George Michael, the British singer / songwriter who sold tens of millions of albums in the duo Wham! and then on his own, died Sunday at his home in Goring in Oxfordshire, England. The 80s icon was 53 year old.
A police statement said: “Thames Valley Police were called to a property in Goring-on-Thames shortly before 2 p.m. Christmas Day. Sadly, a 53-year-old man was confirmed deceased at the scene. At this stage the death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious.”
George Michael broke out huge in Wham! with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and then got even bigger with the 1987 album “Faith.”
He scored with hit after hit like “Careless Whisper” … “Father Figure” … “Freedom 90” … “I Want Your Sex” … and a duet with Elton John, reprising Elton’s classic song “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me.”
The New York Times has just posted an obituary on George Michael, which includes the following information:
George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in East Finchley, London, on June 25, 1963, the son of a Cypriot restaurateur and an English dancer. In 1979, he and a schoolmate, Andrew Ridgely, were members of their first band together, a ska band called the Executive. That didn’t last, but they continued to make music together —most of it composed and sung by Mr. Michael — and began releasing singles as Wham!, cultivating the image of carefree teenage rebels in songs like “Young Guns (Go for It!).” Their 1983 debut album, “Fantastic,” reached No. 1 in Britain; in the United States, the 1984 single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” became ubiquitous on MTV and reached No. 1. In 1985, the duo became the first major Western pop group to tour China as part of its world tour, and Mr. Michael appeared at the Live Aid concert, broadcast worldwide, joining Elton John to sing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
The worldwide 1984 hit “Careless Whisper,” credited in Britain to George Michael solo and to Wham! featuring George Michael in the United States, signaled a turn away from perky teen fare. In 1986, Wham! dissolved, with a farewell show at Wembley Stadium. Mr. Michael had a No. 1 hit with “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” his duet with Aretha Franklin, before releasing the album “Faith” in 1987. Its first single, “I Want Your Sex,” reached No. 2 in the United States, though it was seen as too risque by some radio stations; Mr. Michael made an introduction to its video clip stating “This song is not about casual sex.” “Faith,” which hinted at both gospel and rockabilly, reached No. 1, and the album included three more No. 1 hits: “Father Figure,” “Monkey” and “One More Try”; it has sold more than 10 million copies in the United States.
But for the next album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1,” released in 1990, Mr. Michael set out to jettison his pop persona. The autobiographical “Freedom ’90” declared his independence from the pop machine along with his determination to “stick around”; he didn’t appear in its video clip, which had models lip-syncing the lyrics. The album also included a No. 1 single, the ballad “Praying for Time,” and has sold two million copies in the United States, but after the blockbuster of “Faith” it was considered a commercial letdown.
Mr. Michael entered a protracted legal battle with Sony Music over his contract, and was unable to release another album until 1996. Its title, “Older,” was an unmistakable signal that he was no longer directly courting the youth market; he was 32 years old. But the album was an instant hit in England and Europe — it had six hit singles in England — though less popular in the United States. After the 1998 arrest, Mr. Michael released a greatest-hits album with two new songs; one, “Outside,” set its video clip in a men’s restroom. He made a 1999 album of cover songs, “Songs of the Last Century.”
In the early 2000s, Mr. Michael released songs protesting the invasion of Iraq including the 2002 “Shoot the Dog.” His last full studio album, “Patience,” was released in 2004, full of introspective ballads. Mr. Michael returned to performing; he joined Paul McCartney onstage during the Live 8 benefit concert. In 2006, he performed a world tour, paired with another collection of hits, “Twenty Five,” that included new duets with Mr. McCartney and Mary J. Blige. He continued to release individual songs sporadically, and in 2014, he released “Symphonica,” a collection of standards and his own songs recorded with an orchestra.
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