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Georges Michael, an amazing artist

Wham! – Last Christmas (Official Video)

Georges Michael, an amazing artist

George Michael (born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou; 25 June 1963 – 25 December 2016) was an English singer-songwriter, record producer, and musician.

He is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, with his sales estimated at between 100 million and 125 million records worldwide.

A prominent figure in popular music, Michael was known as a creative force in songwriting, vocal performance, and visual presentation.

He achieved 13 number-one songs on the UK Singles Chart and 10 number-one songs on the US Billboard Hot 100. Michael won numerous music awards, including two Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, twelve Billboard Music Awards, and four MTV Video Music Awards.

He was listed among Billboard’s the “Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time” and Rolling Stone′s the “200 Greatest Singers of All Time”.

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The Radio Academy named him the most played artist on British radio during the period 1984–2004.

Michael has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music hall of fame.

Born in East Finchley, Middlesex, Michael rose to fame as a member of the music duo Wham! and later embarked on a solo career. After he formed Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981, the band’s first two albums, Fantastic (1983) and Make It Big (1984), reached number one on the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200.

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Their hit singles included “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas”. Establishing themselves as a global act, Wham! toured China in April 1985; the tour was the first visit to China by a Western popular music act, and it generated worldwide media coverage.

Michael’s first solo single “Careless Whisper” (1984) reached number one in over 20 countries, including the UK and US.

Before embarking on the production of his first solo album, Michael went on to release two more number one solo singles, “A Different Corner” and the Aretha Franklin duet “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”. Michael’s debut solo album, Faith (1987), topped the UK Albums Chart and stayed at number one on the Billboard 200 for 12 weeks.

Globally it sold 25 million copies, and four singles from the album—”Faith”, “Father Figure”, “One More Try”, and “Monkey”—reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

Michael became the best-selling music artist of 1988, and Faith was awarded Album of the Year at the 1989 Grammy Awards. His second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (1990), sold approximately over eight million copies and was a UK number one. It included the Billboard Hot 100 number one “Praying for Time” and the worldwide hit “Freedom! ’90”.

A 1991 live duet with Elton John, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, was also a transatlantic number one. Michael went on to release two more multimillion-selling albums, Older (1996) and Patience (2004).

Outside music, Michael was an active LGBT rights campaigner and HIV/AIDS charity fundraiser. His personal life, drug use, and legal troubles made headlines during the late 1990s and 2000s, as he was arrested for public lewdness in 1998 and was arrested for multiple drug-related offences after that time. Michael came out as gay in 1998.

The 2005 documentary A Different Story covered his career and personal life. Michael’s 25 Live tour spanned three tours from 2006 to 2008. Michael fell into a coma in 2011 during a bout with pneumonia, but later recovered. He performed his final concert at London’s Earls Court in 2012.

Michael died of heart disease on Christmas Day in 2016, at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

Wham!

Michael formed the duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. On the cusp of fame, he decided to legally change his name to the more accessible George Michael.

The band’s first album Fantastic reached No. 1 in the UK in 1983 and produced a series of top 10 singles including “Young Guns”, “Wham Rap!”, and “Club Tropicana”. Their second album, Make It Big, reached No. 1 on the charts in the US. Singles from that album included “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (No. 1 in the UK and US), “Freedom”, “Everything She Wants”, and “Careless Whisper” which reached No. 1 in nearly 25 countries, including the UK and US, and was Michael’s first solo effort as a single.

In December 1984, the single “Last Christmas” was released.

In 1985 Michael received the first of his three Ivor Novello Awards for Songwriter of the Year from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Michael performed on the original 1984 Band Aid recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”—he appears third on the song after Paul Young and Boy George sing their lines.

The song became the UK Christmas number one and Michael also donated the profits from “Last Christmas” and “Everything She Wants” to charity.

Michael sang “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with Elton John at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in London on 13 July 1985.

He also 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”. Michael cited Cassidy as a major career influence and interviewed Cassidy for David Litchfield’s Ritz Newspaper.

Wham!’s tour of China in April 1985, the first visit to China by a Western popular music act, generated worldwide media coverage, much of it centred on Michael.

The headline in the Chicago Tribune read: “East meets Wham!, and another great wall comes down”. Before Wham!’s appearance in China, many kinds of music in the country were forbidden.

The band’s manager, Simon Napier-Bell, had spent 18 months trying to convince Chinese officials to let the duo play.

