George Michael was born 35 years ago today. 

Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou had been alive for 24 years, but on October 30, 1987 he transcended Wham! and became a solo star. 

Alongside Andrew Ridgeley, he had released numerous pop classics, but ‘Faith’ established him as a top-tier artist in his own right. Few looks in the ‘80s were as iconic as Michael playing acoustic guitar while standing next to a Wurlitzer jukebox, clad in Ray-Ban shades, black leather jacket, blue jeans and cowboy boots. 

Setting the template for successfully transitioning from a massive pop group into a major solo career, it was no accident that Robbie Williams’s first single after leaving Take That was a cover of Michael’s ‘Freedom! ‘90’. 

Impossibly handsome, prodigiously talented and - as would become increasingly apparent following his untimely death in 2016 - an exceptionally good-natured human being, Michael has sold over 120 million records and won numerous awards.

His music combined classic songwriting with modern production, and the memorable videos that accompanied those songs ensured his status as one of the MTV generation’s foremost pop stars. 

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Despite enduring legal battles, personal tragedy and the media’s attempt to shame him over his sexuality, his reputation as one of Britain’s greatest ever pop stars is set in stone. 

That’s partly down to a discography that features banger after banger after banger, all delivered with one of the richest voices to ever originate from these shores. Masterly pop nestles alongside heart-rending ballads and sophisticated jazz, with an array of classics so awe-inspiring only a fool would attempt to whittle them down to just 10. 

These 10 songs are not ‘the best of George Michael’, but a series of highlights from a stellar career. His versatility and influence are apparent in the five bonus tracks that follow.

George Michael recognised as one of Britain’s most accomplished songwriters?

Well, I guess it would be nice. 

CLUB TROPICANA (Fantastic, 1983)

A car door opens, heels meet the pavement, slap bass rumbles and the world suddenly belongs to George Michael. Unlike some ‘80s pop hits, this undeniable party anthem refuses to age. Scottish pop star Lewis Capaldi recently paid tribute with a shot-for-shot remake of the classic video. 


Few albums can boast as impressive an opening run as Make It Big, with its first three tracks comprising the Springsteenisms of ‘Heartbeat’ and slinky synth-pop of ‘Everything She Wants’, but even those two gems are overshadowed by the pop juggernaut that is track one. 

It topped charts in the US and UK as well as soundtracking Derek Zoolander’s orange mocha frappuccino spree, but its biggest cultural impact came with the era-defining ‘CHOOSE LIFE’ t-shirts sported by Michael and Ridgeley in the video. 

CARELESS WHISPER (Make It Big, 1984)

The big one. As well as that brilliant opening run, Make It Big is also bookended perfectly. The album’s closer contains a sax solo rivalled only by Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street in terms of recognisability. Covered by the likes of Gossip and Eagles of Death Metal, it reportedly sold 6 million copies.

Like Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights before it and Lorde’s Royals after, it’s a composition that puts whatever you were doing as a teenager to shame. When he wrote this mature, insightful, passionate and timeless love song, George Michael was 17.

LAST CHRISTMAS (Last Christmas, 1984)

George Michael sadly passed away on Christmas Day 2016, but this synth-led classic evokes happier Yuletide memories. It even holds up if you’re a shop assistant hearing it for the sixth time in one shift. 

The video sees Michael pining for Ridgeley’s girlfriend, all the while looking like he’s on the verge of calling Camilla Parker Bowles the third person in his marriage. 

The Herald:

FAITH (Faith, 1987)

An organ plays Wham’s ‘Freedom’, before giving way to THAT acoustic guitar riff. Any doubts about his ability to carve out a successful solo career were gone by the time the Bo Diddley beat kicked in. 

Limp Bizkit’s 1997 cover, however, showed less respect for a masterpiece than Just Stop Oil activists at the National Gallery.

