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Thursday, April 9, 1998 Published at 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK


The rise of a pop genius
image: [ The private life of George Michael has always been a source of fascination ]
The private life of George Michael has always been a source of fascination

Singer George Michael was born Georgios Panayiotou in Finchley, north London - the son of a Greek-Cypriot waiter and English mother.

He shot to stardom as half of the pop group Wham! in the 1980s, set up with classmate Andrew Ridgeley, performing energetic hits like Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and Young Guns.

Wham! was the most commercially successful band of the decade - but it was also short-lived, as the group split in 1986.

From then on George Michael had the unenviable task of re-inventing himself as a solo artist.

He had been the creative force in Wham! and gave a glimpse of his talent with his top-selling song Careless Whisper, released in 1984.

He went into a two-year sabbatical, emerging minus his big hair, and in its place a close cut, stubble, leather jacket and dark glasses.

Going solo

[ image: George Michael's song-writing talents have produced some memorable pop hits]
George Michael's song-writing talents have produced some memorable pop hits
His first solo hit, I Want Your Sex, in 1988, was banned from many radio stations.

Faith, his debut album, went on to sell in excess of 10 million and since then he has had a string of number ones.

He hit the headlines in 1994 when he tried to extricate himself from a contract with Sony Records.

He lost the case after a prolonged legal battle - but is still thought of as one of the most powerful men in the music business. But it is his private life which intrigues his fans and critics alike.

Said to be worth £70 million, Michael is a canny investor of his wealth, and there is little flashy vulgarity in his life.

He has admitted a brief spell of promiscuity, taking cocaine and Ecstasy and a "lost summer" of heavy drinking, but has always refused to comment on exotic rumours about his love-life.

Values privacy

Elusive, expensive and enigmatic, he appears to value his solitude and lives quietly in his mansion in Hampstead, north London, with his golden retriever, Hippy.

He was one of Princess Diana's favourite singers and attended her funeral in September.

When he does venture in front of the flashlights, it is with the most beautiful women at the most prestigious venues.

But recently he admitted that he was devastated by the death of close friend Anselmo Feleppa, a 32-year-old Brazilian, who died of a brain haemorrhage in 1993.

He said in one interview that he loved Feleppa and called his relationship with him "the most enlightening experience I have ever had". Feleppa's death resulted in a spiral of depression.

The pop star admitted last year that he would often smoke 25 cannabis joints a day during the time he was recording the Older album - which is dedicated to his late friend.


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