George Michael – the former lead singer of Wham! and one of the most successful solo stars of the last 30 years – has passed away at the age of 53. His manager Michael Lippman said he died at his Oxfordshire house on December 25 from heart failure.
In a career that spanned nearly four decades, Michael sold more than 100m albums. His first success came with schoolfriend Andrew Ridgeley, with whom he formed Wham! in 1981. Their first single “Wham Rap!” didn’t make much of a dent on the charts, but follow-up “Young Guns (Go For It)” reached No. 3 in the UK, kicking off a hugely successful run of hits that included “I’m Your Man, Bad Boys,” “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Club Tropicana,” “Everything She Wants,” “The Edge of Heaven” and “Last Christmas.”
Wham! appeared at Live Aid and became the first western band to perform in China before breaking up in 1986 following an album and farewell concert called The Final.
Michael’s solo career began with “I Knew You Were Waiting” – a 1987 duet with Aretha Franklin that went to No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. He then released the album “Faith,” which sold more than 25m copies globally and spawned the singles “Faith,” “Father Figure,” “One More Try,” “Monkey,” and the controversial “I Want Your Sex,” which was banned by many radio stations because of its racy lyrics. The song nevertheless reached No. 2 in the States and No. 3 in the UK.
Michael then endeavoured to leave behind his pop star image by releasing more mature music in the shape off 1990 album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1,” a record that featured the hits “Praying For Time,” “Waiting For That Day,” “Heal the Pain” and “Freedom ’90.”
His music continued in that vein, and while records “Older,” “Songs From the Last Century,” “Patience” and live album “Symphonica” failed to replicate his early success in America, they still sold millions all over the globe.
Michael also won numerous music awards throughout his career, including two Grammys, three Brits, three American Music Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, and four Ivor Novellos.
He will be remembered for his songwriting, that incredible voice, and being one of the few artists who was able to turn early pop stardom into a serious music career that spanned decades and made him one of the most successful recording artists of all-time.