George Michael Biography
He has sold over 100 million records worldwide as of 2008, encompassing 12 British #1 singles, 7 British #1 albums, 10 US #1 singles, and 1 US #1 album. His 1987 debut solo album, Faith has sold over 20 million copies worldwide.
All four of his solo studio albums have scored #1 on the UK charts and have become international successes.
Michael was born Georgios-Kyriacos Panayiotou in Bushey, Hertfordshire. His father was Kyriacos Panayiotou, a Greek Cypriot restaurateur who moved to England in the 1950s and changed his name to Jack Panos. Michael's mother, Lesley Angold Harrison, was an English dancer who died from cancer in 1997. His maternal grandmother was Jewish. Michael spent the majority of his childhood in North London, a typical place for Greek Cypriot in the 1980s, living in the home his parents bought soon after his birth. During his early teens, the family moved to Radlett and Michael attended Bushey Meads School. Once in Radlett he attended violin lessons with Gwen Johnson whom he invited to the final Wham concert at Wembley.
Michael met Andrew Ridgeley at Bushey Meads School when Ridgeley volunteered to tutor Michael. The two both had the same career ambition of being musicians.
He began his career by forming a short-lived ska band called The Executive with Ridgeley, Ridgeley's brother Paul, Andrew Leaver, and David Mortimer (aka David Austin).
It was not until Michael formed the duo Wham! together with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981 that he was successful. The band's first album, Fantastic scored #1 in the UK and produced a series of top 10 singles including "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do?)" and "Club Tropicana". Their second album, Make It Big, was the breakthrough that made the duo international superstars, scoring #1 on the charts in the US. Singles from that album included "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", "Freedom", "Everything She Wants", and "Careless Whisper", the latter of which also became Michael's first solo effort as a single.
Michael also 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 the 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". In an exclusive foray into popular journalism, in 1985 Michael also interviewed David Cassidy for David Litchfield's legendary Ritz Newspaper.
Wham!'s tour of China in April 1985, the first visit to China by a Western popular music act, generated enormous worldwide media coverage, much of it centered on Michael. The tour was documented by celebrated film director Lindsay Anderson and producer Martin Lewis in their film Foreign Skies: Wham! In China and contributed to Michael's ever-increasing fame.
With the success of Michael's solo singles, "Careless Whisper" (1984) and "A Different Corner" (1986), rumours of an impending termination 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 unsuccessful single "Where Did Your Heart Go?", which reached a peak of #50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in November 1986.
George Michael desired to create music for a more sophisticated audience than the duo's primarily teenage fanbase. The beginning of his solo career, during early 1987, was a duet with soul music icon Aretha Franklin. "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" 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 Billboard Hot 100 upon its release.
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. With this song, Michael won a Grammy Award during 1988 for Best R&B Performance - Duo or Group with Vocal.
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.
The first single released from the album Faith was "I Want Your Sex," during the summer of 1987. The song was banned by many radio stations in the UK and USA, due to its sexually suggestive lyrics. MTV would broadcast the video, featuring celebrity make-up artist Kathy Jeung in a basque and suspenders, only during the late night hours. 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." One of the racier scenes involved Michael writing the words "explore monogamy" on his partner's back in lipstick. Some radio stations played a toned-down version of the song, "I Want Your Love," which was mainly the word "love" replacing "sex." When the tune 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." 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.
Despite censorship and radio play problems, "I Want Your Sex" reached #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on the week of 8 August 1987. Moreover, the single remained in the Top 10 for six weeks, and the Top 40 for a total of fourteen weeks. The song charted at #3 in Britain. In 2002, several years after the major controversy concerning the release of the song, the music video was featured at #3 on MTV's countdown of the most controversial videos in the channel's history.
The second single, "Faith," was released during October 1987, just a few weeks before the album. "Faith" would go on to become one of his most popular songs. The song scored #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA, and #2 in the UK singles chart. 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. "Faith" scored #1 on 12 December, and maintained that score for four consecutive weeks.
The album scored #1 in the UK and in several markets worldwide. In the United States, the album had 51 non-consecutive weeks of Billboard 200 Top 10 scores, including 12 weeks at #1. "Faith" had many successes, four of which ("Faith," "Father Figure," "One More Try," and "Monkey") scored #1.
Eventually, "Faith" scored Diamond certification by the RIAA for sales of 10 million copies in the US. To date, global sales of Faith are more than 20 million units.
During 1988, Michael embarked on a world tour. 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, California, Michael was joined on stage by Aretha Franklin for "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)."
That same year, he sang backing vocals for long-time friend and Wham! bass player Deon Estus on "Heaven Help Me." The song, written by both artists, just missed scoring in the British top 40, but scored #5 in the United States.
