Poptastic Confessions

Poptastic Confessions

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Monday, January 23, 2017

A Tribute to George Michael

Dear Poptastic Readers,

Sorry that we've been gone since December. 
As I'm sure you know, George Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016. At the time, we were in the middle of our Top 20 countdown of our favourite alternative pop songs of 2016. I wanted to take some time to reflect over the holidays (and most of January) and write a proper tribute to George.

My first memory of George was in 1983 when he was in the group Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley. Even though Wham! was George and Andrew, their backing vocalists Shirlie and Dee C played an important part of the group. I remember seeing them perform on American Bandstand. They sang "Young Guns (Go For It)" and "Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do)." Both George and Andrew were only 19 at the time. It wasn't long before I started seeing their videos for "Bad Boys" and "Club Tropicana" on the music video shows. All of these songs were from their debut album Fantastic

Even with lots of TV exposure, our local radio station wouldn't play their records. "Bad Boys" was the only single to chart in the US and it stalled at #60. In the UK, all four singles went top ten, while their album was #1 in the UK. Backing vocalist Dee C left to pursue a solo career. She married Paul Weller of the Style Council and her biggest hit was in 1985 with "See The Day" (UK #3). That song would later be covered by Girls Aloud in 2005 and their version charting at #9 in the UK. Dee C was replaced in Wham! by singer Pepsi.

It was in 1984 that Wham! would Make It Big. Their first single from their sophomore album was "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and it soared to #1 both in the US and the UK. The video helped spawn the day-glow fluorescent clothing trend. 

"Careless Whisper" was the next single and also #1 on both sides of the Atlantic. It was credited as a solo song for George elsewhere, but in the US it was credited to Wham! featuring George Michael.

"Freedom" was the next single in the UK (4th single in the US) and the video featured the band's tour of China. It continued their #1 streak in the UK, but in the US the song only went to #3.


In November of 1984, George took part in the super group Band Aid for the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" with Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, Bananarama, U2, Culture Club, Paul Young, Jody Watley, Spandau Ballet, Sting, Ultravox, The Boomtown Rats, Heaven 17, Kool and the Gang, Style Council and many more.

In the UK, the next single was the double A-side for "Everything She Wants" and "Last Christmas." That went to #2 in the UK. In the US, it was the spring of 1985 that we got the third single "Everything She Wants" and it went to #1 in the US, giving Wham! three consecutive #1s in the US. They had indeed made it big!

George had decided that he wanted to go solo and make more adult-oriented pop music. So they decided to end Wham! after the next album and tour.

In the fall of 1985, we got the single "I'm Your Man" taken from the third and final Wham! album. The single went to #1 in the UK and #3 in the US.

The third album in 1986 was called The Final in the UK and included past hits and remixes. In the US, the third album was called Music From The Edge of Heaven.

The album would see a George solo single called "A Different Corner" (UK #1 and US #7) and two more Wham! singles "The Edge of Heaven" (UK #1 and US #10) as well as "Where Did Your Heart Go?" (In the UK, it was a double A-side with "The Edge of Heaven" and in the US it stalled at #50). 

With Wham! over, George concentrated on his solo career. And first up was a duet with Aretha Franklin in 1987 called "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" and it went to #1 in both the UK and the US.

Backing vocalists Pepsi & Shirlie formed a duo and in 1986 released a single called "Heartache" (UK #2, US #78). George Michael's duet with Aretha kept them from the #1 spot. Their album All Right Now would see four more singles in 1987: "Goodbye Stranger" (UK #9), "Can't Give Me Love" (UK #58), "All Right Now" (UK #50), and "Hightime" (UK #79). Pepsi & Shirlie released a second album in 1991 called Change and the only single "Someday" was produced by George Michael. Both album and single failed to chart. Shirlie would marry Martin Kemp, the bass player in Spandau Ballet. Pepsi & Shirlie reunited to sing backing vocals on Spice Girl Geri Halliwell's #1 hit "Bag It Up" in 2000. 

George recorded another duet with Jody Wately for her debut album. The song was called "Learn To Say No." Sadly, it wasn't released as a single.

George's first single from his debut album Faith in 1987 was the controversial track "I Want Your Sex" (UK #3 and US #2). Other singles from that album were "Faith" (UK #2 and US #1), "Father Figure" (UK #11 and US #1), "One More Try" (UK #8 and US #1), "Monkey" (UK #13 and US #1), and "Kissing A Fool" (UK #18 and US #5).

