The sensation that is George Michael will forever be remembered as an incredible solo singer and as part of the duo Wham! He was handsome, talented, and had a light-heartened sound to his music. I mean, he even inspired the massive TV hit all about music: Carpool Karaoke with James Gordon.
He was just twelve years old when he met Andrew Ridgeley, and together, they would go on to sell 30 million albums together and make hits such as “Wake Mne Up Before You Go-Go.” Yes, he was an incredible singer and performer, but George Michael certainly had a life worth talking about.
The Group Wham! Kickstarted His Career
The story goes that Ridgeley and Michael met at school and became best friends over the years. They stayed friends and wrote music together, destined for something great. They invested a lot of money in a demo tape that was only four minutes long but eventually landed a record deal.
Michael recalled, “Andy started shouting something about wham bam, and all this, you know,” leading to the creation of the name. They wanted to think of something better but eventually stuck with the original idea as it seemed like a right fit at the time and a reflection of their style.
Taking His Career Solo
Michael was destined for greatness but more in the direction of a one-man show. He rose to the top while Ridgeley entered the world of motor racing and sold some albums that had little success. Ridgeley left the business, and Michael went on to become a star.
When he produced one single in 1987 as part of his album “Faith,” people went crazy for it. The tone of the music he was known for had changed, and he even earned a Grammy. His next song, “Listen Without Prejudice 1,” earned him a spot right behind MC Hammer on the British Charts in 1990.
His Battle with Record Label Sony
It was a rocky start for Michael went he took on the business on his own. He had a squabble with the record label Sony. He felt the label had too much power over his creative freedom and issued a lawsuit against them. Apparently, the debacle placed him in a state of “professional slavery.”
He lost his battle in the 1994 lawsuit. Ian Halperin who wrote about Michael Jackson last year in 2020 reflected on other artists in the business and their struggle to make it. Halperin said that such artists “never backed down, no matter how much money they lost.”
The First to Perform with Aretha Franklin
Regardless of his struggles with the record label and his battle to reach creative freedom, Michael earned the respect of various artists. He got the chance to sing at the Apollo Theater with Stevie Wonder and was the first male solo artist to duet with Aretha Franklin.
It was no simple task to perform with Franklin, but he proved himself and earned the respect of audiences. He also received incredible feedback for his live shows. His concert in Los Angeles as part of his “Faith” world tour made it second place in terms of grossing income earned that year for a live event.
Struggling with His Sexuality
Michael recalled that initially, he was gearing towards fantasizing about women. However, as he was maturing throughout his teenage years, his fantasies switched their focus over to men. When he was 19 years old, he shared with Ridgeley that he was bisexual.
He also spoke to one of his sisters about it, but she discouraged him from sharing this with his parents. Michael eventually admitted that he was falling in love with a man recalling how his initial relationships with women weren’t what he now knew to be love.
His Environment Shaped Who He Was
In the early 2000s, Michael shared, “I used to sleep with women quite a lot in the Wham! Days but never felt it could develop in a relationship because I knew that, emotionally, I was a gay man.” Another issue that contributed to his struggle was that AIDS was becoming a controversial topic in Britain at the time.
Regardless of using protection, he felt wrong about sleeping with women as a bisexual man. Although he didn’t label the environment as a general influence of sexual preference, he felt that personally, his father’s absence and his closeness to his mother shaped his.
The Muse for the “I Want Your Sex” Music Video
Kathy Jeung Michael was a make-up artist in the late ’80s and was apparently his “only bona fide” girlfriend. She inspired and took part in his “I Want Your Sex” music video. At the time, she was aware of his bisexuality.
When he passed away in 2016, Jeung shared that Michael was a “true friend” and that she had experienced some of the best times of her life with him. Following his relationship with the makeup artist, Michael met a Brazilian dress designer whom he began dating in 1992.
Tributing a Song in His Memory
After having met the Brazilian dress designer, Anselmo Feleppa, they continued their relationship for six months. Michael went through a difficult time after Feleppa was diagnosed with AIDS. He was scared he had contracted the disease himself and was unable to talk to his parents about what he was going through.
