"Careless Whisper" is a song by English singer-songwriter George Michael (sometimes credited to "Wham! featuring George Michael" in Japan, Canada and the United States). It was released on 24 July 1984, by Epic Records in the United Kingdom, Japan and other countries, and by Columbia Records in North America. The song was George Michael's first solo single, although he was still performing in Wham! at the time (the song is included on Wham!'s album Make It Big).
The song features a prominent saxophone riff, and has been covered by a number of artists since its first release. It was released as a single and became a huge commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic and on both sides of the Pacific. It reached number one in nearly 25 countries, selling about six million copies worldwide – two million of them in the United States.
Unlike most of the other Wham! singles (except "Wham Rap!" and "Club Tropicana"), it was co-written by Andrew Ridgeley, the other member of the duo. The two had written it together as developing artists three years earlier in Watford, England.
The song went through at least two rounds of production. The first was during a trip Michael made to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where he went to work with producer Jerry Wexler at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Michael was unhappy with the version that was originally produced and decided to re-record and produce the song himself, this time coming up with the version that was finally released. The version Wexler produced did, was released later in the year, as a (4:41) B-side "Special Version" on 12" in the UK and Japan.
The record label Innervision were going to put out the Jerry Wexler version of Careless Whisper after the Club Fantastic Megamix as far back as 1983. Dick Leahy stated in George Michael's autobiography that while he couldn't stop the release of the Club Fantastic Megamix, he could stop the release of this single on the basis that as a publisher they "have the right to grant the first license of the recording of a tune of which he controls the copyright". He couldn't do anything about the Club Fantastic Megamix because it was already released material. He said: "We knew how big that song could be so it was necessary to upset a few people to stop it."
The officially released single, a mid-tempo sentimental ballad with a saxophone solo by Steve Gregory, was issued in August 1984, entering the UK Singles Chart at number 12. Within two weeks, it was at number one, ending a nine-week run at the top for "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It stayed at number one for three weeks, going on to become the fifth best-selling single of 1984 in the United Kingdom; it was outsold only by the two Frankie Goes to Hollywood tracks "Two Tribes" and "Relax," Stevie Wonder with "I Just Called to Say I Love You," and Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" The song also topped the charts in 25 other countries, including the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in February 1985 under the credit "Wham! featuring George Michael." Spending three weeks at the top in America, the song was later named Billboard's number-one song of 1985.
On the subject of his personal opinion of the song, Michael said in 1991 that it "was not an integral part of my emotional development" which he found sad because of the song meaning so much to so many people. He went on to say: "It disappoints me that you can write a lyric very flippantly—and not a particularly good lyric—and it can mean so much to so many people. That's disillusioning for a writer."
The music video (which uses the shorter single version) shows the guilt felt by a man (portrayed by Michael) over an affair, and his acknowledgement that his partner (Lisa Stahl) is going to find out. It was filmed on location in Miami, Florida, in 1984 and features such locales as Coconut Grove and Watson Island. The final part of the video shows Michael leaning out of a balcony at the last floor of Miami's Grove Towers.