George Michael PhotoBORN: June 25, 1963, Bushey, England

Yorgos Kyriatou Panayioutou (George Michael) achieved fame in the duo Wham! in his native U.K. in 1982. Through 1986, he and his partner, Andrew Ridgeley, scored hit after hit in a variety of styles from rap to uptempo pop to slow ballads. As songwriter and lead singer, Michael gradually overshadowed the group, and by the time they split, he was ready for a massively successful solo career. This began with the 1987 album Faith, which featured a series of chart-topping hit singles and sold more than seven million copies. That Michael had not achieved a similar critical success was evident from the title of his follow-up album, Listen Without Prejudice - Vol. 1, which, though it sold a million copies, included two Top Ten hits, and hit #2, must be considered a major commercial disappointment. With Vol. 2 apparently shelved, Michael contributed several songs to the charity album Red Hot + Dance in 1992, and one of them, "Too Funky," reached the Top 20.

After the failure of Listen Without Prejudice, Michael engaged in a bitter legal battle with his record company, accusing them of not properly promoting the album and asking them to release him from his contract; he stated that he would refuse to release any records if he lost the lawsuit. He lost. After losing an appeal, Michael bought his way out his Columbia contract and signed with the music division of Dreamworks, a fledgling entertainment corporation founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen. In 1996, he released Older, its sales clearly hampered by his long hiatus away from performing. In 1998, Michael made tabloid headlines when he was arrested for lewd conduct in a men's public restroom at a park near his Beverly Hills home; following the incident, the singer appeared on CNN and publicly revealed his homosexuality. The covers collection Songs from the Last Century followed in late 1999. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide