Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  A look back at the music of George Michael

George Michael first shot to musical fame when he formed his band Wham! with a friend from school, Andrew Ridgeley. At 19, their first single, “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do) releases and goes on to peak at #8 on the UK singles chart. They release their first album Fantastic a month later, in July 1983.

Filled with teenage angst of following your dreams versus being stuck in a 9-to-5, (“Listen Mr. Average, you’re a jerk") Michael and Ridgeley’s plain white tee, leather jacket, and tight cropped jeans would be considered almost gender-fluid statements today.

Two years later, in 1983, the single ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" is released. It would later go on to become one of those catchy numbers used in many movies, including Charlie’s Angels (2000), Zoolander (2001) and as BBC’s Wimbledon 2day episode from 2014’s Championships.

A year later, another famous single ‘Last Christmas’ was released as part of a double-A side with ‘Everything She Wants’— the former not only becomes a staple part of the OST of many a Christmas movie, but also inspires bands across genres to make their own covers. This includes rock band Jimmy Eat World, as well as the Eurodance computer animated Crazy Frog (aka The Annoying Thing). Soon after that, Wham! stops in China as part of their world tour, making them the first pop group from the West in the country.

Some memorable collaborations follow, starting with Elton John in 1985 and a duet with powerhouse American singer Aretha Franklin for ‘I Knew You Were Waiting For Me’ in 1987.

In 1988, Michael starts making his mark as a solo act with the album Faith, prompting a 1988 profile by Steve Pond in the Rolling Stone.

In it, the pop icon talks of the failure of Wham! “in its ultimate goal", and a bout of depression that affected his writing. Faith is nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy. He wins this, and the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1990.

A year later, Michael tours five countries, not to promote his newly released album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, but to sing covers of a whole host of his favourite songs. Called ‘Cover to Cover’, the tour is also remembered for his duet of ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ with Elton John. The recording of this performance tops international charts. Only two songs from Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 were made into music videos. ‘Freedom! ’90 ‘was one of them:

After the release of Five Live, the recording of a tribute concert to Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury, Michael goes into a period of seclusion for a few years: he loses his mother soon after his partner Anselmo Feleppa dies of AIDS in 1993. His tribute to Feleppa, ‘Jesus To A Child’ reaches #1 on UK charts in 1995.

In 1998, an album Ladies & Gentlemen, compiling 28 of his best tracks releases and becomes Michael’s most commercially successful one in the UK, selling more than 2.8 million copies. Michael follows this up with an album of his covers in 1999 (Songs from the Last Century).

‘Shoot The Dog’ one of Michael’s most controversial releases, came out in 2002. Not only did it mark 20 years of Wham!’s first single, but it also critiqued the then US administration under president George W. Bush as well as the then UK prime minister Tony Blair, who Michael had earlier endorsed. (“It’s gonna be alright/See Tony dancing with Dubya/Don’t you want to know why?")

It was accompanied with animated video from the British satire cartoon series 2DTV.

A fifth solo album (Patience in 2004) and some compilation and anniversary albums later, Michael performed his last tour in 2011-2012. Though the concert was mostly filled with covers, at this last gig at London’s Earls Court, he performed a medley of his originals “Amazing," “I’m Your Man" and “Freedom! ‘90."

This was his last public performance.

In 2016, Michael announced that a second documentary on his life, with a special focus on the music of Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, called Freedom will be released in 2017. The first, A Different Story, which spanned his life and career, released in 2005.

Michael, 53 passed away of a suspected heart failure on Christmas Day, 2016.

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