Wham! singer who went on to a solo career and became Britains biggest pop star
George Michael, who has died aged 53, was Britains biggest pop star of the 1980s, first with the pop duo Wham! and then as a solo artist. After Wham! made their initial chart breakthrough with the single Young Guns (Go for It) in 1982, Michaels songwriting gift brought them giant hits including Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Careless Whisper, and they became leading lights of the 80s boom in British pop music, alongside Culture Club and Duran Duran. His first solo album, Faith (1987), sold 25m copies, and Michael sold more than 100m albums worldwide with Wham! and under his own name.
Michael remained a major figure in the music industry even when his record releases slowed to a trickle in the later part of his career, and a loyal fan base ensured that his concert tours always sold out. However, from the late 1990s onwards he was beset by a string of personal crises and clashes with the law caused by drug use. He had always felt ambivalent about the demands of stardom, and found it difficult to balance his celebrity status with his private life. After years of concealing his homosexuality, he eventually came out in 1998, after being arrested for engaging in a lewd act in a public lavatory in Beverly Hills, California.
He was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in Finchley, north London. His father was a Greek Cypriot restaurateur, Kyriacos Panayiotou, who had married Lesley Angold, an English dancer. The family moved to Radlett in Hertfordshire, and George attended Bushey Meads school, where he became close friends with Andrew Ridgeley. The pair formed a ska-influenced quintet, the Executive, in 1979, then in 1981 re-emerged as a duo, Wham!. They recorded some demos of their songs (written by Michael), and were promptly signed by the independent label Innervision.
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