The audience included members of the Chinese government. Chinese television presenter Kan Lijun, who was the on-stage host, spoke of Wham!’s historic performance:”No-one had ever seen anything like that before.

All the young people were amazed and everybody was tapping their feet. Of course the police weren’t happy and they were scared there would be riots.”Wham! performed their hits with scantily clad dancers and strobing disco lights. According to Napier-Bell, Michael tried to get the crowd to clap along to “Club Tropicana”, but “they hadn’t a clue – they thought he wanted applause and politely gave it”, before adding that some Chinese did eventually “get the hang of clapping on the beat.”

A UK embassy official in China stated “there was some lively dancing but this was almost entirely confined to younger western members of the audience.”

The tour was documented by film director Lindsay Anderson and producer Martin Lewis in their film Wham! in China: Foreign Skies.

With the success of Michael’s solo singles, “Careless Whisper” (1984) and “A Different Corner” (1986), rumours of an impending break up of Wham! intensified. The duo officially separated in 1986, after releasing a farewell single, “The Edge of Heaven” and a farewell compilation, The Final (their third album Music from the Edge of Heaven was released in North America and Japan), 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 successful single “The Edge of Heaven”, which reached No. 1 on the UK chart in June 1986.

Solo career

During early 1987, at the beginning of his solo career, Michael released “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”, a duet with 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. It scored number one on both the UK Singles Chart and the US 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; he later had success as a performer with the band Climie Fisher in 1988.

Michael and Aretha Franklin won a Grammy Award in 1988 for Best R&B Performance – Duo or Group with Vocal for the song.

In late 1987, Michael released his debut solo album, Faith. The first single released from the album was “I Want Your Sex”, in mid-1987. The song was banned by many radio stations in the UK and US, due to its sexually suggestive lyrics.

MTV 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, and he 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”, with the word “love” replacing “sex”.

When “I Want Your Sex” 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 No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 in the UK.

The second single, “Faith”, was released in October 1987, a few weeks before the album. “Faith” became one of his most popular songs. The song was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks, becoming the best-selling single of 1988 in the US.

It also reached No. 1 in Australia, and No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. The 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.

On 30 October, Faith was released in the UK and in several markets worldwide. Faith topped the UK Albums Chart, and in the US, the album had 51 non-consecutive weeks in the top 10 of Billboard 200, including 12 weeks at No. 1. Faith had many successes, with four singles (“Faith”, “Father Figure”, “One More Try”, and “Monkey”) reaching No. 1 in the US.

Faith was certified Diamond by the RIAA for sales of 10 million copies in the US.

To date, global sales of Faith are more than 25 million units. The album was highly acclaimed by music critics, with AllMusic journalist Steve Huey describing it as a “superbly crafted mainstream pop/rock masterpiece” and “one of the finest pop albums of the ’80s”.

In a review by Rolling Stone magazine, journalist Mark Coleman commended most of the songs on the album, which he said “displays Michael’s intuitive understanding of pop music and his increasingly intelligent use of his power to communicate to an ever-growing audience.”

In 1988, Michael embarked on a world tour.

In Los Angeles, Michael was joined on stage by Aretha Franklin for “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”. It was the second highest grossing event of 1988, earning $17.7 million.

At the 1988 Brit Awards held at the Royal Albert Hall on 8 February, Michael received the first of his two awards for Best British Male Solo Artist. Later that month, Faith won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 31st Grammy Awards.

At the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards on 6 September in Los Angeles, Michael received the Video Vanguard Award.

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.

In 1990, he told his record company Sony that, for his second album, he did not want to do promotions like the one for Faith.1990sListen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was released in September 1990. The title is an indication of his desire to be taken more seriously as a songwriter.

It reached No. 23 in the UK and No. 27 in the US in October 1990. The album was released in Europe on 3 September 1990, and one week later in the US. It reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart and peaked at No. 2 on the US Billboard 200.

It spent a total of 88 weeks on the UK Albums Chart and was certified four-times Platinum by the BPI.

The album produced five UK singles, all of which were released within an eight-month period: “Praying for Time”, “Waiting for That Day”, “Freedom! ’90”, “Heal the Pain”, and “Cowboys and Angels” (the latter being his only single not to chart in the UK top 40).

Michael refused to do any promotion for the album. At the 1991 Brit Awards, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 won the award for Best British Album.

The album’s first single, “Praying for Time”, with lyrics concerning social ills and injustice, was released in August 1990. James Hunter of Rolling Stone magazine described the song as “a distraught look at the world’s astounding woundedness. Michael offers the healing passage of time as the only balm for physical and emotional hunger, poverty, hypocrisy, and hatred.”

The song was an instant success, reaching No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 in the UK.

A video was released shortly thereafter, consisting of the lyrics on a dark background. Michael did not appear in this video or any subsequent videos for the album.

The second single from Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, “Waiting for That Day”, was an acoustic-heavy single, released as an immediate follow-up to “Praying for Time”.

“Freedom ’90” was the second of only two singles from Listen Without Prejudice to be supported by a music video (the other being the Michael-less “Praying for Time”).

The song alludes to his struggles with his artistic identity, and prophesied his efforts shortly thereafter to end his recording 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 appear in and lip sync in his stead.

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It also featured lyrics critical of his sex symbol status. It reached No. 8 success on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, and No. 28 on the UK Singles Chart.

“Mother’s Pride” gained significant radio play in the US during the first Persian Gulf War during 1991, often with radio stations mixing in callers’ tributes to soldiers with the music.

Later in 1991, Michael embarked on the Cover to Cover tour in Japan, England, the US, and Brazil, where he performed at Rock in Rio. The tour was not a proper promotion for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. Rather, it featured 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 for Michael’s concert at London’s Wembley Arena on 25 March 1991, where the duet was recorded. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” was released as a single at the end of 1991 and reached No. 1 in both the UK and US.

In 1991, Michael released an autobiography through Penguin Books titled Bare, co-written with Tony Parsons.

An expected follow-up album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2, was scrapped due to Michael’s lawsuit with Sony.

Instead, Michael donated three songs to the charity project Red Hot + Dance, for the Red Hot Organization which raised money for AIDS awareness; a fourth track, “Crazyman Dance”, was the B-side of 1992’s “Too Funky”. Michael donated the royalties from “Too Funky” to the same cause. “Too Funky” reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

producing a record six top three hit singles in a two-year span.

In 1996, Michael was voted Best British Male at the MTV Europe Music Awards and the Brit Awards; and at the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Awards, he was awarded the title of Songwriter of the Year for the third time.

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, who died of cancer the following year.

Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael (1998) was Michael’s first solo greatest hits collection. 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 ballads; the second CD, “For the Feet”, consists mainly of dance tunes. It was released through Sony Music Entertainment as a condition of severing contractual ties with the label.

Ladies & Gentlemen was a success, peaking at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart for eight weeks. It spent over 200 weeks in the UK chart, and is the 45th best-selling album of all time in the UK.

It is certified seven-times platinum in the UK and multi-platinum in the US, and is Michael’s most commercially successful album in his homeland, having sold more than 2.8 million copies.

As of 2013, the album had reached worldwide sales of approximately 15 million copies. The first single of the album, “Outside”, was a humorous song making a reference to his arrest for soliciting a policeman in a public toilet. “As”, his duet with Mary J. Blige, was released as the second single in many territories around the world. Both singles reached the top 5 in the UK Singles Chart.

Released in 1999, Songs from the Last Century is a studio album of cover tracks. The album achieved the lowest peak of his solo efforts, peaking at No. 157 on the American Billboard 200 albums chart and at No. 2 in the UK Albums Chart.

2000s

In 2000, Michael worked on the hit single “If I Told You That” with Whitney Houston. Michael co-produced on the single along with Rodney Jerkins.

Michael’s first single from his fifth studio album, “Freeek!”, reached the Top 10 in the UK.

His next single was “Shoot the Dog” which was released in July 2002 during the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The video for the song showed Tony Blair as George Bush’s poodle.

The single’s cover featured the Daily Mirror’s “Howdy Poodle” front page from earlier in the year. Responding to criticism, Michael said, “I am British, I live here, I pay my taxes, and I’m very, very worried that we are now the second most dangerous country in the world thanks to our special relationship with America.”

It reached No. 1 in Denmark and made the top 5 in most European charts.

It peaked at No. 12 on the UK Singles Chart.

In February 2003, Michael recorded another song in protest against the looming Iraq war, Don McLean’s “The Grave”. The original was written by McLean in 1971 and was a protest against the Vietnam War. Michael performed the song on numerous TV shows including Top of the Pops and So Graham Norton. His performance of the song on Top of the Pops on 7 March 2003 was his first studio appearance on the programme since 1986.

He ran into conflict with the show’s producers for an anti-war, anti-Blair T-shirt worn by some members of his band. McLean stated that he was “‘proud of George Michael for standing up for life and sanity’”.

