Belfast Telegraph

George Michael a chart idol whose success was fraught with demons

A musical great known for both his chart-topping hits and his turbulent personal life, George Michael was a giant of popular culture.

The Wham! singer and solo performer enjoyed a glittering chart career, having sold more than 100 million records including seven number one singles in the UK, with tracks such as Careless Whisper and Faith.

He carved out an international name for himself, but brushes with the law and tales of his drug use increasingly made more impact than his musical output.

His last appearance in the top 10 was in 2004 and a Christmas single released last December climbed to just number 14 despite a devoted fanbase.

Michael - born Georgios Panayiotou - found fame as a teenager in the early 1980s after forming Wham! with school friend Andrew Ridgeley.

The pair enjoyed hit after hit, but they decided to bow out at the top, pulling the plug on their partnership with a final chart-topping single The Edge Of Heaven in 1986.

Michael then embarked on a hugely successful solo career, plus occasional collaborations with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Sir Elton John and Queen after the death of Freddie Mercury.

His album Faith was a massive success in 1988. But lengthy legal battles followed as he tried to free himself from a deal with record label Sony which effectively prevented new recordings.

Things began to unravel further when he was arrested in public toilets in Beverly Hills, California, in 1998 for engaging in a lewd act. The incident forced him to disclose his homosexuality and his relationship with American Kenny Goss.

He parodied the arrest incident in the video of 1998 single Outside, which reached number two in the charts. A further run-in with the law came in October 2006 when he was found slumped over the wheel of his car. The following May he pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs and was banned from driving.

In 2008, he was cautioned for possession of class A drugs, which included crack cocaine, and class C drugs.

In September 2010, Michael received an eight-week prison sentence following an incident in which he crashed his Range Rover into a shop in north London.

In 2011, he announced the ending of a turbulent 15-year relationship with Goss and the following year performed at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The star nearly died from pneumonia in late 2011. After receiving treatment in Vienna, he made a tearful appearance outside his London home just before Christmas and said it had been "touch and go'' whether he lived.

It triggered a period of major anxiety which caused Michael to cancel his forthcoming Australian tour and the singer later called it "basically by far the worst month of my life".

Michael said he had been lucky to have become ill close to a hospital with suitable specialists, adding: "I have to believe that somebody thinks I've still got some work to do here."

Belfast Telegraph


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