Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (25 June 1963 – 25 December 2016), known professionally as George Michael, was an English singer, songwriter, record producer, and philanthropist who rose to fame as a member of the music duo Wham! He was best known for his work in the 1980s and 1990s, including hit singles such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas”, and albums such as Faith (1987) and Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (1990).
Up to the time of his death, Michael sold more than 115 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. His breakthrough duo Wham! sold 28 million records between 1982 and 1986, and his debut solo album Faith sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Michael achieved seven number one singles in the UK and eight number one songs on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, including “Careless Whisper” and “Praying for Time”. He ranks among the best-selling British acts of all time, and in 2008, Michael was ranked 40th on Billboard’s list of the Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time. Michael won various music awards throughout his 30-year career, including three Brit Awards—he won Best British Male twice, four MTV Video Music Awards, six Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards from eight nominations. Michael, who came out as gay in 1998, was an active LGBT rights campaigner and HIV/AIDS charity fundraiser.
In 2004, the Radio Academy named Michael the most played artist on British radio during the period 1984–2004. The documentary A Different Story (released in 2005) covered his career and personal life. Michael’s first tour in 15 years, the worldwide 25 Live tour, spanned three tours over the course of three years (2006, 2007, and 2008).
In the early hours of 25 December 2016, Michael, aged 53, was found dead in bed at his Oxfordshire home. A coroner’s report attributed his death to natural causes.
Michael was born in East Finchley on 25 June 1963. His father, Kyriacos “Jack” Panayiotou, a Greek Cypriot restaurateur, had emigrated to Britain in the 1950s. Michael’s mother, Lesley Angold (née Harrison; 1937–1997), was an English dancer. In a June 2008 interview, Michael told the Los Angeles Times that his maternal grandmother was Jewish, but she married a non-Jewish man and raised her children with no knowledge of their Jewish background due to her fear during World War II. Michael spent most of his childhood in Kingsbury, London, in the home his parents bought soon after his birth; he attended Kingsbury High School. His older sisters are Yioda and Melanie.
While he was in his early teens, the family moved to Radlett. There, Michael attended Bushey Meads School in Bushey, where he befriended his future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley. The two had the same career ambition of being musicians. Michael busked on the London Underground, performing songs such as “’39” by Queen. His involvement in the music business began with his working as a DJ, playing at clubs and local schools around Bushey, Stanmore, and Watford. This was followed by the formation of a short-lived ska band called The Executive, with Ridgeley, Ridgeley’s brother Paul, Andrew Leaver, and David Mortimer (later known as David Austin).
Michael formed the duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. 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 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 sang on the original Band Aid recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (which became the UK Christmas number one) and 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. 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, and 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.”
The tour was documented by film director Lindsay Anderson and producer Martin Lewis in their film Foreign Skies: Wham! In China. 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 singles compilation, The Final, 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.
The beginning of his solo career, during early 1987, was a duet with Aretha Franklin. “I Knew You Were Waiting” 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 in the US for four consecutive weeks. It also reached No. 2 in 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”. It was the second highest grossing event of 1988, earning $17.7 million. In February 1989, 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.
1990–1992: Listen Without Prejudice
Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was released in September 1990. For this album, Michael tried to create a new reputation as a serious-minded artist; the title is an indication of his desire to be taken more seriously as a songwriter. Michael refused to do any promotion for this album, including no music videos for the singles released. The 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 “Waiting for That Day” was an acoustic-heavy single, released as an immediate follow-up to “Praying For Time”. 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 4 times Platinum by the BPI. The album produced 5 UK singles, which were released quickly, within an at 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).
“Freedom ’90” was the second of only two of its singles 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. It also featured the reduction of his sex symbol status. It had a 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. It reached No. 46 on Billboard Hot 100 with only airplay. In the end, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 sold approximately 8 million copies.
At the 1991 Brit Awards, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 won the award for Best British Album. 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. In the audience in Rio, he saw and later met Anselmo Feleppa, who later became his partner. The tour was not a proper promotion for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. Rather, it was more about 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. The single was released at the end of 1991 and reached No. 1 in both the UK and US.