Feleppa eventually passed away from AIDS, and Michael tributed “Jesus to a Child” in his memory. The depressing period for Michael became even worse, considering his mom had passed away about three years later.
Coming Out to the Public
In 1996, Michael and Kenny Goss, a cheerleading coach and former flight attendant, began a two-year relationship. In 2005, they tried to register for a civil relationship in the UK. However, bad publicity pushed this back.
Michael was arrested for public obscenity in 1998. The display made his homosexuality public, and he admitted that he didn’t want to hide his sexuality anymore. Michael felt like he wasn’t being true to himself. He began a relationship with Fadi Fawaz in 2012, who was the one who found his body in 2016.
He Got Arrested for a “Lewd Act”
George Michael was all over the news when the story came out for a sexual act with a police officer in a public bathroom. He was arrested in 1998, and the officer had been undercover at the time.
He admitted that this act was done with intent so that he wouldn’t need to hide the fact that he was gay. In his words, it was “a desperate attempt to make the trauma in my life about me.” He wanted to take control of the events in his life.
This Time It Was for Drugs
In 2006, Michael got arrested once more, this time for being in possession of controlled substances. He admitted to the mistake and was let off with a warning. In 2007, he ran past a traffic light and was arrested once more as he was under the influence of drugs.
He was once again arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison and another five-year ban from driving after he crashed into the Snappy Snaps store in North London. He was charged as being unfit to drive due to substance abuse and drinking.
Cannabis Was a Problem for Michael
On BBC radio in 2007, Michael admitted to his struggle with cannabis and how he wished he didn’t smoke it as much, so he tried to reduce his daily use. In 2009, he shared with the Guardian that he got back to 7-9 spliffs a day instead of his usual 25.
He was also troubled with sleeping pill abuse. He had multiple arrests in the late 2010s that became public, and various news sources questioned him about substance abuse and how it affected him.
Fighting for His Life
A viral infection in October of 2011 caused Michael to cancel a performance in London at the Royal Albert Hall. A month later, he was hospitalized for chest pains he was experiencing two hours before his Symphonica Tour performance.
Although he seemed to have reacted well to the treatment he received, his condition got worse throughout the night. He had to cancel the rest of his concerts and shows in 2011 as a result. In December, it was confirmed that he had suffered a pneumonia and fallen into a coma.
What Happened After He Woke Up From the Coma?
The press was dying to know what had happened to him and shared that he had a tracheotomy done and that he was grateful to the hospital staff for saving his life. He wanted to put on a free concert to show his appreciation.
There was some worry about Michael after he woke up from his coma as he had a temporary West Country accent, hinting at foreign accent syndrome. In 2014, he shared that he hadn’t used cannabis for a year and a half, but a year later, he checked into rehab in Switzerland.
Feuding with a Superstar
George Michael and Elton John became closer than ever in the ‘80s, but their friendship didn’t follow through with its potential. As Elton wept at his funeral, fans didn’t forget that only a short time before that, the two stars were in the midst of a feud.
Michael’s life had begun spinning out of control, and Elton had offered to help, but he didn’t want it. This reached the headlines in 2004 when Elton said that Michael was experiencing a “deep-rooted unhappiness” in his life and was in a “strange place.”
Michael Responded with Full Force
During a magazine interview, Michael responded to Elton’s comments and made it clear that Elton didn’t know much about his life, and his comments were a result of rumors he had heard on the “gay grapevine.”
Seeing that their friendship was heading downhill, Elton tried to reconnect but was refused once more. He felt that what Elton had said about his lifestyle made the media portray him in a bad light. The feud, however, didn’t end there as Michael came out with another statement.
He Was Not Happy with Elton John
During an interview in 2009, Michael said, “He [Sir Elt] will not be happy until I bang on his door in the middle of the night saying, please, help me, Elton.” Michael seemed furious, making it clear that he wasn’t going to go to rebab and that Elton needed to move on from his efforts.
