I feel like was always a fan. George Michael (1963- 2016) won me over big with Wham! and the song Careless Whisper in 1984, and I have never let him go. The hits kept coming and I was right there for the next 30+ years. I am just a sucker for a hot ass in a tight pair of jeans, a leather jacket, and a Greek face with some stubble. Add in those phenomenal pipes and the killer hooks, it’s a love affair for me.
Michael was the first white male to top the Black Music charts and the first white male to duet with Aretha Franklin with their infectious single I Knew You Were Waiting. His breakout solo album Faith (1987) had five Number One hit singles and spent 51 weeks in the Billboard Top 10, including 12 weeks at Number One. Michael wrote, arranged and produced the songs on the album. Faith sold 35 million copies. Kids, that is huge; Beyoncé huge!
Faith left Michael struggling to deal with his secret gayness. The feelings of loneliness and disaffection are themes on his next album Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1. (1990). That album had a more soulful and stripped-down sound. It produced five Top 40 hits: Waiting For That Day, Cowboys & Angels, Heal The Pain, Praying For Time and his personal confessional song Freedom! ’90. It sold eight million copies and spent 42 weeks on the Billboard Top 100 charts. That is gigantic, kids! It’s like Taylor Swift big.
Michael’s album Older (1996) is my personal favorite, an album that speaks to me in a deep personal way because, well – I’m older. Older was the soundtrack of my life at the turn of the century. I was moved by the title track and the mournful Like Jesus To A Child. That gorgeous tune was a salutation to Michael’s secret boyfriend, Brazilian fashion designer Anselmo Feleppa. Feleppa had left this world three years earlier, gone from an HIV/AIDS-related brain hemorrhage, leaving Michael feeling alone and despondent. Michael was not out of the closet at this point and no one knew who the song was about.
Older has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide and it spent more than 96 weeks on the charts. That is like Ed Sheeran big!
After dealing with the death of Feleppa, Michael met his future husband, American Kenny Goss. In 2005, Goss and Michael opened the Goss Gallery in Dallas, which showed contemporary art, including work collected by the couple. They had homes in London and Dallas. While the comfort of this new relationship started to ease his pain, Michael soon lost his mother to cancer, a loss that tormented him for several years to come. He did not write or record during that period, except for Songs From The Last Century (2000), a most excellent album of standards. On the opening night of his world tour in 2011, Michael announced that he and Goss had split two years earlier, in 2009.
In 1998, Michael was arrested in a Beverly Hills park bathroom on a charge of lewd conduct. Who among us has not? The arrest made worldwide headlines. He became the butt of jokes by late night comedians, but it pushed Michael out of the closet. Smartly, owning it, Michael satirized the incident in the hit single Outside. In 1999, Marcelo Rodriguez, that undercover cop attempted to sue Michael for 10 million dollars following the release of the video of Outside, which Rodriguez felt had portrayed him in an unfavorable light. Rodriguez was unsuccessful in his litigation.
Michael was arrested six times in his short life: four times for cannabis possession, plus driving under the influence, and once for public indecency. He has done actual prison time. This is how I expect my music heroes to behave. Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll was coined for this very reason. Michael:
I’m surprised that I’ve survived my own dysfunction, really.
In 2004, Michael released Patience, which sold more than 200,000 copies in the first week. It spun several Top 10 hits including Freeek!, Amazing, and Flawless (Go To The City), all are dedicated to Goss. In 2006, Michael announced his first tour in 15 years. The 25 LiveTour was massive and worldwide. It spanned three individual sold-out tours over the course of three years. That is major! Paul McCartney major!
I was in a panic when he almost died in 2011. Michael was admitted to a hospital in Vienna after complaining of chest pains at a hotel while on tour. Michael later confirmed that he had suffered from pneumonia and was in an intensive-care unit for more than a month and underwent a tracheotomy. Michael’s new boyfriend, Fadi Fawaz, was at his side. Michael publicly thanked the staff at the Vienna General Hospital who saved his life and he has stated how he was grateful that he was able to perform a concert for the staff.
Not exactly looking for my heartbreak, in May 2013, Michael fell from his moving automobile on whatever they call a freeway in Britain and had to be airlifted to a hospital. He sustained a head injury, but I had seen photos and he still looked handsome, so I didn’t really worry.
As I’ve grown older I’ve become so much more aware of how intrinsic it is to my entire being to be able to create music.
His last studio album Symphonica, a collection of his favorite songs, some of his own, some by others, all backed by a full orchestra, was released in spring 2014. It was the last album produced by the great Phil Ramone before his passing. It was Michael’s ninth solo number to reach Number One on the charts. Fantasy is a song first released in 1990 as the B-side of his single Waiting For That Day. It was released posthumously as a single from Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged (2017).
On Christmas morning 2016, Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou died at his home. He was found dead, lying in bed, by Fawaz.
In March 2017, a coroner finally attributed the death to natural causes as the result of a a fatty liver. Due to the delay of the post-mortem, Michael’s funeral was not held until March 29, 2017.
In a private ceremony, Michael was buried at Highgate Cemetery in north London. An informal memorial garden was created for Michael outside his home. It is still tended by his fans.
Fawaz attended Michael’s funeral, even after there were rumors that he was not invited, but he was not asked to the wake. Michael’s family is said to have hated Fawaz and never really considered him to be his partner.
Fawaz claims that he and Michael had a verbal agreement that he was welcome to continue living in the home after his death, but there was nothing in writing. It also seems that Michael gave Fawaz a $12,000 a month allowance.
Michael’s estate is thought to be worth more than $200 million plus his properties. As World of Wonder writer James St. James wrote in 2019, Michael left Fawaz out of his will.
Yet, since the Grammy Award-winning musician’s death, many people have come forward about Michael’s extraordinary generosity and anonymous philanthropy. He donated millions of dollars to individuals and various organizations without ever revealing his identity, including giving the royalties from Jesus To A Child to Childline, a free 24-hour counselling service for young people, and the proceeds from his cover of Elton John‘s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me (1991) went HIV/AIDS charities.