In the meantime, the expected follow-up album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2, was scrapped due to Michael’s lawsuit with Sony. Michael complained that Sony had not completely supported the release of his second album, resulting in its poor performance in the US as compared to Faith. Sony responded that Michael’s refusal to appear in promotional videos had caused the bad response. Michael ended the idea for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2 and 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. It did not appear on any George Michael studio album, but was included on his solo collections Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael in 1998 and Twenty Five in 2006. The video featured Michael (sporadically) as a director filming supermodels Linda Evangelista, Beverly Peele, Tyra Banks, Estelle Lefébure and Nadja Auermann at a fashion show.
1993: Five Live
Michael performed at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on 20 April 1992 at London’s Wembley Stadium. The concert was a tribute to the life of the late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, with the proceeds going to AIDS research. In his last ever radio interview Mercury had praised Michael adding that he loved his track “Faith”. Michael performed “’39”, “These Are the Days of Our Lives” with Lisa Stansfield and “Somebody to Love”. The performance of the latter was released on the Five Live EP.
Five Live, released in 1993 for Parlophone in the UK and Hollywood Records in the US, features five live recordings (six in several countries) performed by Michael, Queen, and Lisa Stansfield. “Somebody to Love” and “These Are the Days of Our Lives” were recorded at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. “Killer”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, and “Calling You” were recorded during his “Cover to Cover Tour” from 1991. Michael’s performance of “Somebody to Love” was hailed as “one of the best performances of the tribute concert”.
All proceeds from the sale of the EP benefited the Mercury Phoenix Trust. Sales of the EP were strong through Europe, where it debuted at No. 1 in the UK and several European countries. Chart success in the US was less spectacular, where it reached No. 40 on the Billboard 200 (“Somebody to Love” reached No. 30 on the US Billboard Hot 100).
During November 1994, after a long period of seclusion, Michael appeared at the first MTV Europe Music Awards show, where he gave a performance of a new song, “Jesus to a Child”. The song was a melancholy tribute to his lover, Anselmo Feleppa, who had died in March 1993. The song entered the UK singles chart at No. 1 and No. 7 on Billboard in the same month of release. It was Michael’s longest UK Top 40 single, at almost seven minutes long. The exact identity of the song’s subject — and the nature of Michael’s relationship with Feleppa — was shrouded in innuendo and speculation, as Michael had not confirmed he was homosexual and did not do so until 1998. The video for “Jesus to a Child” was a picture of images recalling loss, pain and suffering. Michael consistently dedicated the song to Feleppa before performing it live.
The second single, released in April 1996, was “Fastlove”, an energetic tune about wanting gratification and fulfilment without commitment. The single version was nearly five minutes long. “Fastlove” was supported by a futuristic virtual reality-related video. It reached No. 1 in the UK singles chart, spending three weeks at the top spot. In the US, “Fastlove” peaked at No. 8, his most recent single to reach the top 10 on the US charts. Following “Fastlove”, Michael released Older, his first studio album in six years and only the third in his ten-year solo career. The album’s US and Canada release was the first album released by David Geffen’s (now-defunct) DreamWorks Records.
Older was particularly notable for the release of its six singles. Each of them reached the UK Top 3, a record for the most singles in the British Top 3 released from a single album. At the time of release of the album’s fifth single, “Star People ’97”, chart specialist James Masterton noted Michael’s success on the singles charts, writing: “George Michael nonetheless makes an impressive Top 3 entry with this single. The Older album has now proved itself to be far and away his most commercially successful recording ever. Five singles now lifted and every single one has been a Top 3 hit. Compare this with the two Top 3 hits produced by Faith and Listen Without Prejudice’s scant total of one Top Tenner and one single which missed the Top 40 altogether. This sustained single success has been achieved with a little help from marketing tricks such as remixes – or in this case a new recording of the album track which gives it a much-needed transformation into a deserved commercial smash.”
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. She died of cancer the following year.
1998: Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael
Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael was Michael’s first solo greatest hits collection released in 1998. 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 Charts, and is the 38th 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. To date, the album has 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.
