“ George Michael planned to have a Boxing Day dinner with his ex-Wham! bandmate Shirlie Holliman, husband Martin Kemp and son Roman before tragic death. Late singer’s health did not stop him from organising a festive get-together with Shirlie and his godson.
“ Michael was discovered dead at his Oxfordshire home on Christmas Day after a long battle against drug and alcohol addition – aged just 53. However, George’s health had not stopped him from organising a festive get-together with Shirlie, 54, one half of pop duo Pepsi and Shirlie, her husband and fellow 80s star Martin Kemp, 55, their daughter Harley, 27, and son Roman, an up-and-coming Capital FM DJ and TV presenter who is also the Faith singer’s godson.
“ Speaking before George passed away, Roman, 23, said: “We’re going to George’s house on Boxing Day.”
“ On 26 Dec Roman also tweeted: “To me, you do the Christmas rounds and you see all those people who are big influences on my life. I speak to him quite often. He speaks to my mum every week. He’s just family to me, fame is not a big deal. I know it sounds strange but I’ve known him my whole life. We love you Yog”… ”
THE KEMP FAMILY TWEET THEIR OWN TRIBUTES
Martin Kemp, actor, bassist with Spandau Ballet – “My whole family and I are devastated at the loss of our beautiful friend Yog! We will miss him so much! We are all heartbroken!”
Shirlie Kemp, née Shirlie Holliman of Wham! – “Words can not express how sad we all are, only last week I saw him laughing and happy. My heart is broken to lose someone so special.”
Roman Kemp, son of Martin and Shirlie, George’s godson, TV host and radio deejay – “The man who toured the world with my mum; her best friend. / The man who introduced my parents; who forced my mum to call my dad. / The man that took me and Harley around the world; just to see us smile. / The man we all love. / We love you Yog.”
Harleymoon Kemp, daughter of Martin and Shirlie, photographer – “Such a kind, special man who has played such a huge part in our family history and shared with us nothing but love. We are all very sad.”
Wham! on The Tube, 1983: George Michael with his partner Andrew Ridgeley on guitar (Photo: ITV)
“ Five albums in 25 years is not exactly prolific
but I think pretty good in terms of quality. . .
The body of work is safe now. If I get hit
by a bus tomorrow, people will remember
what I have done and they’ll still enjoy it ”
– George Michael, 2008
◼ WHAM! SOLD 40 MILLION RECORDS WORLDWIDE in four years after emerging from London’s innovative clubbing scene in 1982. As a solo singer-songwriter George Michael then sold another 100 million records, scored seven number one singles in the UK and eight number one hits in the US. He ranks among the best-selling British acts of all time, with Billboard magazine ranking him the 40th most successful artist ever. And he won every major world music award, often more than once. Yet his career was sporadic, interrupted by odd breaks, bouts of melancholy, health problems and in recent years a series of run-ins with the law over reckless driving, drugs and sex.
On his music, disc jockey Paul Gambaccini says: “George is likely to be remembered in two different ways: in Britain he’s a pop star and in America he’s a soulboy.” On his hedonism as propaganda, author Mark Simpson in Rolling Stone concludes: “Whatever the long term effects on his happiness, being ‘openly closeted’ for so long seems to have been key to not only making Michael a commercially-successful artist but also a surprisingly subversive one. And perhaps it also lay behind his determination, once out, not to go back into the biggest closet of all: respectability.”
➢ Singer who became Britain’s biggest pop star
– Guardian obituary: “ George Michael, who has died aged 53, was Britain’s biggest pop star of the 1980s, first with the pop duo Wham! and then as a solo artist. After Wham! made their initial chart breakthrough with the single Young Guns (Go for It!) in 1982, Michael’s songwriting gift brought them giant hits including Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Careless Whisper, and they became leading lights of the 80s boom in British pop music.
