British singer Michael dies “peace­fully” at age 53

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Nekesa Mumbi Moody and Gregory Katz

lon­don» Ge­orge Michael, who rock­eted to star­dom with Wham! and went on to a cel­e­brated solo ca­reer lined with con­tro­ver­sies, has died, his pub­li­cist said Sun­day. He was 53.

Michael died “peace­fully” at his home in Gor­ing, Eng­land. His pub­li­cist, Cindi Berger, said he had not been ill.

He en­joyed im­mense pop­u­lar­ity early in his ca­reer as a teeny­bop­per idol, de­liv­er­ing a se­ries of hits such as “Wake Me Up Be­fore You Go-Go,” ‘’Young Guns (Go For It)” and “Free­dom.” As a solo artist, he de­vel­oped into a more se­ri­ous singer and song­writer, lauded by crit­ics for his tremen­dous vo­cal range. He sold well over 100 mil­lion al­bums glob­ally, earned nu­mer­ous Grammy and Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards, and recorded duets with leg­ends such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Lu­ciano Pavarotti and El­ton John.

Through­out his ca­reer, his drug use and taste for risky sex brought him into fre­quent brushes with the law, most fa­mously in 1998 when he was ar­rested for public lewd­ness in Los An­ge­les. Yet, he man­aged to turn the in­ci­dent into fodder for a pop­u­lar song that poked fun at his be­hav­ior, and his ac­knowl­edg­ment of his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity at that time made him even more pop­u­lar with his fans.

Michael, with star­tling good looks and an easy stage man­ner, formed the boy band Wham! with his school friend An­drew Ridge­ley in the early 1980s. Helped by MTV, which was an emerg­ing mu­sic in­dus­try force at the time, the cheer­ful duo eas­ily crossed the At­lantic to be­come pop­u­lar in the United States with Michael, as lead singer, usu­ally the fo­cal point.

He started his solo ca­reer shortly be­fore Wham! split, with the re­lease of the megahit sin­gle “Care­less Whis­per,” mak­ing a seam­less tran­si­tion. Crit­ics gen­er­ally viewed his Wham! songs as catchy but dis­pos­able pop and gave his solo ef­forts far higher marks.

His first solo al­bum, 1987’s “Faith,” sold more 20 mil­lion copies, and he en­joyed sev­eral hit sin­gles in­clud­ing the raunchy “I Want Your Sex,” which was helped im­mea­sur­ably by a provoca­tive video that re­ceived wide play on MTV.

But Michael’s sit­u­a­tion changed abruptly in 1998 when he was ar­rested for lewd con­duct in a public toi­let in Los An­ge­les af­ter be­ing spot­ted by a male un­der­cover po­lice of­fi­cer.

The ar­rest re­ceived in­ter­na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion, and seemed for a brief time to jeop­ar­dize Michael’s stature as a top record­ing artist.

But in­stead of mak­ing ex­cuses for his be­hav­ior, he went on to re­lease a sin­gle and video, “Out­side,” that made light of the charges against him and mocked the Los An­ge­les po­lice who had ar­rested him. Like all of his ef­forts at the time, it sold in prodi­gious num­bers, help­ing him put the in­ci­dent be­hind him.

British singer Ge­orge Michael, pic­tured per­form­ing dur­ing a char­ity ben­e­fit in 2012, sold over 100 mil­lion al­bums world­wide. AFP/Getty Images file

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.