1999: Songs from the Last Century
Songs from the Last Century is a studio album of cover tracks. It was released in 1999 and was Michael’s penultimate album released through Virgin Records. To date, the album has peaked the lowest of his solo effort. The album debuted at No. 157 on the American Billboard 200 albums chart, which was also the album’s peak position. It was also his lowest-charting album in the UK, becoming his only solo effort not to reach No. 1. It peaked at No. 2 in the UK Albums Chart. Each of the 11 tracks was co-produced by Phil Ramone and Michael.
In 2000, Michael worked on the hit single “If I Told You That” with Whitney Houston, a song which was meant to feature Michael Jackson, initially. Michael co-produced on the single along with American producer Rodney Jerkins. Michael began working on what became his fifth studio album, spending two years in the recording studio. His first single “Freeek!”, taken from the new album, was successful in Europe going to No. 1 in Italy, Portugal, Spain and Denmark in 2002 and reaching the top 10 in the UK and the top 5 in Australia. It made 22 charts around the world. However, his next single “Shoot the Dog” proved to be controversial when released in July 2002. It was acutely critical of US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It reached No. 1 in Denmark and made the top 5 in most European charts. However, in Britain it peaked at only No. 12 in the UK Singles Chart. It was not released a single in the US.
In February 2003, Michael unexpectedly 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. In response, Don McLean issued a statement, through his website, praising Michael’s recording: “I am proud of George Michael for standing up for life and sanity. I am delighted that he chose a song of mine to express these feelings. We must remember that the Wizard is really a cowardly old man hiding behind a curtain with a loud microphone. It takes courage and a song to pull the curtain open and expose him. Good Luck George.”
On 17 November 2003, Michael re-signed with Sony Music, the company he had left in 1995 after a legal battle. 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, and became one of the fastest selling albums in the UK, selling over 200,000 copies in the first week alone. In Australia it reached No. 2 on 22 March. 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, revealing 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”, which used the sample of the Ones’ original dance hit “Flawless”. It was a dance hit in Europe as well as North America, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and became Michael’s last No. 1 single on the US Dance chart.
In November 2004, Sony released the fifth single – “Round Here”. It was the least successful single taken from Patience when it stalled the UK charts at No. 32. In 2005, “John and Elvis Are Dead” was released as the sixth and final single from the album; it was released as a download single and was therefore unable to chart in the UK. Michael told BBC Radio 1 on 10 March 2004 that future music that he puts out would be available for download, with fans encouraged to make a donation to charity.
2005–2010: Twenty Five and concert tours
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. The album contains songs chiefly from Michael’s solo career but also from his earlier days in Wham! It comes in two formats: two CDs or a limited edition three-CD set. The 2-CD set contained 26 tracks, including four recorded with Wham! and three new songs: “An Easier Affair”; “This Is Not Real Love” (a duet with Mutya Buena, formerly of Sugababes, which peaked at No.15 in the UK Charts); and a new version of “Heal the Pain” recorded with Paul McCartney. The limited edition three-CD version contains an additional 14 lesser known tracks, including one from Wham! and one new song, “Understand”.
Twenty Five was released in North America on 1 April 2008 as a 29-song, two-CD set featuring several new songs (including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige and a song from the short-lived TV series Eli Stone) in addition to many of Michael’s successful songs from both his solo and Wham! career. To commemorate the Twenty Five album, Michael toured North America for the first time in 17 years, playing large venues in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Tampa/St. Pete, Chicago and Dallas. The DVD version of Twenty Five contains 40 videos on two discs, including seven with Wham!
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. According to his website, the 80-show tour was seen by 1.3 million fans. On 12 May 2007 in Coimbra, Portugal, he began the European “25 Live Stadium Tour 2007”, including London and Athens, and ending on 4 August 2007 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. There were 29 tour dates (as of 21 April 2007) across Europe. On 9 June 2007 Michael became the first artist to perform live at the newly renovated Wembley Stadium in London, where he was later fined £130,000 for over-running the programme for 13 minutes.
On 25 March 2008, a third part of the 25 Live Tour was announced for North America. This part included 21 dates in the United States and Canada. This was Michael’s first tour of North America in 17 years. Following news of Michael’s North American tour, Twenty Five was released in North America on 1 April 2008 as a 29-song, 2-CD set featuring several new songs (including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige and a song from the short-lived TV series, Eli Stone) in addition to many of Michael’s successful songs from both his solo and Wham! career.
