Entertainment & Arts

George Michael: A colourful life

George Michael

George Michael - whose real name is Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou - was born in north London in 1963 to a Greek Cypriot father and English mother.

While at secondary school in Bushey, Hertfordshire, he met his future pop partner Andrew Ridgeley.

Within a year of forming duo Wham!, the teenagers released debut single, Wham Rap, closely followed by Young Guns (Go For It!).

It was to be the first of many top 10 hits, including Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go) and Last Christmas.

After the band broke up, Michael embarked on a successful solo career - his debut album Faith spawned several number one singles including Father Figure and the title track.

It sold more than 20 million copies and earned Michael a best album Grammy in 1988.

His second solo album was titled Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. It sold about eight million copies, considerably less than its predecessor but it did reach number two on the UK album chart and was named best British album at the Brits in 1991.

In the 2005 documentary, George Michael: A Different Story, the singer admitted he had been striving to match the achievements of Michael Jackson and Madonna.

But following the golden success of the early 1990s, Michael's life and image became dogged by trauma and controversy.

Michael was devastated when he lost his lover Anselmo Feleppa to Aids in 1993.

"Anyone who's experienced having somebody they love, whether it be a member of the family or a loved one, who has a terminal illness - which HIV was still considered in 1991 - anyone who's lived through that knows that it's a terrifying, terrifying thing," he said later.

He fell out spectacularly with his record company Sony in 1994 and tried to get himself released from his contract, which he called "professional slavery".

He accused Sony of not marketing Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 adequately.

A three-month court case ensued, which Michael eventually lost, forcing him to fulfil his contractual commitments and record two more songs to be used on a greatest hits album.

Michael then signed a record deal with Dreamworks, releasing his album Older in 1995 but it sold less than one million copies in the US.

Michael lost his mother to cancer in 1997 and was arrested for a sex act in Los Angeles the following year, leading to a public admission that he was gay.

He parodied the arrest incident in the video for his single Outside in 1998 - which reached number four on the UK singles chart.

But headlines surrounding his brushes with the law soon began to overtake his music.

He released a covers album, Songs From the Last Century, in 1995 and five years later returned with Patience which featured controversial single, Shoot the Dog.

The video for the song was a political satire showing Tony Blair as George Bush's poodle.

In 2006, he embarked on his first solo tour in 15 years, 25 Live, taking in Europe, the US and Canada.

The 106 tour shows were performed in 41 countries and seen by 2 million fans.

Tickets for the final two UK dates sold out in two hours.

Earlier this year, he also toured Australia but it has been six years since he released an album of new material.

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