With a career covering more than three decades, singer George Michael is cemented in pop history. The British superstar first found fame as part of Wham!, an early 80s duo with its exuberant style. The twosome – also comprised of Andrew Ridgeley - dissolved amicably, with Michael launching a highly successful international solo career.
Michael’s hailed debut solo album Faith catapulted the London-native to international stardom and topped the American charts for 12 weeks. From there, the singer/songwriter released five more solo albums, won multiple awards – including a Grammy - and has collaborated with a number of other top artists, from Old Blue Eyes to Aretha Franklin and Paul McCartney.
Meeting an untimely death in December 2016, Michael’s body of work was ultimately cut short, at age 53. However, his impact on pop music is undeniable and his musical legacy lives on. With that, AXS celebrates the imprint that George Michael left on music’s collective culture, with a look at some of his best lyrics.
5. “One More Try”
Among his measured melodies, “One More Try” beautifully displays Michael’s raw vocals, and panache for penning emotionally relatable songs. Off Michael’s debut solo album Faith (1987), the soulful ballad produced a chart topper for the singer, holding its No. 1 position for three weeks. Seemingly stemming from Michael’s own personal experience, the song speaks of hesitation towards future relationships after being burned by one in the past.
"When you were just a stranger
And I was at your feet
I didn't feel the danger
Now I feel the heat"
4. “I Want Your Sex”
The first single from Michael’s highly acclaimed Faith (1987), “I Want Your Sex” was then groundbreaking and controversial. However, the singer responded to the mainstream media’s uproar by explaining that the song was actually celebrating monogamy – and not promoting casual sex. To wit, in the song’s video (to watch, click the song title above) the entertainer writes “Explore Monogamy” on his steamy partner's body, in red lipstick, no less. Despite radio stations refusing to play it, the song was a huge hit.
"I swear I won't tease you
Won't tell you no lies
I don't need no bible
Just look in my eyes"
This compellingly catchy single from the album of the same name was another of the effort's four No. 1 U.S. hits. Featuring a more definitive rock and roll flavor, “Faith” also solidified Michael as a serious solo artist. What’s more, the entertainer wrote and produced the ditty himself. As for the song’s accompanying video (click the song title above to watch), it furthered the singer/acoustic guitarist's sex symbol status.
"Oh but I
Need some time off from that emotion
Time to pick my heart up off the floor
Oh when that love comes down
Well it takes a strong man, baby
But I'm showing you the door"
2. “Father Figure”
One of his most poignant pieces, “Father Figure” is another of Faith’s No. 1 hits. Michael’s voice takes center stage on the finely crafted ballad, that’s as sensual as it is mysterious. With its place on Faith, it’s little wonder the album won a Grammy for best album of the year and sold more than 25 million copies worldwide.
"That's all I wanted
But sometimes love can be mistaken
For a crime.
That's all I wanted
Just to see my baby's
Blue eyes shine."
1. “Freedom ’90”
Rhythmic and indisputably catchy, “Freedom! 90” was an early 90s cultural phenomenon. The song relates Michael’s evolution from Wham! teen idol to a man familiar with the politics involved in making music. Let’s not forget the force of “Freedom’s” iconic video, featuring five of the fashion industry’s top supermodels lip-synching the tune. The song is off Michael’s second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (1990).
"Heaven knows I was just a young boy
Didn't know what I wanted to be
I was every little hungry schoolgirl's pride and joy
And I guess it was enough for me"