Michael made his American acting debut by playing a guardian angel to Jonny Lee Miller’s character on Eli Stone, a US TV series. In addition to performing on the show as himself and as “visions”, each episode of the show’s first season was named after a song of his. Michael 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 1 December, Michael performed in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as part of the 37th National Day Celebrations.
On 25 December 2008, Michael released a new track “December Song” on his website for free. It was hoped that fans who downloaded the song would donate money to charity. Though the song is not available any more on his website, it remains available on file sharing networks and a remastered version of “December Song” went on sale on 13 December. The popularity of the single was boosted by a promotional appearance that Michael made on The X Factor. 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 also 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”.
2011–2016: Symphonica and concert tours, Freedom documentary
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 London’s O2 Arena, where he received a standing ovation, and presented Adele the award for Best British Album. 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, his last production credit, and Michael.
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 claims that the song, currently untitled, is “amazing but bittersweet”. On 7 September 2017 the single “Fantasy”, featuring Nile Rodgers, was released.
Michael stated that his early fantasies were about women, which “led me to believe I was on the path to heterosexuality”, but at puberty he started to fantasise about men, which he later said “had something to do with my environment”. At the age of 19, Michael told Andrew Ridgeley that he was bisexual. Michael also told one of his two sisters, but he was advised not to tell his parents about his sexuality. In a 1999 interview with The Advocate, Michael told the Editor in Chief, Judy Wieder, that it was “falling in love with a man that ended his conflict over bisexuality”. “I never had a moral problem with being gay”, Michael told her. “I thought I had fallen in love with a woman a couple of times. Then I fell in love with a man, and realised that none of those things had been love.”
In 2004 Michael said “I used to sleep with women quite a lot in the Wham! days but never felt it could develop into a relationship because I knew that, emotionally, I was a gay man. I didn’t want to commit to them but I was attracted to them. Then I became ashamed that I might be using them. I decided I had to stop, which I did when I began to worry about AIDS, which was becoming prevalent in Britain. Although I had always had safe sex, I didn’t want to sleep with a woman without telling her I was bisexual. I felt that would be irresponsible. Basically, I didn’t want to have that uncomfortable conversation that might ruin the moment, so I stopped sleeping with them.” In the same interview, he added : “If I wasn’t with Kenny , I would have sex with women, no question”. He said he believed that the formation of his sexuality was “a nurture thing, via the absence of my father who was always busy working. It meant I was exceptionally close to my mother”, though he stated that “there are definitely those who have a predisposition to being gay in which the environment is irrelevant.”
In 2007, Michael said he had hidden the fact he was gay because of worries over what effect it might have on his mother. In 2009 Michael said: “My depression at the end of Wham! was because I was beginning to realise I was gay, not bisexual.”
During the late 1980s, Michael had a relationship with Chinese-American make-up artist Kathy Jeung, who was regarded for a time as his artistic “muse” and who appeared in the “I Want Your Sex” video. Michael later said that she had been his “only bona fide” girlfriend, and that she knew of his bisexuality. In 2016, Jeung reacted to Michael’s death by calling him a “true friend” with whom she had spent “some of the best time of life”.
In 1992 he established a relationship with Anselmo Feleppa, a Brazilian dress designer, whom he had met at the 1991 concert Rock in Rio. Six months into their relationship, Feleppa discovered that he was HIV positive. Michael later said: “It was terrifying news. I thought I could have the disease too. I couldn’t go through it with my family because I didn’t know how to share it with them – they didn’t even know I was gay.” In 1993, Feleppa died of an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage. Michael’s single, “Jesus to a Child”, is a tribute to Feleppa (Michael consistently dedicated it to him before performing it live), as is his album Older (1996). In 2008, speaking about the loss of his partner Feleppa, Michael said: “It was a terribly depressing time. It took about three years to grieve, then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed.”
