Full Name: Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou
Birth Date: June 25, 1963
Birth Place: East Finchley, London, England
Death Date: December 25, 2016
Cause of Death: Heart Disease, Fatty Liver
Partner(s): Anselmo Feleppa, Kenny Goss
Height: 6‘ 0" (1.83 m)
Net Worth: $200 million (Estimate)
George Michael endures as one of the most influential pop icons in music history, renowned for his velvety voice and universally resonant songs. With record sales exceeding 100 million globally, his immense talent made a permanent mark on the industry.
Early Life and Meeting Andrew Ridgeley
Born to Greek Cypriot parents in North London, George Michael’s birth name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. Music was his passion from a young age – he began playing instruments and writing his own songs during his teens. It was at Bushey Meads School that he met Andrew Ridgeley, his future Wham! partner. Both united by a love for pop bands like The Beatles, the two fast friends started forming a musical duo.
Meteoritic Rise to Fame with Wham!
Michael and Ridgeley formed ‘The Executive’ initially, later changing the band’s name to Wham! in 1982. After some early struggles, Wham! took off rapidly with their 1983 debut album ‘Fantastic’ reaching #1 in the UK. Powered by energetic tracks like “Young Guns”, “Wham Rap!” and “Club Tropicana”, the album began their journey to stardom.
In 1984, Wham! embarked on a watershed tour of China – the first ever visit by a Western pop band. Hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Careless Whisper” cemented them as Britain’s biggest pop act. By the time Wham! disbanded in 1986, they had achieved a level of superstardom rare for a group so young.
Solo Sensation of the ‘80s and ‘90s
Michael wasted no time capitalizing on his fame with the release of his seminal solo debut album Faith in 1987. It exploded in popularity on the back of singles like the sultry “I Want Your Sex” and sublime “Father Figure”. But the record’s title track became his signature song, its funky riffs and defiant lyrics catapulting him to global celebrity. Faith sold over 20 million copies worldwide, a phenomenal achievement.
His 1990 follow-up Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 marked a shift to more introspective themes. The brooding “Freedom! ‘90” and bittersweet “Praying for Time” connected with audiences. The album became his second straight No. 1 in the UK and won Best British Album at the 1991 Brit Awards.
Michael continued releasing massively successful singles like “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (his inspiring duet with Elton John), the haunting “Jesus to a Child” and dancefloor-ready “Fastlove” through the ‘90s. His compilation Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael (1998) topped charts globally.
Colorful Personal Life in the Spotlight
Michael’s personal relationships frequently made headlines, especially after his 1998 arrest following a ‘lewd act’ in a public restroom. He came out as gay shortly after, bravely becoming one of music’s first openly gay celebrities.
His long-term relationships with Brazilian designer Anselmo Feleppa and American businessman Kenny Goss were passionately lived, before ending in heartbreak after their respective deaths to illness. Michael also faced several drug possession charges and driving offenses over the years, accompanied by substance abuse struggles.
Generous Philanthropy and Activism
A compassionate philanthropist, Michael donated millions to HIV/AIDS prevention and supported charities like the Rainbow Trust and Childline. He bankrolled a "George Michael Scholarship" providing grants to economically disadvantaged students. And his iconic duet “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with Elton John raised £1.5 million for AIDS hospices and victims.
Final Years and Lasting Influence
In his last decade, Michael played a series of massive world tours, released his final studio album Patience (2004), and performed a stirring closing set at the London 2012 Olympics. His sudden death on Christmas Day 2016 at 53 devastated millions of fans globally.
With songs that have defined eras and been embraced by generations, George Michael‘s artistic legacy is monumental. His generously shared God-given talent lives on in the lives he touched and the voices he still inspires today.
5 of George Michael‘s Greatest Musical Moments
- "Careless Whisper" (1984) – Timeless saxophone ballad and signature song
- "Faith" (1987) – Funky, award-winning title track from his iconic album
- "Freedom! ‘90" (1990) – Anthemic cry for liberation and freedom
- "Don‘t Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (1991) – Towering duet with Elton John
- "Jesus to a Child" (1996) – Gorgeously emotional tribute to lost love