“ From the late 1990s onwards Michael was beset by a string of personal crises and clashes with the law caused by drug use. He had always felt ambivalent about the demands of stardom, and found it difficult to balance his celebrity status with his private life. After years of concealing his homosexuality, he eventually came out in 1998, after being arrested for engaging in a “lewd act” in a public lavatory in Beverly Hills, California. . . ” / Continued at The Guardian
“ After early success in the duo Wham! he went on to build a solo career that brought him a string of awards and made him a multi-millionaire. But there were times when his battle with drugs and encounters with the police made lurid headlines that threatened to eclipse his musical talents. He admitted that he often went out at night seeking what he called “anonymous and no-strings sex”. . . ” / Continued at BBC online
“ Outside of Elton John, I’d say he is
probably the greatest philanthopist
in popular music ” – Paul Gambaccini
➢ Dame Esther Rantzen, Childline founder: “ For years now George has been the most extraordinarily generous philanthropist, giving money to Childline, but he was determined not to make his generosity public so no-one outside the charity knew how much he gave to the nation’s most vulnerable children. Over the years he gave us millions and we were planning next year, as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations to create, we hoped, a big concert in tribute to him – to his artistry, to his wonderful musicality but also to thank him for the hundreds of thousands of children he helped through supporting Childline. ”
George with Kenny Goss in happier times… they met in 1996 and broke up in 2009 (Photo: Rex)
“ The truth is my love life has been a lot more turbulent than I’ve let on ” – George Michael
➢ Spending time together with love of his life – The Sun: “ George Michael had secretly become close again with the love of his life Kenny Goss, just weeks before his death. George had reached out to Kenny following their difficult split. A close friend revealed: “George and Kenny are back spending time together again and it’s an exciting time for those of us who have been so worried over the last few years. The pop superstar split from Texan art dealer Kenny in 2009 after 13 years and his life quickly spiralled, culminating in a lengthy stint in the world’s most expensive rehab clinic in Switzerland last year.
“ On the opening night of his Symphonica tour in 2011, the singer admitted: “In truth Kenny and I haven’t been together for two and a half years. I love him very much. This man has brought me a lot of joy and pain”. . . ” / Continued at The Sun online
➢ Jim Fouratt, US 80s club host and activist: “ No one seems to remember the incident between George Michael and the president of Sony Music America, Tommy Mottola. I do. George Michael set up a meeting with Mottola, having sold 80 million records worldwide, reaping huge profits for the company. Michael was not happy with how his new album was being marketed. Suddenly, from behind closed doors, the Sony staff could hear Mottola shouting: “Get this faggot out of my office!”
George left. Mattola’s homophobia shocked him. He went back to England. Sued Columbia and spent six years without a release in the US. Finally David Geffen signed him to his new label Dreamworks after settling the lawsuit which gave Dreamworks all rights in the US for a new George Michael album. A hit. George Michael was back on the charts in the US. Then the arrest in a public bathroom in Beverly Hills made headlines across the world. Michael (finally) came out.
Very sad to learn of George’s passing. But he stood up for himself after he was very publicly outed. Yes, he could have come out earlier – but Mottola’s action gives one insight into why he did not. ”
➢ Owen Jones, Guardian writer: “ The popstar’s openness about his sex life, and his campaigning for LGBT rights, offered a liferaft to many – particularly at a time when anti-gay sentiment was rife. As a closeted teenager back in 1998, it is impossible not to recall the courage and defiance of George Michael. A talented and much adored musician, yes. But also a gay man, and a gay icon, who made the lives of so many LGBT people that little bit easier.”
➢ 20 essential songs: The best of the pop icon George Michael’s hits – at Rolling Stone: “ George Michael swiftly transitioned from teenage pretty boy to outspoken pop force. “It says something for the power of the music,” he told Rolling Stone after the release of his smash 1987 solo debut, Faith, “that I’ve managed to change the perception of what I do to the degree that I have in this short a time. Because it’s something that a lot of people thought wasn’t possible. . . ” / Continued online
Andrew Ridgeley, schoolfriend, partner in Wham! – “Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog. He had a voice that would transport you, he was the finest singer/songwriter of his generation & has left the best of himself for us. RIP.”
Michael Lippman, Michael’s manager, told Billboard that he died of heart failure and was found “in bed, lying peacefully”. . . “I’m devastated.”
Spandau Ballet – “We are incredibly sad at the passing of our dear friend George Michael. A brilliant artist and great songwriter.”
Simply Red – “It’s hard to take in. One of our most talented singer- songwriters has left us. Such sad, tragic news.”
Mark Ronson – “George Michael was one of the true British soul greats. A lot of us owe him an unpayable debt.”
Paul McCartney – “George Michael’s sweet soul music will live on even after his sudden death. Having worked with him on a number of occasions, his great talent always shone through and his self-deprecating sense of humour made the experience even more pleasurable.”
Tony Visconti, producer – “I lived through early grief of my pop idols dying on me. Nothing, however, prepared me for this year. Of course the biggest blow was when David Bowie passed. He was my colleague, but more importantly a friend for 48 years. I’m just barely in the acceptance stage with that; my philosophical attitude, ‘this just happens’, helped a lot. But today, with the death of George Michael, this is a little too close to home. Wham made their first album in my Good Earth studios with Chris Porter engineering and he eventually producing George Michael. As my office was in the studio I would pop my head in and say hello. This has happened too much this year. As of today it feels like a damn conspiracy.”
Chaka Khan – “Performed a few shows with George Michael when he was with Wham in the 80s. Here’s a clip of him covering Ain’t Nobody from 1991.”
Sir Elton John – “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist.”
Band Aid 30: Midge Ure yesterday conducting the artists for a new version of the song Do They Know It’s Christmas? Photograph: Band Aid Trust/Brian Aris/Camera Press
◼ TODAY AT 8pm ON THE X-FACTOR BAND AID 30 airs the fourth version of its pop smash hit, Do They Know It’s Christmas? So let’s remember the lifelong contribution of the quietest man in pop, Midge Ure, who is the true brains behind the charity project. As Bob Geldof described him on This Is Your Life: “He’s a great guy, hilariously funny though you wouldn’t know it from his old New Romantic posing. He’s got a great heart and is a great all-round good bloke.”
Midge: “There’s no doubt the early 80s was a golden age of music made by real popstars who created themselves. It was more than just padded shoulders and asymmetrical haircuts. It was a pivotal moment in our cultural history when new tech mixed with new ideas to create something really good. All in the pressure cooker environment that was the Blitz club”
Visage Mk 1: Rusty Egan, Steve Strange and Midge Ure in 1978 searching for sounds and styles
Macnee and Hendry as The Avengers in episode one, Hot Snow, 1961: they set out to avenge the death of the fiancée of David Keel, played by Hendry
❚ DANIEL PATRICK MACNEE IS 92 TODAY – congratulations! And the keen nudist and actor best known as TV’s secret agent John Steed was spotted yesterday collecting the mail from from the end of his driveway in La Jolla, Southern California. Suave old Etonian Macnee, who became an American citizen in 1959, came eventually to define the spy series, The Avengers. Yet from its first episode in 1961 – broadcast live in black and white – the show’s initial incarnation was as a gritty cops-and-robbers drama, when Macnee played second fiddle to the uber-cool Ian Hendry, for whom the role of Dr David Keel was created.
As an in-demand star of film and TV, Hendry quit after the first 26 hour-long episodes when industrial action held up production, to star in the film Live Now, Pay Later. Macnee inherited the leading role and the rest is Swinging 60s history. His trenchcoat gave way to bowler, brolly and Pierre Cardin suit. The Avengers ran eight years until 1969, becoming jauntily more tongue-in-cheek and making stars of Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson as Steed’s assistant. Then a brief revival, The New Avengers (1976–77), saw Steed teamed with Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt whose careers also went stratospheric.
Handsome, sexy and compassionate, Ian Hendry was one of British television’s first idealised heroes. Health issues cut short his life at the age of 53, his last public appearance being on This Is Your Life, which reunited him with Macnee.