George took over a year off and came back with his mature sophomore album in 1990 called Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. The singles included "Praying For Time" (UK #6 and US #1), "Freedom 90" (UK #28 and US #8) was most famous for having a video of supermodels lipsyncing his song, "Waiting For That Day" (UK #23 and US #27), "Heal The Pain" (UK #31), "Mother's Pride" (US #46), and "Cowboys and Angels" (UK #45).

Also in 1990, Andrew Ridgeley would release his one and only solo album called Son of Albert with the singles "Shake" (UK #58 and US #77) and "Red Dress", which features George on backing vocals. Although Andrew has remained out of the limelight since then, he started dating Keren Woodward of Bananarama in 1991, and the couple are still together today. 

Speaking of Bananarama, George Michael remixed their 1991 single "Tripping On Your Love" (UK #76, US Dance #14). His mix is called the Metropolitan Mix. Bananarama would later cover "Careless Whisper" for their 2001 album Exotica. George thanked them in the liner notes of his last album Patience in 2004.

In the fall of 1991, George released a duet with Elton John called "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me." The song was originally an Elton John song from 1974. This new recording went to #1 in the UK and US.

George had planned an album called Listen Without Predjudice Vol. 2. But when his record company wouldn't let him release it, he took them to court and donated the finished songs to an AIDS awareness charity Red Hot + Dance. In 1992, George released his song "Too Funky" (UK #4 and US #10) and donated all of the profits to AIDS awareness.

In 1993, George released the Five Live EP (UK #1) that produced the singles "Somebody To Love" (US #30) with Queen and "Killer/Papa Was A Rolling Stone" (US #69).

George finally released his third album in 1996 on another record label. The album was called Older and featured the singles "Jesus To A Child" (UK #1 and US #7), "Fastlove" (UK #1 and US #8), "Spinning The Wheel" (UK #2), "Older"/"I Can't Make You Love Me" (UK #3), "Star People '97" (UK #2) and "You Have Been Loved"/"The Strangest Thing '97" (UK #2). Also in 1997, George recorded a duet with Irish artist Toby Bourke called "Waltz Away Dreaming" (UK #10). "Fastlove" would be George's last American hit, as well as his last UK #1.

The compilation Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael was released in 1998. It spawned two singles: the first was "Outside" (UK #2), which was a humorous take at George getting himself arrested earlier in the year for exposing himself to a police officer in a public restroom. The second single was a duet with Mary J. Blige called "As" (UK #4), which was a remake of Stevie Wonder's 1977 single.

In 1999, George released a covers album called Songs From the Last Century, which contained the single "Roxanne" — a cover of song by the The Police.

In 2000, George sang a duet with Whitney Houston called "If I Told You That" (UK #9).

George released two singles in 2002 that would later appear in his last studio album Patience in 2004. The first was "Freeek!" (UK #7), which had very sexual lyrics. The second single "Shoot The Dog" (UK #12) was a politically charged song directed at George W. Bush and Tony Blair's relationship with each other. The music sampled The Human League's 1982 hit "Love Action (I Believe In Love)" (UK #3).

In 2004, George released a wonderful single called "Amazing" (UK #4) right before the release of his album Patience. The album would see three more singles: "Flawless (Go To The City)" (UK #8), "Round Here" (UK #32), and "John And Elvis Are Dead", which didn't chart.

George released a second greatest hits compilation in 2006 called Twenty Five, which celebrated his 25th anniversary of his music career. The first single from the album was "An Easier Affair" (UK #13). The second single was a duet with Mutya Buena, who had just left the Sugababes. The song was called "This Is Not Real Love" (UK #15). The USA got a third single that was a remake of his 1991 song called "Heal The Pain" only this time it was recorded with Paul McCartney and released in 2008.

On Christmas Day in 2008, George's website gave a free download of his sweet, melancholy song "December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas)." It would be released as a proper single in December of 2009 and charting at #14 in the UK.

George released a cover of New Order's 1987 song "True Faith" (UK #4, US #32) in 2011. George's version was quite slow and soulful, however his voice was quite digitally altered to have some distortion. George's version charted at #27 in the UK and all proceeds with to Comic Relief

In 2012, George released his last original single called "White Light" (UK #15). The song was inspired by a near-death experience George had the year earlier with an illness. I must admit that listening to it now that he is gone is very erie.

George released a live album in 2014 called Symphonica. The only single from the album a was a piano-ballad cover of Terence Trent D'Arby's 1993 song "Let Her Down Easy." George's version charted at #53 in the UK.

That covers George Michael's music career. And what a career it was. He will be greatly missed. 

RIP, George!