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. During 1990, he told his record company Sony that he did not want to do those kinds of promotions anymore.
Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was released in September 1990. Following the massive worldwide commercial success of Faith, for this album Michael tried to create a new reputation for himself as a serious-minded artist — the title is an indication of his desire to be taken more seriously as a songwriter. Michael refused to make any kind of promotion for this album, including no music videos for the singles released.
The first single, "Praying For Time", was released in August 1990. It concerned social ills and injustice; the song was hailed by critics as it scored number 6 in the UK and then scored number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 despite the absence of a video. A video was released shortly thereafter, consisting of the words of the song on a dark background. George Michale did not appear in person this video or subsequent videos for the album.
The second single "Waiting For That Day" was an acoustic-heavy single, released as an immediate follow-up to the comeback record, "Praying For Time". However, the corresponding album had also been released and therefore sales of the new single were unsurprisingly limited. "Waiting For That Day" scored number 27 in the US and number 23 in the UK in October 1990.
The album debuted in the Billboard 200 list at #22 but reached its maximum of #2, being blocked from the top spot by MC Hammer's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em. For the remainder of 1990 the album scored in the Top 10, and a total of 42 weeks inside the entire list, not even the half of the 87 weeks spent by the previous Faith.
In the UK, the album was a good seller and scored initially #1, although only for one week. The next two weeks the album scored #2. The album scored 34 debut consecutive weeks in the Top 20, making in its 24th an impressive sales increase with a #13-#3 movement. It spent a total of 88 weeks inside the UK albums charts, and was certified 4 times Platinum by the BPI, in 2 January 1992. The album produced 5 UK singles, which were released quickly, within an 8-month period: "Praying For Time", "Waiting For That Day", "Freedom '90", "Heal The Pain", and "Cowboys And Angels" (this last being the only single ever from Michael not to chart on the UK top 40).
"Freedom '90" was the only single to be supported by a music video. The song also alludes to the struggles of being a closeted homosexual man, and acted as a catalyst to his effort to end his publishing 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 lip-sync. It also featured the reduction of his sex symbol status.
"Freedom '90" was a lengthy six and half minutes long. The addition of the year to the title was to distinguish the song from "Freedom", a #1 hit for Wham! back in 1984. It had contrasting fortunes on each side of the Atlantic — a #8 successes on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US (buoyed by heavy rotation of the video on MTV), but only #28 on the UK singles chart.
"Mother's Pride" gained significant radio play in the United States during the first Gulf War during 1991, often with radio stations mixing in callers' tributes to soldiers with the music. It scored number 46 on Billboard Hot 100 with only airplay.
In the end Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 sold around 8 million copies.
During 1991 George Michael embarked in the "Cover to Cover Tour" in Japan, England, the US, and Brazil, where he performed at the "Rock in Rio" event. In the audience in Rio, he saw and later met Anselmo Feleppa, the man who would become his partner.
The tour was not a proper promotion for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. Rather, it was more about Michael singing his favourite cover songs. 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 on 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 became a success on both sides of the Atlantic.
As successful as the 1974 record had been, it was as a duet that "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" had its greatest success and reached number 1 on the UK singles chart and on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was the only #1 scoring single of the modern era to be recorded at an outdoors venue. Proceeds from the single were divided among 10 different charities for children, AIDS, and education.
In the meantime the expected following album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2, was scrapped for reasons unknown, although possibly due to Michael's frustration with Sony. Among Michael's complaints was that Sony had not completely supported the release of his previous 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.
Michael ended the idea for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2 and donated three songs to the charity project Red Hot + Dance, which gained money for AIDS awareness, while a fourth track "Crazyman Dance" was the B-side of 1992's "Too Funky". Michael donated the "Too Funky" royalties to the same cause. The song was lyrically a basic, animalistic plea from Michael for sexual activity with an individual, and musically it was the most upbeat record he had released since Faith almost five years previously.
"Too Funky" was Michael's final single for his publishing deal with Sony Music before he started legal action to extricate himself from his contract. The song 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, Tyra Banks, Beverly Peele, Estelle Lefébure and Nadja Auermann at a fashion show. "Too Funky" was a success, reaching number 4 in the UK singles chart and number 10 in the US Billboard Hot 100.
George Michael performed at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on 20 April 1992 at London's Wembley Stadium. The concert was a tribute to the life of the late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, with all proceeds going to AIDS research. Michael performed "Somebody to Love". The performance of the song 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.
All proceeds from the sale of the EP benefited the Mercury Phoenix Trust. Sales of the EP were very strong through Europe, where it debuted at number 1 in the UK and several European countries. Chart success in the United States was less spectacular, where it peaked at number 40 on the Billboard 200 ("Somebody to Love" reached #30 on the US Hot 100).
