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He became a star as part of ’80s duo Wham! and remained one of pop music’s greatest solo talents, but today, on Christmas Day, George Michael is said to have “passed away peacefully at home.” Police have said they are treating Michael’s death as unexplained, though there were no suspicious circumstances.
“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period,” Michael’s publicist says. “The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage.”
Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou to a Greek family in north London, he has sold more than 100 million albums throughout his 40-plus-year career, first with friend Andrew Ridgeley as part of Wham! and later as a solo artist. Michael’s solo albums included the 1987 record Faith and its 1990 followup, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1.
This past September, Sony announced a reissue of that latter album in celebration of its 25th anniversary. The record company—along with BBC Worldwide and Channel 4—also announced they’d be releasing Freedom: George Michael, a documentary in which Michael himself would narrate the album’s drama-filled history. It was set to debut in the U.S. this past December on Showtime, but there’s no word yet on when we’ll actually get to see it.
In honor of Michael’s untimely death, we thought we’d remember him through some of our favorite music videos.
“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” 1984
On a personal note, being born in 1982, this track was actually the very first song I ever remember hearing on the radio. (Ah, the memories.) One of the biggest earworms to come out of Michael’s time with Wham!, we can’t help but laugh at the ’80s cheese of the music video, best remembered for Michael’s and Ridgeley’s “Choose Life” oversized T-shirts. At this point, Michael was still in the closet, though we aren’t quite sure how the yellow fingerless gloves weren’t a dead giveaway.
The second single from Michael’s Faith album (after the highly controversial “I Want Your Sex” was banned by several radio stations and was pushed to MTV’s late-night hours), “Faith” was a solid effort at distancing himself from the matinee idol image of his Wham! days. This is full-on ‘sex symbol George Michael,’ resembling a Tom of Finland model with a guitar. The track spent four weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Freedom! ’90,” 1990
A song about artistic expression and the ruthless music industry Michael was about to leave (note the leather jacket from the “Faith” video ending up in flames and the jukebox from the same video exploding numerous times), he doesn’t actually appear in the David Fincher-directed music video for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1‘s third single. Instead, Michael recruited Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Tatjana Patitz—five models whom he’d seen in British Vogue photographed by Peter Lindbergh, and who would become the new generation of “supermodels”—to lip sync his lyrics instead.
“Flawless (Go to the City),” 2004
A dance hit in the United States (it hit number one on Billboard‘s Hot Dance Club Songs chart), Michael samples The Ones’ “Flawless” (who in turn are sampling Gary’s Gang’s “Keep on Dancin'”) in this track off his Patience album. His fifth studio album, it would also be his last. Rumor has it that this music video was shot in a single take.
“Carpool Karaoke” with James Corden, 2011
This one’s not a music video but the skit that originally inspired James Corden’s now-infamous “Carpool Karaoke” sessions with some of some of pop music’s biggest talents. Filmed for Comic Relief half a decade back, the skit sees an adorable, slightly plumper Corden and Michael in matching tracksuits, singing along to a couple disco-pop classics. If you’re looking for proof that Michael had a killer sense of humor, look no further.
RIP, George Michael, 1963-2016