A Look At George Michael’s Legacy
On Sunday evening, the world was stunned to hear that British pop icon George Michael had passed due to heart failure. The founding member of Wham! was only 53 years old. Fans and artists took to Twitter to express their condolences and it wasn’t long before radio stations were broadcasting the singer’s greatest hits such as “Careless Whisper” and “Father Figure”. Michael wasone of the most revolutionary artists of the 1980’s and 1990’s, challenging what it meant to “be a man” and unabashedly making taboo concepts the norm. Although many are still mourning his loss, it’s healing to celebrate Michael’s legacy which included his activism and immense talent.
In a career that spans over 30 years, Michael sold more than 100 million records worldwide and was named one of the most successful artists of all time by Billboard magazine. In 1981, he formed Wham! with musician Andrew Ridgeley and the duo dominated UK charts before finding success worldwide. After releasing a few solo singles such as “Careless Whisper” (1984), Wham! separated in 1986 and Michael began his solo career in 1987. As a solo artist, he collaborated with legends such as Aretha Franklin and Elton John, furthering his career and beginning a legacy that would last for decades to come.
What many don’t know about Michael is how adamant he was about charity work and acts of altruism. After his death, many charities publicized that Michael was an anonymous supporter for many years. Although Michael preferred to keep his donations private, he was outspoken about causes such as poverty in his music. In 1990, he released “Praying For Time” which aimed to shed light on the many injustices of the world including hatred and social inequality.
Michael’s music has thrilled and inspired millions; he wanted listeners to be comfortable with their bodies and sexual identities. Although his song “I Want Your Sex” was viewed as lewd when it was released (radio stations refused to broadcast it), it normalized innate desires and encouraged monogamous relationships. Michael was known to be unapologetic about his sexual persona and it started a revolution in the music industry, sparking sexual freedom and discovery.
Whether he was writing a slew of hits (like holiday favorite “Last Christmas”) or actively campaigning for equal rights, Michael did everything with a fervent passion. He will be remembered by many as a legendary pop icon but George Michael was also an activist, a fighter and an inspiration.
Rest easy, superstar.
Photo Credit: Chris Cuffaro