George Michael may have died incredibly young, but his extraordinary life won’t soon be forgotten.
Fans are still reeling from the loss of the Wham! star, who passed away of heart failure on Christmas Day in his home in England.
To celebrate his illustrious career in music, ABC aired a 20/20 special on the pop icon on Tuesday — and there were definitely a few things we learned about the 53-year-old’s life in George Michael: Faith, Freedom and His Final Hours.
Starting off with a Wham!
Destined for fame at a young age, Michael wrote his hit Careless Whisper at only 17 years old, and sparked an intense, Beatlemania-esque fandom surrounding his music.
His pop duo Wham! made huge strides in the music industry, being the first Western act to perform in China thanks to their 1985 concert gigs.
However, most of Wham!’s appeal was due to the talent and charisma of Michael. Former MTV VJ Alan Hunter remembered of the group:
“It almost didn’t seem like a duo. We couldn’t quite understand what [fellow member Andrew Ridgeley‘s] contribution was.”
He’s sexy and he doesn’t want you to know it
While the singer loved making music, he hated the price that came with being an artist — specifically dealing with the media and being seen as a sex symbol.
For his second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, Michael refused to put his face on the cover or on the tour marketing, or appear in any music videos — all so he could be taken more seriously as an artist.
The singer also admitted once he was constantly battling being a “massive star” along with being a closeted gay man. He said in the footage from an old interview:
“It was like, âOh, my God, I’m a massive star, and I might be a poof.’ I had to negotiate some new relationship with celebrity that wasn’t going to destroy me.”
Shields from the rumor mill
Actress Brooke Shields discussed her fleeting “romance” with the singer in the 1980s, admitting she thought Michael was “in love” with her because “Nobody had ever been willing to move so slowly.”
In footage from a 2011 interview, she recalled not having any idea he was gay, explaining:
“He was a singer, he was gorgeous, he was handsome. I was such a virgin. He didn’t even kiss me good night.”
The I Want Your Sex singer was busted in April 1998 in Beverly Hills for performing a “lewd act” with another man — an arrest he later revealed he felt was “entrapment” in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
But Michael made lemonade from his lewd lemons. He was able to be upfront about the incident and come out as gay in a CNN interview following his arrest.
He also used police figures and bathroom props in the music video for his song Outside, which served as an outlet for him to own his arrest — and sexuality — instead of being ashamed by it.
Michael started a relationship with his first serious partner Anselmo Feleppa in 1993. Six months later, however, Feleppa learned he was HIV positive, and died later that year of complications from the disease.
The singer’s track Jesus to a Child was about his late partner, whom he often dedicated the song to in concerts.
Michael soon dealt with more grief after the death of his mother in 1998. After slipping into a deep depression, the performer was saved by his relationship with his music. He said in old footage about his mother’s death:
“I didn’t really [survive] a the only thing that got me through it was my music. It was like depression and shock that went on forever.”
Michael also noted that his relationship with former partner Kenny Gossalso helped him get through his depression. He said:
“Kenny saved my life. Someone to hold you when you absolutely see no point to anything.”
The two were together for eight years before splitting in 2009.
Don’t stop the music
Though he spent his last few years in private, Michael had big plans for 2017. Not only had be recently been writing songs, but the singer was planning for a documentary about his life to come out next year.
As he stayed out of the limelight in recent years, Michael remained a generous philanthropist — and never felt the need to make a public fuss over his many donations.
Such an accomplished career and extraordinary person! Rest in peace, George.