During November 1994, at the first edition of the MTV European Music Awards George Michael appeared after a long seclusion, giving a touching performance of a brand-new song, "Jesus to a Child". The song was a melancholy tribute to his lover Anselmo Feleppa, who died during March 1993.
The song was Michael's first self-written success in his homeland for almost four years and entered the UK singles chart straight at #1and #7 in The Billboard in the same month of release. It became his first solo single to enter the UK charts at the top, and #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. 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 at the time, however, as Michael had not confirmed he was homosexual, and did not do so until 1998. The video for "Jesus to a Child" was a beautiful picture of images recalling loss, pain, and suffering. Nowadays, Michael consistently dedicates the song to Feleppa before performing it live.
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 does not have a defined chorus and that the single version is nearly five minutes long. "Fastlove" was supported by a futuristic virtual reality related video.
"Fastlove" scored #1 in the UK singles chart, spending three weeks at the top spot. In the US, "Fastlove" peaked at #8, and is his most recent single which reached the top 10 in the US charts.
"Fastlove" is written about Michael's brief love affair with city banker Brett Charles whom he met in Kazakhstan while writing.
Following "Fastlove" Michael finally released Older, his first studio album in six years and only the third of his solo career, even though Wham! had been terminated for a decade. 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.
In October 1996, Michael performed a concert at Three Mills Studios, London for MTV Unplugged. It was his first long performance in years, and in the audience was Michael's mother. The next year, she died of cancer.
Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael is a greatest successes collection released during 1998 (see 1998 in music). 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.
Ladies and Gentlemen... is notable for containing a large number of compilation tracks and duets that hadn't 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 released through Sony Music Entertainment as a condition of severing contractual ties with the label. He would later return to Sony to release his 2004 album Patience.
The first single "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. It scored #4 in the UK charts.
Songs from the Last Century, released in December 1999, consists of old standards, plus new interpretations of more recent popular songs such as: "Roxanne" written by Sting, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", and the Frank Sinatra classic "Where Or When", written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Each of the 11 tracks was co-produced by Phil Ramone and George Michael.
Patience debuted at number one on the UK album charts and at number two in Australia on 22 March 2004.
Patience was George Michael's first album composed of original material since 1996. The controversial single "Shoot the Dog", was a critical song about the friendly relationship between the US and the UK governments regarding the Iraqi War. In the animated music video for the song, Tony Blair is depicted as the "dog" that follows his "owner" George W. Bush everywhere.
Michael appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show on 26 May 2004 to promote the album. On the show Michael spoke of his arrest, of his revealing his homosexuality, and his resumption of public performances. He allowed Oprah's crew inside his home outside of London. He performed "Amazing", the second single from the album, and his classic songs "Father Figure" and "Faith".
Twenty Five was George Michael's second greatest successes album, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his music career. Released in November 2006 by SonyBMG, it debuted at #1 in the UK.
The album contains songs chiefly from George Michael's solo career, but also from his earlier days in Wham! and comes in two formats: two CDs or a limited edition three CD set. The 2-CD set contained 26 tracks, including 4 recorded with Wham! and 3 new songs: "An Easier Affair"; "This Is Not Real Love" (a duet with Mutya Buena, formerly of Sugababes, which peaked at #15 in the UK Charts); and a new version of "Heal the Pain" recorded with Paul McCartney. The limited edition 3-CD version contains an additional 14 lesser known tracks, including one from Wham! and another completely new song, "Understand".
The DVD version of Twenty Five contains 40 videos on two discs, including 7 with Wham!.
To commemorate his "Twenty Five" album, George Michael toured the US for the first time in 17 years, playing large venues in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Chicago and Dallas.
During the 2005 Live 8 concert, George 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.
Michael received £1.5 million (US$3 million) to perform a 1-hour concert in Moscow for the 300 guests of Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin on the Eve of 2007. Some equipment was damaged in a fire caused "by badly wired pyrotechnics that went off a few hours after George Michael's band and crew had left".In 2006, George 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 May 12, 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, UK. There were 29 tour dates (as of 21 April 2007) across Europe.
On June 9, 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 overrunning the programme for 13 minutes.
On March 25, 2008 a third part of the 25 Live Tour was announced for North America. This part will include 21 dates in the United States and Canada. This was Michael's first tour of North America in 17 years.
The album Twenty Five (album), 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.
George 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 USA. 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.
George 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."
On the 1st of December, Michael played a last concert in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as part of the 37th National Day Celebrations.
On December 25, 2008 George 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 anymore on his website, it remains available on file sharing networks and on October 29, 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 December 13. It was also reported that George Michael would perform the track on ITV1's X Factor.
On June 9, 2009, Michael joined Beyoncé Knowles on stage during "If I Were A Boy" at the last UK show of her world wide tour I Am… Tour.