Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25, 1963 in London, England
The boy who would later become George Michael was born to a Greek father and English mother in London. Early on he befriended a schoolmate, Andrew Ridgeley, with whom Michael formed a band called the Executive in 1979, an outfit that briefly, and ultimately unsuccessfully, explored ska styles. But things really took off for Michael and Ridgeley when the two formed the pop duo Wham! in 1981. A showcase for Michael's shamelessly pop songwriting, the group launched into stardom almost instantly.
Wham! - The Duo Scores with Pop Confections:
Soon after the group's formation, the boys of Wham! had major UK hits on their hands in "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" and "Young Guns (Go for It)." These somewhat slight and embarrassing early efforts hardly made a dent in America, but Michael and Ridgeley didn't have to wait long to Make It Big in the States, as the duo's 1984 album titled with the same confident phrase became a monster hit. The album's four singles introduced a sophisticated pop-soul sound that would make Michael a megastar.
Wham, Bam, Thank You Andrew - Ridgeley Recedes Into the Background:
Michael was always the leader and primary songwriter of Wham!, but his dominion in the group became far more obvious with the duo's explosion of success. As Michael composed and sang lead on Make It Big's singles, it was hard not to feel bad for Ridgeley's anonymity and apparently extraneous presence. Three of these hit tunes, "Everything She Wants," "Freedom" and "Careless Whisper" are outright pop classics.
Michael Prepares for Solo Stardom:
With its first five American singles, Wham! enjoyed three No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts and two not-too-shabby No. 3 chart peaks. And yet by 1986's disjointed Music from the Edge of Heaven, the duo was in essence no more already. The album contains the group's last major hit, "I'm Your Man," as well as another classic if seasonal pop tune in "Last Christmas," but Michael's Wham! exit was nonetheless anticlimactic. He'd had plenty of rehearsal time as a solo act; now it was time for opening night.
Michael Clearly Has Plenty of Faith in His Talent:
Although he released only one album as a solo artist in the '80s, Michael did not waste his opportunity in the least. 1987's Faith spawned four No. 1 singles and also hit the top of the album charts in England and America. Ultimately the album sold more than seven million copies, but it also unleashed Michael as a pop star and sex symbol to reckon with, particularly through the iconic "Faith" and its music video. "Father Figure" and "One More Try" were also standouts, succeeding as mature, soulful pop tunes.
A Spotty Record Follows, News at 11:
Musically, Michael would remain fairly quiet following his 1990 follow-up to Faith, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. Volume 2 never found its way into circulation, partly because Michael's sales declined considerably but also because of the obligatory pop star legal battle with his record company and other struggles. Most notoriously, in 1998 Michael was arrested for lewd conduct in a Beverly Hills men's room, an incident that spurred him on to reveal publicly his long-suspected homosexuality.
A Graceful Survivor in the New Millennium?:
After that first humbling brush with the law, Michael regrouped on a personal and professional level, releasing in 2004 the appropriately titled Patience, his first album of new material in eight years. Subsequent years have witnessed a few more legal glitches, particularly of the reckless-driving variety. Speaking in a purely musical sense, however, in the nearly quarter-century since his initial success Michael has had a tendency to be regarded more lightly than he'd like, but his skill in crafting pop songs during his mid-'80s peak is a truth that simply cannot be denied.