In 1996, Michael entered into a long-term relationship with Kenny Goss, a former flight attendant, cheerleader coach, and sportswear executive from Dallas. They had homes in Dallas, a 16th-century house in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire and an £8 million mansion in Highgate, North London. In late November 2005, it was reported that Michael and Goss planned to register their relationship as a civil partnership in the UK, but because of negative publicity and his upcoming tour, they postponed it. On 22 August 2011, the opening night of his Symphonica world tour, Michael announced that he and Goss had split two years earlier.
Since 2012, Michael had been in a relationship with Fadi Fawaz, an Australian celebrity hairstylist and a freelance photographer of Lebanese descent based in London. It was Fawaz who found Michael’s body on Christmas morning 2016.
In November 1984, Michael joined other British and Irish pop stars of the era to form Band Aid, singing on the charity song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” for famine relief in Ethiopia. This single became the UK Christmas number one in December 1984, holding Michael’s own song, “Last Christmas” by Wham!, at No. 2; Michael also donated the royalties for “Last Christmas” to Ethiopia. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” sold 3.75 million copies in the UK and became the biggest selling single in UK chart history, a title it held until 1997 when it was overtaken by Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997”, released in tribute to Princess Diana following her death (Michael attended Diana’s funeral with Elton John). Michael donated the royalties from “Last Christmas” to Band Aid and subsequently sang with Elton John at Live Aid (the Band Aid charity concert) in 1985.
In 1986, Michael took part in the Prince’s Trust charity concert held at Wembley Arena, performing “Everytime You Go Away” alongside Paul Young. In 1988, Michael participated in the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium in London together with many other singers (such as Annie Lennox and Sting), performing “Sexual Healing”.
A LGBT rights campaigner and HIV/AIDS charity fundraiser, the proceeds from the 1991 single “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” were divided among 10 different charities for children, AIDS and education. He was also a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Michael wore a red ribbon at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in 1992.
In 2003, he paired up with Ronan Keating on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and won £32,000, after having their original £64,000 winnings halved by missing the £125,000 question. The same year, Michael joined other celebrities to support a campaign to help raise £20 million for terminally ill children run by the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity of which he was a patron. He said: “Loss is such an incredibly difficult thing. I bow down to people who actually have to deal with the loss of a child.”
Following his death, many charities revealed that Michael had privately been a supporter of them for many years. Dame Esther Rantzen, the founder and president of Childline, said he had given them “millions” over the years and said that he had given the royalties from his 1996 number one single “Jesus to a Child” to the charity. He had supported the Terrence Higgins Trust “for many years” as well as Macmillan Cancer Support. Michael also donated to individuals: he reportedly called the production team of the quiz show Deal or No Deal after a contestant had revealed that she needed £15,000 to fund IVF treatment, and anonymously paid for the treatment personally; and once tipped a student nurse working as a barmaid £5,000 ($6,121) because she was in debt. On 3 January 2017, another woman came forward and (with the permission of Michael’s family) revealed he had anonymously paid for her IVF treatment after seeing her talk about her problems conceiving on an episode of This Morning in 2010. The woman gave birth to a girl in 2012.
In the early hours of Christmas morning, 25 December 2016, Michael died at his home in Goring-on-Thames, aged 53. He was found dead, lying in bed, by his partner Fadi Fawaz. No cause of death was immediately determined; although his manager Michael Lippman conjectured that heart failure was the cause of death, and that Michael had “passed away peacefully”. Fawaz described, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, finding the performer on Christmas morning, “I went round there to wake him up and he was just gone, lying peacefully in bed. We don’t know what happened yet. Everything had been very complicated recently, but George was looking forward to Christmas, and so was I.”
On 29 December 2016, a post-mortem was undertaken to determine the cause of death but was inconclusive. Further tests were carried out and on 7 March 2017, a senior coroner in Oxfordshire attributed the death to natural causes as the result of a dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and a fatty liver.
Due to the delay of the post-mortem, Michael’s funeral was not held until 29 March 2017. In a private ceremony, Michael was buried at Highgate Cemetery in north London, near his mother’s grave. In summer 2017, an informal memorial garden was created for Michael outside his former home in Highgate, north London. The site, in a private square that Michael had owned, is tended by fans.
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