George Michael, one-half of the ‘80s British pop duo Wham!, passed away on Christmas Day of a heart attack. The singer was 53 years old.
From both his career with Wham!, and as a solo artist, Michael sold over 100 million records across the world. The Radio Academy named Michael the most played artist on British radio from 1984-2004. Michael had seven number one singles in the UK and hit number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 eight times. Billboard magazine ranked Michael as the 40th most successful artist ever.
Michael, who was openly gay, spent much time campaigning for LGBT rights and raising money for HIV/AIDS charities. As written by Bernard Zuel of the Sydney Morning Herald, Michael “was a talisman for a gay community still excluded from the center of culture, who eventually became a champion for freedoms and rights not always afforded that community.”
A trailblazer in many areas, Michael also set precedent for solo acts to come. Ian “Molly” Meldrum, the ARIA Hall of Fame inducted broadcaster, said of Michael in the Courier Mail “George paved the way for people like Robbie Williams and Justin Timberlake to leave boy bands and then to go on to be taken seriously as solo acts.”