PRAYING FOR TIME (Listen Without Prejudice, 1990)

Over a dramatic backing, Michael sings that “the rich declare themselves poor” and “charity is a coat you wear twice a year”. Following his death, numerous stories of his generosity emerged, with Childline founder Esther Rantzen revealing that “he gave us millions of pounds” and “helped hundreds of thousands of children”, but “made it absolutely clear that he didn’t want anyone to know that he was going to help us”. 

The single featured a stunning live version of Gladys Knight & The Pips’ ‘If I Were Your Woman’ on its b-side.

TOO FUNKY (Red Hot + Dance, 1992)

With its “Would you like me to seduce you?” sample from The Graduate and appropriately lascivious vocal, it’s hard to draw any conclusion other than ‘this man is quite horny’. The music comfortably meets the title’s criteria, and as with ‘Freedom! ‘90’ before it, the video is packed with supermodels. 

‘Too Funky’ was one of three George Michael songs to feature on ‘Red Hot + Dance’, a compilation album which raised money for AIDS awareness.

FASTLOVE, PT. 1 (Older, 1996)

Legal wrangles with Sony ensured that fans would have to wait nearly six years for Michael’s third solo album. While the deeply personal lead single ‘Jesus to a Child’ embodies the album’s mature sound, there was still a playful side evident on the slinky ‘FastLove, pt. 1’. 

Featuring an interpolation of Patrice Rushen’s 1982 classic ‘Forget Me Nots’, this UK number one sees Michael eschew “all that bull**** conversation” in favour of a no-frills hookup. 

OUTSIDE (Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael, 1998)

The ultimate musical ‘f*** you’. A middle finger raised for four minutes and 44 seconds. 

When Michael was arrested for ‘engaging in a lewd act’ with an undercover police officer, Britain’s media alternated between cheap jokes and hateful scolding. The singer refused to be shamed, however, instead going all in on a single and video that were defiant, celebratory and cathartic. 

Lush, joyful disco? Check. Lyrics hyming the virtues of outdoor coitus? Check. George Michael dressed as an LAPD officer twirling his baton under disco lights in a public bathroom? Check. 

Speaking to Attitude magazine in 2004, Michael said: “when I was 16 or 17, when I started cruising, watching the ‘Outside’ video would have taken some of the weight off my shoulders”. 

AMAZING (Patience, 2004)

He wasn’t quite operating at the peak of his powers on ‘Patience’, but Michael was still capable of cranking out quality radio-friendly pop. A high point from his final studio album.



Michael was uncredited on this cover of the Bee Gees classic, on which he effortlessly matched Barry Gibb’s original vocal. 


Attempting to fill Freddie Mercury’s shoes is daunting enough at your local’s karaoke night, but to do so in front of 72,000 at Wembley Stadium is something else entirely. 

Michael performed three songs at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992, covering ‘39’ and being joined by Lisa Stansfield for a version of ‘These Are the Days of Our Lives’. ‘Somebody to Love’ was the real showstopper. 

As powerful as the performance was, it’s almost overshadowed by incredible rehearsal footage, in which David Bowie can be seen marvelling at the 28-year-old’s note-perfect rendition. 

GEORGE MICHAEL - GOING TO A TOWN (Symphonica Deluxe, 2014)

Appearing on Desert Island Discs in 2007, Michael picked this protest song targeted at George Bush by acclaimed Canadian-American singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, before going on to cover it during his ‘Symphonica’ tour. 

Lines such as ‘soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood’ might be a far cry from ‘fun and sunshine, there’s enough for everyone’, but they sounded natural in this commanding rendition.

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The Wham! original is one of Michael’s greatest achievements, and has been covered by the likes of Hot Chip. In this recording from his 1996 MTV Unplugged performance, Michael is a supreme vocalist at the very top of his game. 


Chris’ version features a sparse electronic arrangement bolstered by gospel backing vocals. 

An altogether classier affair than the Robbie Williams cover, it’s testament to the influence Michael has had on a new generation of artists.