Special Olympics

Wham!

It began in Radlett, a commuter town of 60,000 souls, north-west of Britain's capital, London, where some scenes of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange were filmed. It's where young Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (born June 25 1963) and his loving, tightly bound part Greek-Cypriot, part English family moved from their original North London home. George and his best friend, fellow Bushey Meads Comprehensive student Andrew Ridgeley, would do as teenagers do, think about being pop stars and dream of making it big: "I wanted to be loved," admitted George. "It was an ego satisfaction thing." Even so, the pair of dreamers understood that it wasn't going to happen. These things just don't happen.

Yet, as the world knows, these things did happen. As Wham!, the duo who would define the early-'80s. From their first single, 1982's "Wham Rap", to their last, 1986's "The Edge Of Heaven/Where Did Your Heart Go", they sold 25 million records across the globe, they kept each other's friendship and they departed in a blaze of glory before 72,000 people at London's Wembley Stadium on June 26, 1986. Wham! never got old and never lost their exclamation mark, but along the way, George won the first of his three prestigious Ivor Novello Songwriter Of The Year awards in 1985. They had two US #1 singles and a #1 album - titled Make It Big in honour of their Bushey Meads dreams - they became first western band to play China and George began his long but mercifully mostly hush-hush 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 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 featured one of the great lines in popular music, "guilty feet have got no rhythm", but showed there was more to George Michael than the instant joy of "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and"Young Guns (Go For It)". "Careless Whisper" charged to #1 in America and topped the charts in Australia, Canada, France, Holland, Italy, Ireland, South Africa, Switzerland and the UK, amongst others.

Official Site: George Michael

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