With a birth name of Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, there was little hope for a young British boy of Greek origins to become a star. However, father his father's lead, that boy became George Michael and the rest is history.
As a teen, George found a friend in a school pal named Andrew Ridgeley who also happened to have a passion for music. By the time 1979 rolled around, they had their first band, the ska-tinged Executive. Two years later, they evolved into Wham! and started recording pop songs. Those demos found their way to Innervision Records and earned them a deal.
Coming out in 1982 with "Wham Rap" and "Young Guns (Go For It)," the duo stormed the UK pop charts enough to warrant a deal with Columbia Records in the United States, eventually signing on with Sony Music around the world.
With their sophomore set, 1984's Make It Big, the boys of Wham! became superstars the world over. Songs like "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," "Everything She Wants," "Careless Whisper," and "Freedom" captured hearts around the globe, even in China where they became the first Western pop group ever to perform in 1985.
The ride was a short one, however, as Michael decided to go it alone in 1986 with “A Different Corner.” Wham! played a final, sold-out show at Wembley Stadium in London.
Come 1987, Michael was a star in his own right with Faith. More than that, though, he wrote, produced, and arranged the entire album which yielded huge hits like "I Want Your Sex," "Father Figure," "Kissing a Fool," and “Faith.” With sales of more than 20 million copies worldwide, the solo project topped Wham!'s success.
Like with Wham!, MTV played a big part in Michael's success. With his rugged yet refined good looks, he was a natural video star. He also shone brightly on stage and hit the road for more than a year in support of Faith. When he teamed up for various duets with pop icons Elton John and Aretha Franklin, he further cemented his credibility.
Hoping to shed the shackles of his pop star image in favor of a respected artist, Michael took some time off and then issued Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 in 1990. The songs there showcased a more mature, more personal side of Michael. In a move to further distance himself from the celebrity aspect, Michael did not tour or appear in any of the companion music videos.
After spending several years tied up in legal wranglings to end his Sony Music contract, Michael flipped over to Dreamworks in the U.S. and Virgin Records everywhere else. Finally, in 1996, George was back with Older which kept his introspective theme going, but failed to replicate its predecessor's sales success.
Over the course of his 12-year-old career, Michael had amassed quite a number of hits and, thus, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael was issued as a two-disc set in 1998. One new track, “Outside,” documented his arrest by an undercover police officer in Los Angeles. It was at this time that George also come out publicly as gay.
The following year, Michael released a set of covers in Songs from the Last Century. New material wouldn't surface until 2002 with the “Freeek” single supposedly foreshadowing a new album. But, Patience didn't see daylight until 2004. It was framed as his last album for commercial release, with future projects benefiting charity and being released only digitally.
In 2008, another career double-disc retrospective came with Twenty-Five on the heels of more trouble with the law, this time for drug possession. At the end of that year, Michael made good on his promise to release music for charity with “December Song” being offered for download via his website.
The following year, Michael played a handful of shows in Australia – his first there since 1988. Early 2011 brought more charity singles, a cover of New Order's “True Faith” followed by a rendition of Stevie Wonder's “You and I.”
In the summer of 2011, George embarked on his Symphonica Tour. After a number of months performing, Michael was hospitalized in Vienna in November with a severe case of pneumonia. He recovered and was released from the hospital a few weeks later saying that he nearly died.