“It is infantile superstition of the human spirit that virginity would be thought a virtue and not the barrier that separates ignorance from Knowledge” ~ Voltaire
Global superstar George Michael continues his extraordinary career when he releases
the late, legendary Phil Ramone. ’Let Her Down Easy’, the lead single from ‘Symphonica’ is now at radio on and will be released on iTunes/digital platforms on March 17. ‘Let Her Down Easy’ was written and originally performed by Terence Trent D’Arby.
Since he entered our lives in 1982 with the ground-breaking slice of exuberance that was ‘Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do)’, George Michael has become an international artist of the highest order. He has sold well over 100 million albums in a world where Germany’s population is 80 million and the United Kingdom’s is 63 million. He’s topped charts from Austria to Australia. He’s sold-out stadiums from Tokyo to Tampa. He re-defined popular music with his debut solo album, 1987’s ‘Faith’ and has subsequently crafted a substantial, enormously popular body of work.
Perhaps, though, the real starting point is Radlett, a commuter town of 60,000 souls, north-west of London, where some scenes of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange were filmed. It’s where young Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (born 25 June 1963) and his loving, tightly bound, part-Greek-Cypriot, part-English family moved from their original North London home. Like teenagers the world over, George and his best friend, fellow Bushey Meads Comprehensive student Andrew Ridgeley, would dream of pop stardom, of making it big: “I wanted to be loved,” admitted George. “It was an ego satisfaction thing”. Deep down, the pair of dreamers understood that it wasn’t going to happen. These things just didn’t happen.
Yet, these things do occasionally happen and as Wham!, the duo would encapsulate the early-’80s. From that first single to their last, 1986’s ‘The Edge Of Heaven/Where Did Your Heart Go’, they sold 25 million records and they departed in a blaze of glory before 72,000 people at Wembley Stadium on June 26 1986, their friendship as strong as it was in the beginning. Wham! never got old and never lost their exclamation mark, but along the way, George won the first of his three Ivor Novello Songwriter Of The Year awards in 1985. They had two US Number 1 singles and a Number 1 album – titled ‘Make It Big’ to commemorate those Bushey Meads dreams – they became first western band to play China and George began his long but mercifully mostly undocumented commitment to charity work with a performance on Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ and by donating all Wham! royalties from their ‘Last Christmas/Everything She Wants’ single to Ethiopian famine relief.
Even when Wham! were in their pomp and George was contributing to his friend and sparring partner Elton John’s ‘Nikita’ and ‘Wrap Her Up’, it was plain that George’s destiny was solo and that his new, more mature songs were too worldly, too adult to fit into the format of a good-time duo. He’d already dipped a toe in solo waters in 1984 with a song he’d written as a 17-year-old (“a very precocious lyric!” he quipped) while riding the number 32 bus home as a teenager. ‘Careless Whisper’ (credited to Wham! Featuring George Michael in the US) not only introduced one of the great lines in popular music, “guilty feet have got no rhythm”, but showed that there was more to George than the instant joy of ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ and ‘Young Guns (Go For It)’. ‘Careless Whisper’ charged to Number 1 in America and topped the charts in Australia, Canada, France, Holland, Italy, Ireland, South Africa, Switzerland and the UK, amongst others.
Just to prove ‘Careless Whisper’ was no fluke, before Wham!’s final hurrah, George’s second solo single, ‘A Different Corner’ topped the British charts and went Top 10 in the US, Australia, Austria, Germany, Holland, Ireland and Switzerland. As someone once almost said, you didn’t have to be a weatherman to see which way the wind was blowing.
His first post-Wham! offering wasn’t even a solo effort. Instead, hot on the heels of singing alongside Stevie Wonder on a glorious ‘Love’s In Need Of Love Today’ at the world’s leading soul venue, Harlem’s Apollo Theater, George became the first white male vocalist to duet with Aretha Franklin, whom he described as “the best female soul singer in the world”. The magical, life-affirming, Grammy-winning ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’ swept its way to Number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, Australia, Ireland and Holland.
Then, shortly after George contributed vocals to ex-Shalamar chanteuse Jody Watley’s self-titled album came the iconic, groundbreaking ‘Faith’, which would eventually top charts in the UK, US, Australia, Ireland and Holland before going 10X Platinum in the US and 5X Platinum in the UK. Released in October 1987 and recorded earlier that year at Puk, in Judland, somewhere in the Danish countryside (it was a tax year thing; but George just yearned for home) and Sarm West Studio 2 in West London, it surprised everyone who suspected that for all Wham!’s obvious style and swagger, they might have lacked real depth.
‘Faith’ is the one written (except for his childhood and current friend David Austin’s sterling contribution to ‘Look At Your Hands’), produced and arranged by George himself. It’s the one which stayed atop the American charts for 12 weeks and the one which spawned four of his six number one US singles: ‘Faith’ itself, ‘Father Figure’, ‘One More Try’ and ‘Monkey’.
Widely acclaimed as the British ‘Thriller’, ‘Faith’ sold over 10 million copies in the US alone (it’s found its way into almost 25 million homes worldwide), it transformed George Michael from global teen idol to global adult superstar – in the process coining one of his least favourite phrases “doing a George Michael” – and it paved the way for the extraordinary delights to come.
And ‘Faith’ was the album which made the Michael mantelpiece sag with awards: a Grammy for Album Of The Year; three American Music Awards (Favourite Album (Soul/R&B); Favourite Male Vocalist (Soul/R&B) and Favourite Male Vocalist (Pop/Rock)) plus an MTV Award for ‘Father Figure’ (Best Direction) and Ivor Novello Awards for Songwriter Of The Year and International Hit Of The Year.
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