When Michael’s fifth studio album, Patience, was released in 2004, it was critically acclaimed and went to No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart.

The album became one of the fastest-selling albums in the UK, selling over 200,000 copies in the first week alone.

It reached the Top 5 on most European charts and peaked at No. 12 in the US, selling over 500,000 copies to earn a Gold certification from the RIAA.

“Amazing”, the third single from the album, became a No. 1 hit in Europe.

When Michael appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on 26 May 2004, to promote the album, he performed “Amazing”, along with his classic songs “Father Figure” and “Faith”.

On the show, Michael spoke of his arrest, the public revelation of his homosexuality, and his resumption of public performances. He allowed Oprah’s crew inside his home outside London.

The fourth single taken off the album was “Flawless”. It was a dance hit in Europe as well as North America, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and becoming Michael’s last No. 1 single on the US Dance chart.

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Twenty Five is Michael’s second greatest hits album, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his music career.

Released in November 2006 by Sony BMG, it debuted at no. 1 in the UK.

During the 2005 Live 8 concert at Hyde Park, London, Michael joined Paul McCartney on stage, harmonising on The Beatles classic “Drive My Car”.

In 2006, Michael embarked on 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.

On 9 June 2007, Michael became the first artist to perform live at the newly renovated Wembley Stadium in London.

On 25 March 2008, a third part of the 25 Live Tour was announced for North America, with 21 dates in the US and Canada.

Michael made his American acting debut by playing a guardian angel to Jonny Lee Miller’s character on Eli Stone, a US TV series. Each episode of the show’s first season was named after a song of his. Michael also appeared on the 2008 finale show of American Idol on 21 May, singing “Praying for Time”.

When asked what he thought Simon Cowell would 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 25 December 2008, Michael released a new Christmas-themed track, “December Song”, on his website for free.

In early 2010, Michael performed his first concerts in Australia since 1988.

On 20 February 2010, Michael performed his first show in Perth at the Burswood Dome to an audience of 15,000.

On 2 March 2011, Michael announced the release of his cover version of New Order’s 1987 hit “True Faith” in aid of the UK charity telethon Comic Relief.

Michael appeared on Comic Relief itself, featuring in the first Carpool Karaoke sketch of James Corden, with the pair singing songs while Corden drove around London.

On 15 April 2011, Michael released a cover of Stevie Wonder’s 1972 song, “You and I”, as an MP3 gift to Prince William and Catherine Middleton on the occasion of their wedding on 29 April 2011.

Although the MP3 was released for free download, Michael appealed to those who downloaded the track to make a contribution to “The Prince William & Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund”.

The Symphonica Tour began at the Prague State Opera House on 22 August 2011. In October 2011, Michael was announced as one of the final nominees for the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

In November, he had to cancel the remainder of the tour as he became ill with pneumonia in Vienna, Austria, ultimately slipping into a coma.

In February 2012, two months after leaving hospital, Michael made a surprise appearance at the 2012 Brit Awards at the O2 Arena in London, where he received a standing ovation, and presented Adele the award for Best British Album.

In March, Michael announced that he was healthy and that the Symphonica Tour would resume in autumn. The final concert of the tour—which was also the final concert of Michael’s life–was performed at London’s Earls Court on 17 October 2012.

Symphonica was released on 17 March 2014, and became Michael’s seventh solo No. 1 album in the UK, and ninth overall including his Wham! chart-toppers. The album was produced by Phil Ramone and Michael; the album was Ramone’s last production credit.

On 2 November 2016, Michael’s management team announced that a second documentary on his life, entitled Freedom, was set to be released in March 2017.

A month after, English songwriter Naughty Boy confirmed plans to collaborate with Michael, for a new song and album.

Naughty Boy claimed that the song is “amazing but […] bittersweet”. On 7 September 2017 (months after Michael’s death), the single “Fantasy”, featuring Nile Rodgers, was released.

Having charted at number two upon its release in 1984 (behind Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which Michael also performed in), “Last Christmas” finally reached number-one in the UK Singles Chart on New Year’s Day 2021 (chart week ending date 7 January 2021), more than 36 years after its initial release.

Andrew Ridgeley said the chart placing was “a testament to its timeless appeal and charm”, adding: “It is a fitting tribute to George’s song-writing genius… he would have been immensely proud and utterly thrilled.”

The period of 36 years taken to reach number one was a UK chart record, which would be surpassed by Kate Bush with “Running Up That Hill” in June 2022 which took 37 years.