“The thing I’m really proud of is that I never carried a gun. I said that I wouldn’t carry one; when they asked me why, I said that I’d just come out of a world war in which I’d seen most of my friends blown to bits. In a way, I was politically correct at that time.”
Dame Diana Rigg, DBE, whose Avengers action woman Emma Peel from 1965 to 1968 proved the generator of a huge fan following, was once described by TV chat-show host Michael Parkinson as “a lustrous beauty”. Her range from comedy to serious drama puts her in the world-class league of respected British thespians. Last year she guested in two other cult TV series, Game of Thrones and Doctor Who, and today she still gives sharp and candid interviews at 75.
Diana Rigg and Macnee as The Avengers,1965–68: Emma Peel was equally at home in a Quant mini-skirt, a leather cat-suit or mod-girl outfits styled by John Bates
+++ ❚ FRESH ON YOUTUBE, the life of “all-round good bloke” Midge Ure OBE, the former engineering apprentice from Glasgow who decided to play guitar. Told for the BBC’s This Is Your Life in 2001. We hear the Stumble demo tape complete with ice-cream van chimes, how for Salvation his name Jim was turned backwards to make Midge (because it was posher than Mij), how he became a teenybop star in Slik, joined “this filthy punk band” Rich Kids in London and co-founded Visage, survived the US tour as a Thin Lizzy stand-in sporting a pink shirt and yellow Aladdin trousers, and being pipped to the No 1 chart spot in Ultravox. Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp describes Midge as “one of the nicest blokes I’ve ever met in the music business” while Gary Kemp believes Midge’s pencil moustache defined the New Romantics stance of the 80s.
This Is Your Life, 2001: Bob Geldof who sprang the surprise on Midge Ure
And of course we hear of the day in 1984 when Bob Geldof had seen the tearjerking news bulletin about the famine in Ethiopia, and rang his partner, the TV presenter Paula Yates, who was working at Tyne Tees Television and he asked who was appearing on The Tube pop show that week. She said Midge Ure. Put him on, said Geldof, “And I was embarrassed because I’m not having hits, he’s having mega-hits”, and Geldof was trying to propose making the epic charity record by Band Aid [read more at Shapersofthe80s on the song that became the biggest hit in British pop history]. “And Midge said ‘Are you going to write it?’ And I said well I dunno, and he said ‘You write a bit and I’ll write a bit’. An instant solution without me being embarrassed. And within a day a tape came over. He was so enthusiastic.” The rest was Band Aid/Live Aid history.
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MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
“See David Johnson’s fabulously detailed website Shapers of the 80s to which I am hugely indebted” – Political historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his book Who Dares Wins, 2019
“The (velvet) goldmine that is Shapers of the 80s” – Verdict of Chris O’Leary, respected author and blogger who analyses Bowie song by song at Pushing Ahead of the Dame
“The rather brilliant Shapers of the 80s website” – Dylan Jones in his Sweet Dreams paperback, 2021
A UNIQUE HISTORY
➢ WELCOME to the Swinging 80s ➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates ➢ ROLL OVER THE MENU at page top to go deeper into the past ➢ FOR NEWS & MONTH BY MONTH SEARCH scroll down this sidebar
❏ Header artwork by Kat Starchild shows Blitz Kids Darla Jane Gilroy, Elise Brazier, Judi Frankland and Steve Strange, with David Bowie at centre in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes
VINCENT ON AIR 2022
✱ Deejay legend Robbie Vincent returned to JazzFM on Sundays 1-3pm in 2021… Catch Robbie’s JazzFM August Bank Holiday 2020 session thanks to AhhhhhSoul with four hours of “nothing but essential rhythms of soul, jazz and funk”.
SEARCH our 800 posts or ZOOM DOWN TO THE ARCHIVE INDEX
UNTOLD BLITZ STORIES
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
CHEWING THE FAT
✱ Jawing at Soho Radio on the 80s clubland revolution (from 32 mins) and on art (@55 mins) is probably the most influential shaper of the 80s, former Wag-club director Chris Sullivan (pictured) with editor of this website David Johnson
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