George Michael

George Michael

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About George Michael

In the early ’80s, back when he was in Wham!, George Michael had a stage bit where he’d stick a badminton shuttlecock down his shorts just to make the girls scream. Not that he had to: At the time, girls would’ve screamed watching Wham! brush their teeth. The spell would hold for decades. As a solo artist, Michael could be playful but earnest, erotic but wholesome, a soul singer whose raw sexuality never overwhelmed the sweetness of his spirit. So, yes, he was the shuttlecock. But he was also free concerts for nurses and an anonymous volunteer at a homeless shelter, a gay artist who helped reshape the public perception of LGBTQ+ people in a culture that had only just started to shed its prejudice. Once asked to resolve the perceived contradictions of Faith, Michael wondered what was wrong with loving someone to death and wanting to rip their clothes off at the same time. Born Georgios Panayiotou in London, in 1963, to a Greek Cypriot restaurateur and an English dancer, Michael grew up obsessed by David Bowie and Elton John, artists who blended camp and theatricality with the emotional candidness of a singer-songwriter. He founded Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in his late teens, becoming one of the most recognized faces in pop. In 1987, he released his solo debut, Faith, a synthesis of ’70s soul and contemporary dance music that became the first album by a white solo artist to top the R&B chart. Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 came out in 1990. He recorded and toured throughout the ’90s, while also fighting a legal battle with Sony Records in part over his reluctance to appear in promotional videos—a conscious effort to push against his status as a sex symbol. His last studio album, Patience, came out in 2004. Michael died on Christmas Day 2016. In addition to his extensive formal philanthropy—primarily for children’s causes and HIV/AIDS—he was known for his more intimate gestures of kindness, including once absolving a chunk of student debt for a waitress after overhearing her lament to a friend.

East Finchley, London, England
June 25, 1963
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