In the end, it wasn’t all bad. They eventually decided to rekindle their relationship in 2011. “They have seen each other quite a lot. The feud is finally over,” shared an anonymous source.
George Michael VS. Boy George
In an interview with Andy Cohen, Boy George was asked about his alleged feud with George Michael. “We did…it wasn’t really a feud…In the ’80s, everyone-Peter Burns, me, we all used to be really Bit*** about each other,” said Boy George.
However, as time went on, they built a better relationship. In the beginning, they seemed to have been each other’s competitors because they had the same name, and both created soul music. As their careers developed, Boy George appreciated Michael’s talent more and more.
He Was Not Afraid to Speak Up
Michael was not shy to enter the political realm. When he was 15, he joined the Young Communist League and voted for the Labour party during the ‘80s when Margaret Thatcher, a conservative leader, was the prime minister of the UK.
He joined various big artists, like Pet Shop Boys, Queen Latifah, and Garth Brooks, in a Human Rights Campaign benefit concert focusing on LGBT rights. Michael voiced his criticism on the relationship between George W. Bush and Tony Blair in the Iraqi War via a song called “Shoot the Dog.”
He Acted on What He Believed In
Michael expressed his concern on how the UK government didn’t care about the opinions of the public regarding the war with Iraq. He kickstarted a “peace tour” in 2007 by sending the piano that John Lennon used to write “Imagine” to different locations at the cost of 1,450,000 euros.
The locations were chosen specifically for displaying acts of violence. Places for the concert included the location where John F. Kennedy was shot, Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. When California released the same-sex marriage law, Michael commented that it was “way overdue.”
Performing for a Russian Billionaire
Although gossip circulated the details of the performance, Michael allegedly performed for Vladimir Putin for the price of three million dollars on New Year’s Eve in 2007. To get Michael’s stage in order, Putin turned his sports hall in his mind-boggling estate into a nightclub.
It was a “private” event that had a guest list of 300 people. He had recently been on his 25 Live Tour and was noted to have performed a minimal version. He put on a massive performance coming along with a band and back singers that totaled 20 people.
A Tribute to the Lead Singer of Queen
Michael was considered one of the major highlights at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert. He had given one of the best performances of his career while mourning the loss of more than one person in his life. Freddie’s passing coincides with the passing away of Michael’s first love, Anselmo Feleppa.
Both passed away due to similar causes. “I was so overwhelmed by singing the songs of this I had worshipped as a child, who had passed away in the same manner my first living partner was going to experience,” said Michael.
Was He Up to Replace Freddie Mercury?
Whispers floated around that George Michael was possibly up to replace Freddie Mercury in Queen. However, Queen’s drummer, Roger Taylor, finally set the record straight. The uproar surrounding the rumor came about after Michael delivered the performance of a lifetime at Freddie’s Tribute.
Taylor eventually shared that he was never offered the position and that his style wasn’t in line with the band’s. He shared that Michael wasn’t accustomed to working with a live band and that the sounds shocked him due to their power and strength in the performance.
Michael Was a True Philanthropist
It seemed like from the time that Michael rose to fame, he cared about giving back. He put on a concert with other British and Irish stars to promote famine relief in Ethiopia. All the pop stars came together to sing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
He donated the royalties from the song to Ethiopia. He fundraised for HIV/AIDS charities and campaigned greatly for LGBT rights. The profits he made from his single “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” were donated to 10 charities revolving around AIDS, education, and children.
Many Charities Spoke Up After He Passed Away
It seemed that Michael didn’t share too much about his personal contributions to charities, as it was only revealed after his death. Charities such as Childline, Terrence Higgins Trust, and Macmillan Cancer Support shared that he had been a supporter for years.
He also assisted single-person causes. For example, he anonymously helped a contestant with 15,000 euros for an IVF treatment that she needed. He also tipped a barmaid who was in debt due to her student nurse expenses of 5,000 euros (just about 6,121 dollars).
Sharing His Act of Kindness
In 2010, a woman went on This Morning to share her struggles with conceiving a baby. Following her appearance on the episode, Michael took notice and donated the funds she needed to receive the IVF treatment.
