George Michael: Remembering the Wham! singer seven years after his death

A true living legend, George Michael was a world-famous singer. Author, composer and performer, he left us more than seven years ago. Find out what George Michael died of.

George Michael cause of death
© Dave Benett / GETTY IMAGES
George Michael cause of death

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Freedom, Everything She Wants, Last Christmas... These are the names of the songs that made George Michael famous. So much so that today, more than seven years after his death, his name still resonates with music fans the world over.

Discover our latest podcast

Year after year, he made a name for himself in the music world, becoming a veritable icon. Author, composer, performer and producer, discover how George Michael became a true living legend, but also how he died in 2016.

George Michael's childhood

Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, better known as George Michael, was born on June 25, 1963 in East Fichley, London. He inherited Cypriot and Greek origins from his father, Kyriacos Panayiotou, a waiter in a restaurant, and English from his mother, Lesley Angold Harrison, a dancer. Young Georgios grew up with his parents and two other sisters, Yioda and Melanie. Eleven years after his birth, the family moved to Hertfordshire, another county in England. There, the boy who would later become known as George Michael was enrolled at Bushey Meads School, in the town of Bushey. It was during this period that he met two of his friends, Andrew Ridgeley and David Mortimer (later called David Austin). Together, they covered many songs by the Beatles, David Bowie and Elton John.

In 1979, Andrew R, Andrew's brother Paul, David, Andrew Leaver and George formed their own band, The Executive. They went on to record their first song, Rude Boy. Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. Firstly, all the record companies they approached refused to produce them. Not only that, but Andrew Leaver died of cancer in his twenties. As for David Mortimer, he preferred to leave England for a while.

George Michael's musical debut

Still greatly passionate about music, George Panyiotou, a restaurant DJ, and Andrew Ridgeley, unemployed, continued to write songs together. As the days went by, the two friends managed to put together a demo of several pieces of music, and introduced themselves as Wham!
Convinced by their project, George and Andrew submitted it to the independent label Innervision Records. On March 24, 1982, the two friends signed their very first contract.

A few months later, they released their first single, Wham Rap! This was the moment when Georgios Panayiotou became George Michael. This was the beginning of fame for the band, who began to enjoy success with titles such as Young Guns, Bad Boys and Club Tropicana. Some time later, their first album, Fantastic, was released, produced by Steve Brown, Bon Carter and George Michael himself. The album not only reached number 83 on the Billboard 200 in the USA, but also topped the UK Albums Chart for two weeks!

Consecration for George Michael

Although George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley had already had their first successes with a few songs, it all came together for the two friends in 1984, with the release of the song Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. And then Wham! was revealed to the world: it was an international success that went from strength to strength, especially with the release of the video. The two artists became one of the biggest names on the scene, rivalling even the best-known groups.

However, despite his growing success, George Michael was increasingly seeking independence, and this is reflected in his work. For example, he filmed the video for Careless Whisper alone, and producedseveral songs on his own, such as Turn to Gold and A Different Corner. And so it happened: in 1986, Wham! broke up after a farewell concert at Wembley Stadium.

George Michael then began his new solo career, performing the song I Knew You Were Waiting with Aretha Franklin. The rising star went on to release a brand new album, Faith, which took him completely by storm. It even went on to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year 1988. However, despite his growing success, George Michael still wanted to take a step back from his fame. After the release of his album Without Prejudice, Vol. 1, the singer experienced tension with his record company Sony. The situation deteriorated, culminating in a court case that lasted from 1992 to 1995.

This was a difficult period for him: he lost his partner Anselmo Feleppa, who died of AIDS in 1993, and then his mother, who died of cancer in 1997.

It was not until 2002 that George Michael returned to the forefront of the music scene with songs such as Freeek! and Shoot the Dog. In 2004, he released a new album, Patience. His latest album, Symphonica, was released in 2014.

What did George Michael die of?

It was on December 25, 2016 that the star singer, who left his mark on an entire generation through his hit songs and albums, died in Goring-on-Thames, England. Just as DJ Naughty Boy announced that he was working on a George Michael album, everything was suddenly interrupted. Michael had just died. At first, the cause of death was not immediately clear. However, the head of the Oxfordshire County Medical Examiner's Office declared that the singer had died of natural causes. However, it should be noted that George Michael suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis, as well as liver steatosis.

He was buried in London's Highgate Cemetery on March 29, 2016.

This article was translated from Oh!MyMag France

Read more:

Clint Eastwood makes fans nostalgic after special appearance: 'The coolest, most handsome man'

Derek Underwood: The iconic cricket player has passed away aged 78

Jeremy Clarkson reveals that running a farm isn’t what it’s cut out to be and is 'unbelievably sad'

Celebrity deaths: Here are all the famous people who have lost their lives in 2024 Celebrity deaths: Here are all the famous people who have lost their lives in 2024