not to tell his parents about his sexuality.[121] In a 1999 interview with The Advocate, Michael told the Editor in Chief, Judy Wieder, that it was "falling in love with a man that ended his conflict over bisexuality." "I never had a moral problem with being gay," Michael told Wieder. "I thought I had fallen in love with a woman a couple of times. Then I fell in love with a man, and realized that none of those things had been love."[122] In 2007, Michael said he had hidden the fact he was gay because of worries over what effect it might have on his mother.[121]

Speaking about his time with Wham! in the 1980s, Michael said: "I used to sleep with women quite a lot in the Wham! days but never felt it could develop into a relationship because I knew that, emotionally, I was a gay man. I didn't want to commit to them but I was attracted to them. Then I became ashamed that I might be using them."[120] In 2009, Michael said: "My depression at the end of Wham! was because I was beginning to realise I was gay, not bisexual."[123]

Relationships[edit]

Michael established a relationship with Anselmo Feleppa, a male Brazilian dress designer, whom he had met at the 1991 concert Rock in Rio. Six months into their relationship, Feleppa discovered that he had HIV. Michael later said: "It was terrifying news. I thought I could have the disease too. I couldn't go through it with my family because I didn't know how to share it with them – they didn't even know I was gay."[123] In 1993, Feleppa died of an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage.[124]

Michael's single "Jesus to a Child" is a tribute to Feleppa (he consistently dedicates it to him before performing it live), as is his 1996 album Older.[125] In 2008, speaking about the loss of his partner Feleppa, Michael said: "It was a terribly depressing time. It took about three years to grieve, then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed."[126]

In 1996, Michael entered into a long-term relationship with Kenny Goss, a former flight attendant, cheerleader coach[127] and sportswear executive from Dallas.[128] They had homes in Dallas[129] and an £8 million mansion in Highgate, North London.[124] In late November 2005, it was reported that Michael and Goss would register their relationship as a civil partnership in the UK,[130] but because of negative publicity and his upcoming tour, they postponed it to a later date.[131][132]

On 22 August 2011, the opening night of his Symphonica world tour, Michael announced that he and Goss had split two years earlier.[133] Goss was present at Michael's British sentencing for driving under the influence of marijuana on 14 September 2010.[134]

Anonymous sex[edit]

Questions of Michael's sexual orientation persisted in public until 7 April 1998, when he was arrested for "engaging in a lewd act" in a public restroom of the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California.[135][136] In 2007, Michael said "that hiding his sexuality made him feel 'fraudulent', and his eventual outing, when he was arrested [...] in 1998, was a subconsciously deliberate act."[137]

Michael was arrested by an undercover policeman named Marcelo Rodríguez, in a sting operation using so-called "pretty police." In an MTV interview, Michael stated: "I got followed into the restroom and then this cop—I didn't know it was a cop, obviously—he started playing this game, which I think is called, 'I'll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I'm going to nick you!"[138]

After pleading "no contest" to the charge, Michael was fined US$810 and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. Soon afterwards, Michael made a video for his single "Outside", which satirised the public toilet incident and featured men dressed as policemen kissing. Rodríguez claimed that this video "mocked" him, and that Michael had slandered him in interviews. In 1999, he brought a US$10 million court case in California against the singer. The court dismissed the case, but an Appellate court reinstated the case on 3 December 2002.[139] The court then ruled Rodríguez, as a public official, could not legally recover damages for emotional distress.[140]

After the incident, Michael became explicit about his sexuality and his relationship with Kenny Goss which began in June 1996.

On 23 July 2006, Michael was again accused of engaging in anonymous public sex, this time at London's Hampstead Heath.[141] The anonymous partner was stated (wrongly, as it turned out) to be 58-year-old Norman Kirtland,[142] an unemployed van driver.[143] Despite stating that he intended to sue both the News of the World tabloid who supposedly photographed the incident and Norman Kirtland for slander, Michael stated that he cruises for anonymous sex[144] and that this was not an issue in his relationship with partner Kenny Goss.[145]

Drugs[edit]

On 26 February 2006, Michael was arrested for possession of Class C drugs, an incident that he described as "my own stupid fault, as usual." He was cautioned by the police and released.[146]

Michael was arrested in Cricklewood, North-West London, after motorists reported a car obstructing the road at traffic lights. He pleaded guilty on 8 May 2007 to driving while unfit through drugs.[147] He was banned from driving for two years, and sentenced to community service.

During September 2007, on Desert Island Discs, he said that his cannabis use was a problem; he wished he could smoke less of it and was constantly trying to do so.[148]

On 19 September 2008, Michael was arrested in a public toilet in the Hampstead Heath area of London for possession of Class A and C drugs. He was taken to the police station and cautioned for controlled substance possession.[149]

On 5 December 2009, in an interview with The Guardian, Michael explained he had cut back on cannabis and now smokes only 'seven or eight' spliffs per day instead of the 25 he used to smoke.[150]

In the early hours of Sunday 4 July 2010 Michael was returning from the Gay Pride parade. The singer was spotted on CCTV driving into the front of a Snappy Snaps store in Hampstead, North London and was arrested on suspicion of being unfit to drive.[151][152] On 12 August, London's Metropolitan Police said he was "charged with possession of cannabis and with driving while unfit through drink or drugs".[153] It was reported that Michael had also been taking the prescription medication Amitriptyline.[154][155]

On 24 August 2010, the singer pleaded guilty at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court in London after admitting driving under the influence of drugs[156] and on 14 September 2010 at the same court, was sentenced to eight weeks in prison, a fine, and a five-year ban from driving.[157][158] Michael was released from Highpoint Prison in Suffolk on 11 October 2010, after serving four weeks.[159]

Politics[edit]

Michael wrote "Shoot the Dog", a song critical about the friendly relationship between the American and British governments and their involvement in the Iraq War.

During 2000, Michael joined Melissa Etheridge, Garth Brooks, Queen Latifah, the Pet Shop Boys, and k.d. lang, to perform in Washington, D.C. as part of 'Equality Rocks' – a concert to benefit the Human Rights Campaign.[160]

During 2007, he sent the £1.45 million piano that John Lennon used to write "Imagine" around the United States on a "peace tour," having it on display at places where violence had taken place, such as Dallas' Dealey Plaza, where US President John. F. Kennedy was shot.[1]

He devoted his concert in Sofia, Bulgaria, from his "Twenty Five Tour" to the Bulgarian nurses prosecuted in the HIV trial in Libya.[161]

On 17 June 2008, Michael said he was thrilled by California's legalisation of same-sex marriage, calling the move "way overdue."[162]

Charity[edit]

During 1984, he sang as part of Band Aid on the charity song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" for famine relief in Ethiopia. This single scored No.1 on the UK music charts over Christmas 1984, holding Michael's own song, "Last Christmas" by Wham!, at No. 2. Michael donated the royalties from "Last Christmas" to Band Aid and subsequently sang with Elton John at Live Aid (the Band Aid charity concert) in 1985.

In 1988, George Michael took part in the Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute together with many other singers (such Annie Lennox and Sting), performing Sexual healing.

In 2003 he paired up with Ronan Keating on the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and won £32,000, after having their original £64,000 winnings halved after missing the £125,000 question.

The proceeds from the single "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" were divided among 10 different charities for children, AIDS and education. He is also a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.[163]

Michael is supporting a campaign to help raise US$32 million (GBP15 million) for terminally ill children.

In early 2011, Michael made You and I, a cover of a Stevie Wonder song, a free download on his website; he did so under the proviso that those that download it make a donation to a charity from those listed.

Assets[edit]

Between the years 2006 and 2008, according to reports, Michael earned £48.5 million ($97 million) from the 25 Live tour alone.[164] He reportedly earns millions more for private concerts that he periodically does, such as for billionaires Vladimir Potanin and Philip Green.[164] According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2011, Michael is worth £90 million in currency alone.[165] In July 2014, Michael was revealed to be a celebrity investor in a tax avoidance scheme called Liberty.[166]

Memoirs[edit]

In 1991 Michael released an autobiography titled "Bare" through Penguin Books, which he co-wrote with writer Tony Parsons. The over-200-page book covers various aspects of his life, including details of his relationship with a former girlfriend.[167]

Health troubles[edit]

On 26 October 2011, George Michael cancelled a performance at London's Royal Albert Hall due to a viral infection. On 21 November 2011, a hospital in Vienna admitted Michael after he had complained of chest pains while at a hotel just two hours before his performance at a venue there for his Symphonica Tour. The singer was later confirmed to have suffered from pneumonia and, until 1 December, was in an intensive care unit. While Michael appeared to be "in good spirits" and responded well to treatment following his admittance, hospital officials said on 25 November that his condition had "worsened overnight." This development led to cancellations and postponements of Michael's remaining 2011 performances, which mainly had been scheduled for the United Kingdom.[168]

On 1 December 2011, doctors at the hospital in which George Michael had stayed announced that the singer was "steadily improving" and that he had moved out of the intensive care ward. On 21 December 2011, the hospital discharged Michael. On 23 December 2011, Michael made a public speech outside his house in Highgate, London, in which he stated that the staff at the Vienna General Hospital had saved his life and that he would gratuitously perform a concert specifically for that staff. While making the speech, he became emotional and breathless.[169] During the speech, he also mentioned that he had undergone a tracheotomy.[170] He also revealed that, after waking from the coma, he had a temporary West Country accent.[171]

In May 2013, George Michael sustained a head injury when he impacted after falling from his moving automobile on the M1 motorway, near St Albans in Hertfordshire, and received an airlift to a hospital.[172][173][174]

Discography[edit]

Awards[edit]

Tours[edit]

See also[edit]


References[edit]

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