Last night, the shocking news came that George Michael had died at the age of 53. Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, the artist created music that lived up to the title of WHAM!’s second album Make It Big. Michael’s fearlessness was big; his ambition was big; his talent, of course, was big.
Whether crafting bright, ebullient and danceable pop, sensual balladry or funky dancefloor jams, the passionate Michael (as writer, producer, musician, and vocalist) wore his heart on his sleeve. Onstage and off, as well as on record, he was provocative. He frankly and bravely addressed his sexuality in the face of controversy, inspiring countless artists and fans along the way. He tirelessly campaigned for LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS charities. Indeed, George Michael was an artist for everybody, crossing gender, generation and racial gaps with honesty and effortlessness. Even when scandal cropped up, Michael’s compact but powerful discography as a solo artist, one half of WHAM!, or even a duet partner with the illustrious likes of Elton John, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin remained relevant and significant.
His music has been part of the DNA of The Second Disc since this website’s inception in 2010, and one of our proudest moments was Legacy Recordings’ 2014 release of a 12-inch vinyl single of WHAM!’s timeless “Last Christmas” (including a previously unissued instrumental mix) co-produced by TSD’s founder, Mike Duquette. “Last Christmas,” now and forever a perennial part of any holiday festivities, is just one in a long list of contemporary standards penned by George Michael. He once titled an album by WHAM! Music from the Edge of Heaven, but it’s now clearer than ever that his soulful songs were nothing short of heaven-sent.
Join us in further celebrating the music of George Michael with these stories: