Sunday, November 6, 2011

George Michael

George Michael was born in London on June 25, 1963. The high school out formed the band Wham! Their first U.S. hit was “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” In 1986, he went solo. Over time he recorded edgier work, such as the hit “I Want Your Sex.” The album sold 7 million copies. In 1998, he announced he was gay after being arrested for lewd conduct in a public restroom. He continues to perform and make music.

Wham! Fame
Singer, songwriter. Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25, 1963, in London, England. One of the leading artists in popular music in 1980s, George Michael recently returned to the spotlight. He grew up in and near London where he developed his passion for music at an early age. While in school, Michael befriended Andrew Ridgeley. They shared a love of pop music and started playing together. By some reports, Michael and Ridgeley were an unlikely duo. Michaels was pudgy and shy while Ridgeley was attractive and outgoing.

Dropping out of high school, Michael and Ridgeley started a short-lived band called the Executive. That band only played a few gigs before it fell apart, but the pair 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 Britain in 1982, and climbed as high as the number four spot on the charts there. (It was released in the United States the following year.) With their youthful good looks, Wham! soon developed quite a 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.

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 "I'm Your Man" and "Where Did Your Heart Go?"

Recreating His Image
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 stirred up a lot of controversy through another track on the album—"I Want Your Sex." Some radio stations in the United States refused to play it because its explicit content while others would only play late at night for the same reason. Despite these protests, the recording ended up selling more than 7 million copies and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1988.

Continuing his evolution as a pop craftsman, Michael incorporated some soulful and jazz elements into his songs for Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (1990). It had 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.

Solo Career
While Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 received some positive reviews, the album only sold about a million copies. Michael became involved in a legal battle with his recording company Sony. Feeling that they had failed to properly promote the record, he wanted to end his recording contract. The conflict dragged on for several years, during which time Michael only recorded a few singles.

In 1991, Michael sang a duet with Elton John for charity. Their version of the John classic "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" was a number one hit and the proceeds went to London Lighthouse, an AIDS hospice, and the Rainbow Trust Children's Charity. Later that year, Michael hit the charts with "Too Funky," a track featured on Red Hot and Dance, an AIDS charity album.

Finally free from his contract with Sony, Michael released the album Older in 1996. Two tracks, "Jesus to a Child" and "Fastlove," broke into the top ten in the United States as did the album. Still the sales for the recording paled in comparison to his earlier efforts with some attributing this decline to Michael's time away from the pop music scene. Michael did win several accolades for his work, however. He took home the award for Best British Male at the BRIT Awards and the MTV Europe Awards that year.

Personal Life and Controversy
In 1998, Michael made headlines, but not for his music. He was arrested for lewd conduct in a men's room at a public park in Los Angeles. After the incident, Michael made a television appearance in which he acknowledged that he was homosexual. There had been some speculation about his sexual orientation over the years, but this was his first public statement on the matter.

His next musical effort was a collection of covers, Songs from the Last Century (1999). While it received some positive reviews, the album failed to make much of an impression on the music-buying public. Michael recorded several singles over the next few years, including a 2000 duet with Whitney Houston on the song "If I Told You That."

Michael released his fourth solo album, Patience, in 2004. Instead of the pop charts, he found success on the dance charts. "Flawless" and "Amazing" both scored well with dance music fans. After this record, Michael made comments about giving up the music business. But this retirement would prove to be short lived.

Having another encounter with the law, Michael was arrested on suspicion of illegal drugs in London in February 2006. According to a report in Rolling Stone magazine, the singer said in a statement that "it's my own stupid fault, as usual." A few months later, Michael announced that he was going on tour for the first time in fifteen years. He also released a collection of his songs called Twenty Five, which included some new material, in the United Kingdom, celebrating his twenty-five years in music.

Resurrecting his career in the United States in 2008, Michael made several appearances and released Twenty Five stateside. He guest starred on the television series Eli Stone as a musical guardian angel of sorts. The show also featured some of his classic hits. Most recently, Michael gave a performance on the series finale of the hugely popular musical competition show American Idol. He has a national tour scheduled during the summer of 2008.

Outside of performing, Michael is active in supporting the arts. With his longtime partner, Kenny Goss, Michael runs the Goss-Michael Foundation, a non-profit arts organization in Dallas, Texas.

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