On January 3rd, 2017, she shared that Michael had helped pay for her treatment, of course after she got permission to do so from his family. Another act revealed after his death is that Michael funded the Highgate’s (his hometown) annual fair as he was a local resident.
How Did George Michael Die?
On December 25th, 2016, in his Goring-on-Thames home, Michael was found dead at the age of 53 by his partner Fadi Fawaz. His cause of death was later attributed to an oversized heart that had trouble pumping blood properly, as well as inflation of the heart muscles and a fatty liver.
Determining the cause of death led to his funeral occurring almost half a year later, on March 29th, 2017. He was buried near his mom’s grave in Highgate Cemetery, located in North London. An informal garden was temporarily created outside of his home to honor his memory.
Fighting for His Fortune
Of course, he left behind a fortune worth 97 million euros to his family and friends. He also had an art collection that was actioned off, and the proceeds were donated to charities he had worked with throughout his life.
However, it seems like his ex-boyfriend Kenny Goss also wanted a piece of the pie. As Michael had supported him financially when they were together, he made a claim to share some of his estate. He did so because of the Provision for Family and Dependents Act, as he was not written in the will.
In His Memory
Among the list of people commemorating Michael’s legacy was Elton John. In Las Vegas, he spoke out to the audience, saying, “What a singer, what a songwriter. But more than anything as a human being, he was one of the kindest, sweetest, and most generous people I’ve ever met”
The incredible Adele sang a slow rendition of “Fast Love” at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in his honor. Coldplay also paid tribute to Michael at the 2017 Brit Awards by performing “A Different Corner.”
A Contribution to Music and Entertainment
To raise funds for the charity Childline, Geri Halliwell, a former member of Spice Girls, put out a charity single called “Angels in Chains” in June of 2017. In his hometown of Kingsbury, where he attended school, there was a plan to create a mural in Brent, his native borough within Kingsbury.
The mural was designed by artist Dawn Mellor who portrayed it as a reflection of Michael’s cultural contribution and LGBTQ+ representation. It was created to remember his incredible addition to the music industry.
What Did Ridgeley Have to Say About Michael?
Andrew Ridgeley came out with Wham! George Michael and Me: A Memoir, where he shares his experiences through his friendship and collaboration with the superstar. Their partnership began when Ridgeley was 12 years old and volunteered to mentor Georgios Panayiotou (Michael’s not-so-easy to pronounce name in Greek).
Wham! was successful at the time because it represented the youthful essence of the two boys during that era with songs that were sweet and catchy. The millions of albums sold included “Everything She Wants” and “Careless Whisper.”
He Wasn’t the Most Confident About His Looks
Ridgeley shared that Michael was “deeply insecure.” His dad had a limited perception of the world and wanted his son to be successful. He shared that he had messy hair, glasses, a gentle physique, and that he was embarrassed to take his shirt off.
As he moved to superstar status, Michael had completely transformed his look. He wore a leather jacket and took on a “don’t really care attitude” – an idol pop star look that Ridgeley felt didn’t reflect who he remembered and who he really was.
Jealousy Was Never an Issue
Wham!’s last show was held in 1986 at Wembley Stadium as opposed to a goodbye world tour that Ridgeley had hoped for. Ridgeley shared, “There was a sense that our relationship would never be the same again, no matter what happened.”
They had spent a decade together as friends and as a creative duo only to each head out on their own. Regardless of the success that Michael endured following the split, Ridgeley highlighted that he was not envious of his achievements and musical prosperity.
Not Sure About Making it on His Own
Ridgeley, however, did share that Michael was nervous about gearing towards a solo career. He came to visit Michael while he was recording his album Faith in 1987. He said that he noticed the lack of confidence in Michael: “The self-doubt had returned.”
Ridgeley shared some words of wisdom with Michael encouraging him to be true to himself and letting the music shine through. He was talented, no doubt, and needed to assert his place as one of the greatest artists to ever do it, and he did.
