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George Michael

George MichaelAKA Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou

Born: 25-Jun-1963
Birthplace: London, England
Died: 25-Dec-2016
Location of death: Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Gay [1]
Occupation: Singer/Songwriter

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Wham!

The son of a Greek restaurateur, Georgios (or Yorgos) Panayiotou began his musical pursuits while still at school, when he formed the ska band The Executive with friend Andrew Ridgeley. By 1982 the pair had changed their collective name to Wham! (Georgios having changed his own name to George Michael) and secured a record contract with the independent pop label Innervision. The following year their debut release Fantastic made a big, dumb splash on the music scene, fueled by a clutch of U.K. top 10 singles: Young Guns (Go For It), Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do), Bad Boys, and Club Tropicana. Michael and Ridgeley were immediately transformed into teen idols in the unmistakable, blow-dried 80's sense of the term.

After the success of Fantastic, an opportunity to sign with the Sony subsidiary Epic Records presented itself, but in order to do so Wham! was forced to largely forsake the revenue generated by all material released by Innervision. The loss became inconsequential, as the band's second record Make It Big ravaged music charts all over the world. Some of the most vacuous (and therefore popular) songs of the decade were the singles culled from this album, from the peppy emptiness of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go to the cheese-coated melodrama of Careless Whispers. The U.S. release of the latter single was credited to "George Michael from Wham!", while the U.K. version dropped any reference to the band at all, paving the way for the singer's eventual shedding of his (by this time, anyway) largely ornamental partner in crime.

During the remainder of the band's existence it made a number of high-profile appearances, performing on the famine relief benefit single Band Aid and the subsequent televised concert Live Aid, as well as being the first foreign pop band to play in China (little wonder the Chinese government views the Western world with such hostility). By 1986, however, Michael had brought an end to Wham!, and his first solo effort Faith surfaced a year later, surpassing the achievements of any of his band releases. Of the album's six singles, all cracked the top 5 and four reached #1, while the album itself was given the Grammy for record of the year. A minor controversy resulted from one of the songs, a paean to heterosexual monogamy titled I Want Your Sex; certainly a calculated move in light of the singer's later public "outing" of his homosexuality on CNN. With the arrival of its successor Listen Without Prejudice in 1990, Michael had reduced his public presence, refusing all interviews and staying out of the promotional videos for the singles; the result was a "commercial failure" -- at least from a deranged, major-label perspective -- Listen still reached #2, sold millions of copies, and featured 2 top 10 singles.

After this "failure" a legal struggle with Sony ensued, Michael seeking to end his contract with the label on the grounds of promotional negligence. He lost the suit and ultimately had to buy his way out his situation, immediately signing over to the newly-established music division of Dreamworks; the result was 1996's Older, which saw his popularity diminished even further (again, by major label standards). By 1998 Michael was once again a household name, but this time as a result of an arrest for "engaging in a lewd act": apparently he had been cruising for action in a public toilet and exposed himself to an undercover policeman (ill-advised, perhaps, but a crime?). The incident was lampooned later that year in the video for the single Outside. Somewhat of a recovery to his reputation was made through the release of the covers collection Songs From The Last Century in 1999, and even more with 2004's Patience.

[1] George Michael and Nigel Goodall, George Michael: In his Own Words (1999), quoting a CNN appearance in 1998: "I define my sexuality in terms of the people that I love and my life right now is very happy living in a gay relationship. I'm very happy with that; I don't look to the future and think I might change my sexuality because I'm hoping that my relationship is the one that's going to last me for the rest of my life."

Father: Jack Kyriacus Panayiotou
Mother: Lesley Panayiotou (d.)
Boyfriend: Kenny Goss (together 2000s, ex-)

    High School: Bushey Meads School

    Wham! Vocalist (1982-86)
    Endorsement of Coca-Cola
    Grammy 1987 (best R&B performance, duo or group, with Aretha Franklin)
    Grammy 1988 (album of the year)
    Funeral: Diana, Princess of Wales (1997)
    Surgery hernia (1997)
    Coma (2011)
    Sex in Public 1988 (Beverly Hills, CA) pled no contest
    Drug Possession: Marijuana 26-Feb-2006 (London, England) charge dropped
    Drug Possession: Marijuana 1-Oct-2006 (London, England) charge dropped
    Driving While Intoxicated 8-Dec-2007 (Cricklewood, England) pled guilty
    Drug Possession: Marijuana 19-Sep-2008 (London, England) charge dropped
    Driving While Intoxicated 4-Jul-2010 (London, England) pled guilty
    Drug Possession: Marijuana 4-Jul-2010 (London, England) pled guilty
    Greek Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Marijuana, Cocaine, Depression

    Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (20-Apr-1992) · Himself
    Live Aid (13-Jul-1985) · Himself

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