Friday, May 20, 2011

George Michael

Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou to a Greek Cypriot father and a British mother, George grew up in suburban Hertfordshire.
He attended the Bushey Meads School where he became best friends with Andrew Ridgeley. They formed their first band whilst still at school, the short-lived The Executive. Following that they created Wham! in 1981.
The duo’s pretty-boy looks and catchy lyrics meant they were an instant success with their first singles ‘Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do)’ and ‘Young Guns (Go For It!)’ (1982). Wham’s debut album, ‘Fantastic’ (1983), had the hit single ‘Club Tropicana’ (1983) with the memorable video, shot in Ibiza. Rapidly following was the album ‘Make it Big’ (1984) with hit singles ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’, ‘Careless Whisper’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Everything She Wants’. Wham! toured China in April 1985 and received much media coverage around the world. Their fame was starting to spread.
The album ’Music from the Edge of Heaven’ (1986), with hit singles ‘I’m Your Man’ and ‘Last Christmas’, made Wham! the most successful pop act of the 1980s. In 1986, after nearly five years of dominating the charts, touring the world and being poster pinup heartthrobs, Wham! decided to part ways. In 1986, they released their farewell single ‘The Edge of Heaven’ and played to a capacity crowd for their final concert at Wembley Stadium, London. Andrew then settled in Cornwall and George began to pursue a solo career.
A year later, George released his debut solo album ‘Faith’ (1987) to a resoundingly enthusiastic response. It sold over 7 million copies and was number one in both the US and the UK. Memorable singles from the album were ‘Faith’, ‘Father Figure’, ‘Kissing A Fool’ and ‘I Want Your Sex’. Three years later, the release of the album ‘Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1’ (1990) was the start of George’s dispute with record label Sony. He claimed that the album’s poor sales were due to Sony’s poor marketing. In 1993, George entered into a court case with Sony over his record contract, which cost him millions and which he eventually lost. DreamWorks bought George out of his Sony contract and released the more sombre album ‘Older’ in 1996. The next two albums were the greatest hits compilation ‘Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael’ (1998) and ‘Songs from the Last Century’ (1999) which received a lukewarm response from critics.
After all the years of privacy regarding his sexual orientation and rumoured relationships with various women, George was finally out of the closet. On 7 April 1998, he exposed himself to an undercover policeman in a Beverly Hills park toilet, was arrested for lewd behaviour, fined $180 and given 80 hours of community service. In a rebellious retort, George released a video to his single ‘Outside’ which featured policemen kissing. It became known that George’s lover of two years, Brazilian Anselmo Feleppa, had died in 1993 of an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage and the song ‘Jesus to a Child’ from the ‘Older’ (1996) album was a tribute to him. George was also finally able to publicly acknowledge his relationship with Kenny Goss from Dallas, Texas, a former cheerleader coach and later an Adidas sports clothing executive. In 2005, the couple opened the Goss Gallery for contemporary art in Dallas. They own homes in Hollywood and Dallas and have an £8 million mansion in Highgate, North London.
In his upfront way, George made political comment on the Tony Blair/George Bush role in the ‘War on Terror’ in his controversial 2002 song ‘Shoot the Dog’. He was involved in several of the Band Aid songs and concerts and spoke out against Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and its missiles involvement with the US.
Following a five-year gap in album releases, the highly anticipated ‘Patience’ (2004) made number one on the UK charts and number two in Australia. George performed with Paul McCartney, providing harmony for ‘Drive My Car’, at the 2005 Live 8 concert. In a drive to re-launch his career, on 21 April 2006 George announced his first solo concert tour in 15 years: a fifty-date ‘25 Live’ concert tour, commemorating 25 years of being in the music business. The album ‘Twenty Five’, a greatest hits album that includes four new tracks, was put together to coincide with the tour.
George had admitted to taking medication for depression, including Prozac and smoking cannabis (a Class C drug). Recently, he found himself repeatedly caught out by the law. On 26 February 2006, he was arrested for possession of cannabis, cautioned by the police and let go. Then on 15 May 2006, he was found slumped over the steering wheel of his Range Rover, sweating profusely and apparently napping at the traffic lights. A fellow motorist spent almost five minutes knocking on his window before he woke up and weaved off down the road and hit a traffic bollard. Later that month, George attracted police attention once more when he drove into three parked cars in the North London street in which he lives.
In July 2006, UK tabloids printed photographs of George emerging from the bushes of London’s Hampstead Heath, apparently having engaged in a sexual act with a man they called a ‘pot-bellied, jobless van driver’. George’s reply was that he had cruised for gay sex since his early teens and that his current partner, Goss, had no problem with this habit. At 3.22am on 1 October 2006, police found George with a stash of cannabis, slumped semi-conscious in his Mercedes Benz S-Class, causing an obstruction at an intersection in Cricklewood, North West London. They first took him to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead for a check up and then to the Colindale police station, where they booked him for possession of cannabis and released him on bail, pending further inquiries into his fitness to drive. The court date was set for November 2006. He went directly from the police station to Luton airport to fly to Lyon to resume his ‘25 Live’ tour.
In 2010, the singer was making headlines once again for his private life, rather than his musical talent, as he was arrested following an incident in which he drove into the front of Snappy Snaps in Hampstead. Following his arrest, the star was charged with possession of cannabis and driving while being unfit due to either drink or drugs.
He pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced to eight weeks in prison. He served four weeks in Highpoint Prison, Suffolk, and was released on October 11th 2010. He was also banned from driving for five years and received a fine.
Speaking about the incident in an interview with Chris Evans on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show, the singer said he was ashamed about his actions. He explained: “This was a hugely shameful thing to have done repeatedly. So karmically I felt like I had a bill to pay. I went to prison, I paid my bill.”
George has denied that he has a drug problem although he encouraged his partner, Kenny Goss, to be treated at the Arizona clinic for alcohol abuse in June 2004. His recent, increasingly erratic behaviour and constant run-ins with the police is causing concern in some quarters, even although his concert ticket sales have been phenomenal.
With his public image under scrutiny, George is doggedly pursuing his music career. A single with ex-Sugarbabes singer Mutya called ‘This Is Not Real Love’ was released in 2006. He is also busy recording a new version of the song ‘Heal the Pain’ with Paul McCartney. He wrote the original as a tribute to McCartney and is honoured that McCartney is singing this version. In a career spanning more than twenty years and having sold in excess of 80 million records - as part of Wham! and as a solo artist - George has certainly painted a colourful picture. There is no doubt that the music industry has given recognition for his talent during his prodigious career. Over the years he has amassed numerous accolades including three Ivor Novello Awards, two Grammy Awards and three Brit Awards.

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