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What happened to George Michael of Wham! and solo release fame?

His music inspired a generation.

George Michael
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The list pop legends would be incomplete without British pop star, George Michael.

His achievements — including winning five prestigious awards, selling over 100 million records and having around 10 songs climbing to the number one spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 list — earned him the status as one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived, in the echelon with the likes of David Bowie and Madonna.

Loved and admired by many, the 2022 documentary on the singer titled, George Michael: Portrait of an Artist features numerous positive stories about Michael detailed by the singer’s friends and family. “They talk about it, but they talk about it with kindness because they all loved him, and as a person, as a human being,” is what Michael’s former partner Kevin Goss told People about the love and compassion he earned from his loved ones, which was beautifully captured in the film.

The announcement this year that Michael will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame brought a fresh wave of delight for millions of the singer’s fans who are looking forward to their favorite star being posthumously awarded with this much-deserved recognition. Also generating excitement is the upcoming Netflix documentary Wham! which will show the pop star’s journey from being part of the titular band Wham! to an international phenomenon.

The documentary will revisit some of his most significant moments, especially those which shaped his successful musical career. This ranges from the early days of Wham! to his becoming a renowned solo artist.

Let’s dive into the facts and details.

The journey from Wham! to going solo

In 1981, 19-year-old Michael — along with his school friend, Andrew Ridgely — founded the musical band, Wham!, thus embarking on their successful musical journey together. The duo managed to release 3 studio albums and multiple hit singles.

Later, he recalled the hilarious moment which led to the group’s moniker. It was Andrew — according to Michael — who shouted the words, “wham bam!” in a club and later decided it to be their group’s name. From 1982 to 1986, Wham! released their albums, Fantastic (their debut album) and Make it Big, with their 1984 smash hit singles, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Careless Whisper,” and 1986’s “Last Christmas,” an international success. Overall, they sold over 30 million records worldwide.   

The group split in 1986, raising speculations amongst the fans about the possible causes. At the time, many believed that there must have been some sort of rift between Michael and Ridgely. But later it was confirmed that parting was amicable from both sides and the singers decided to individually explore the world of music — especially Michael — who is believed to have received a lion’s share of the band’s success.

Their final performance took place on June 28, 1986 at Wembley Stadium, which saw a gathering of around 72,000 people. After a memorable performance, the singers assured the audience of their friendly departure with Michael calling it the “most amicable split in pop history.

Shortly thereafter, Michael began his solo career. In 1987 he released his first album, Faith, which sold over 20 million records and subsequently produced notable single hits such as, “I Want Your Sex,” “One More Try,” “Kissing a Fool,” and “Father Figure” – to name a few. After a brief break from the pop world, Michael once again reprised his status as a pop artist, producing his first successful album after the hiatus – Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 in September 1990.

After a wholesome career, Michael passed away on Dec. 25, 2016, at the age of 53 due to a heart attack – leaving a string of impressive discography behind. Even today, Michael is regarded as a remarkable musical talent whose journey began with the iconic band, Wham!, inspiring and influencing many. To know more, we will have to wait till July 5 when Wham! is released on Netflix.

Jayasmita Dutta Roy
About the author

Jayasmita Dutta Roy

A keen lover of cinema, Jayasmita harbors an utmost interest in staying updated about everything ranging from the classics to contemporary blockbusters. When she is not glued to the computer gleaning information about intriguing pop culture gossips, you will see her in a random coffee shop immersed in the surreal world of Murakami.