“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period.”
With that simple statement from a representative, the world learned that George Michael, singer, songwriter, producer and ‘80s pop music icon passed away on Christmas Day, 2016.
Most of the MTV generation first remember seeing Michael in 1984 dancing and snapping his fingers through the music video for the Number 1 single by Wham! “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.”
The only thing brighter than his white outfit including the Choose Life T-shirt was his megawatt smile. Michael had said back at the time that he was trying to relive the feel of pop songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Over the course of his career, both with partner Andrew Ridgley in Wham! and on his solo projects, Michael has sold over 100 million albums, with a new offering to be released in 2017 in the works.
Ranking among the best-selling British acts of all time, Michael had seven #1 singles in the UK and eight #1 hits on the US charts. Billboard magazine tapped Michael as the 40th most successful artist of all time.
A sad coincidence to George Michael’s passing on Christmas Day are the fact that two of his most notable contributions to charity are directly tied to the season.
In 1984, Wham! released “Last Christmas” with their single “Everything She Wants,” and the following year, Michael lent his voice to the the Bob Geldof-formed Band Aid to record the charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” After the huge fundraising success of “Do They Know…,” Michael and Ridgely decided to share all proceeds from “Last Christmas” to the Ethiopian famine relief effort.
As Michael’s later works would show, he was a more introspective artist than the flamboyant frontman of Wham! would have you believe. He once said that the George Michael you see in Wham! was an alter-ego he’s send out to face the screaming fans.
George Michael struck out on his own with the release of 1987’s Faith, which included the eyebrow-raising single “I Want Your Sex.”
So controversial for it’s time, MTV originally only aired the video later at night, American Top 40 legend Casey Kasem would only refer to the song as “The new release by George Michael,” and the Bay Area’s own Soundwaves was kicked off the air for airing the video.
In spite of (or perhaps thanks to) all the controversy, “I Want Your Sex” made the top of the UK charts and hit #2 in the US.
Faith went on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide, garnering seven #1 hits in the UK and eight hits topping the charts in the US, including “Careless Whisper” and “Freedom! ‘90.”
Upon hearing the news, celebrities took to social media to express their shock and grief.
Sir Elton John (who appeared with Michael onstage in 1985 during the Live Aid concert to duet on “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”) posted on his Instagram page:
“I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans.”
Other celebrities shared similar thoughts:
2016 – loss of another talented soul. All our love and sympathy to @GeorgeMichael’s family.
absolutely devastated about george michael. what a fucked up way to end this year. rest in peace my friend….
RIP George Michael. I can’t believe it. Such an incredible singer and a lovely human being, far too young to leave us #georgemichael
George Michael brought us faith, sex and freedom with this voice, the voice of an angel. With despair I say goodbye
Goodbye George Michael. You rocked the 80’s honey. #Wham
I’ve loved George Michael for as long as I can remember. He was an absolute inspiration. Always ahead of his time.
George Michael was a kind and gentle soul. #Wham
George Michael was also working on a second documentary about his life entitled “Freedom.” The film was scheduled for release next March.