He Deserved the Awards
The list of awards that one of the greatest-selling British artists received is endless. Even though he died at a considerably early age, his thirty-year career earned him numerous awards and appraisals. He won the award for Best British Male Artist twice.
He also won three Brit Awards and four MTV Video Music Awards. He won not one but two Grammy’s out of a total of eight nominations. On the list of “Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time” by Billboard, he was ranked 40th.
A Look Back at Some of His Music
George Michael worked with the legendary Whitney Houston to make “IF I Told You That” in 2000. It was first made available in the UK and then in the US. It was added as part of Houston’s Whitney: The Greatest Hits album.
Houston sang the song in concert, but the two artists never got a chance to perform a live duet. They did make a music video, however, where they met on the dance floor at a nightclub that reached 36 million views on YouTube by May 2021.
Sitting Down with Michael Himself
In 2012, Michael did a live telephone interview with Dutch Radio stations that asked about some of the highest and lowest moments of his life and career. Following his Vienna Hospitalization and coming out with his single “White Light,” he was asked about his voice.
At the time, he said he was “never better” and that his voice was doing great. His voice was getting some good practice as he had been recording music for just about three to four months at the time.
What More is There for Michael?
The radio station asked him about a line he had written for his song “White Light” that went, “there’s so much more that I want to do.” After his amazing career, they were curious to know what else he felt he could accomplish.
Michael responded that he is still ambitious: “…I always like to feel there’s a progression in what I do”. Even though the list wasn’t as long as someone who might have just started their career, there were certain things he still wanted to pursue.
A Guitar-Driven Album
When asked if he would ever consider an album that revolves around the classic sound of the guitar, Michael responded, “I think…that’s actually something I am thinking about doing at some point in the future.”
Even though he felt like rock music didn’t really represent his style, he admitted to deeply enjoying the genre of music. He also responded logically, saying that the music we listen to and the music we make don’t necessarily mimic one another.
Artist Collab Wish List
So, we know that Michael has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including Elton John, Whitney Houston, and Mary J Blige. However, he mentioned a limited number of artists that he still wished he could work with.
One outstanding vocalist that Michael had still hoped to work with was Adele. He said, “I think what she achieved is remarkable. She’s a lovely person, and yea, I would love to work with her at some stage.” Adele would probably have loved the chance as well.
One Successful Album After the Other
Michael released his second album, “Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1,” following his win of the Video Vanguard award at the MTV Europe Video Music Awards. As opposed to people’s possible first assumption, the title of the album wasn’t aimed to tell people to not be prejudice when listening.
The name was hinting at the mature and darker tone he was portraying. The album reached number 1 on the UK charts and number 2 in the US. It only makes sense an American artist would be on the American charts.
Going Back to Live Performances
In 1991, Michael decided that he was going to return to live shows. He followed through on his promise via the Cover to Cover tour. The tour featured massive artist collaborations, such as Adamski’s’ “Killer” and Steven Wonder’s “Living for the City.”
Let’s not forget “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” that Elton John and George Michael made together that reached the top of charts all over the world, including the UK, France, Holland, and Switzerland. They donated the profits to the Rainbow Trust children’s charity.
Jumping to 2002
We didn’t hear too much from Michael in 2001, but in 2002 he came out with the single ‘Freeek!’. This was the first single since 1998 that he self-pioneered, and it reached number 1 on the charts in Croatia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark.
The music video for the song was defiantly considered outside his comfort zone. Joseph Kan’s vision featured Michael as a scientist, businessman, cowboy, and leather-studded dog handler. He reached new levels of trouble-making in his “Shoot the Dog” video, poking fun at politicians.
His Songs Were Featured in Movies
His songs have entered the list of classics, evident by the fact that they are featured in massive movies such as Deadpool. His songs “Careless Whisper” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” were used on the soundtrack.
Other songs featured in movies, such as Keanu that came out in 2016, included “One More Try,” “Faith,” “Freedom! And “Father Figure.” Michael, along with David Austin, released his own movie called Freedom that spoke about the Sony Trial and the making of his album “Prejudice Vol 1.”