80s British singer George Michael changed the face of pop music and remains one of the genre’s greatest artists. With such memorable hits as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Everything She Wants”, the Wham! The frontman and solo artist has won countless awards, including two Grammys, four MTV Video Music Awards and three American Music Awards.
Although known worldwide as George Michael, the artist was born with a different name, indicative of his Greek heritage.
The ‘Father Figure’ singer was the son of a Greek immigrant
Like many performers, the legendary singer-songwriter changed his birth name to create a more appropriate stage persona. Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, he was the third child of Kyriacos Panayiotou and Lesley Angold. Michael’s father owned a restaurant in London and was called Jack.
In 1986, the Live Aid singer revealed his real name during an appearance on the talk show Aspel and company. Asked to say his full name, he smiled and said it with a “perfect Greek accent”, Smooth Radio reported. As the audience cheered, the artist laughed, “That sounds like ‘George Michael’ if you say it really fast!”
Why did George Michael change his name?
In an interview with The morning show to promote his book, the other half of Wham!, Andrew Ridgeley, opened up about the origins of Michael’s “quirky nickname”.
The guitarist revealed that Michael’s family calls him “Georgios”. It sounded like “yogurt” in Cypriot Greek. He explained that the artist’s family and friends often called him by his nickname, “Yog”.
According to Rate Your Music, the artist decided to use the name “Michael” because he liked the way he sounded. The singer is said to have known several people with this surname, including an uncle, a classmate and the father of a close friend.
Despite changing his Greek name, Michael was devoted to his Cypriot heritage. According to Pappas Post, the “Faith” singer was a patron of the Thalassemia Society, a charity that benefits Greek descendants with a life-threatening genetic blood disorder. Michael’s philanthropy is said to have “touched the lives of thousands of people”.
In his book Bang! George Michael and I: A Memoir, Ridgeley revealed that the iconic artist was “struggling with what George Michael really meant.” Ridgeley claimed to have told his old friend that “if he were to have any chance of finding happiness, he should realize his talent,” Billboard reported.
Michael “had no choice,” Ridgeley explained. “The only thing he had to do next was claim his place as the greatest singer-songwriter of his generation.”
George Michael’s award-winning career spans four decades
Before George Michael’s tragic death in 2016 at the age of 53, he had recorded 16 albums, 92 singles and EPs, and 14 music videos. Rolling Stone recalled that he collaborated with icons such as Aretha Franklin and Elton John and confronted “social and sexual taboos in increasingly bold ways on four number one albums and a long string of singles. of the Top 10“.
Recently, the estate of George Michael called out Canadian artist Tory Lanez for unauthorized sampling of the pop idol’s music in the single “Enchanted Waterfall.” According to Complex, the sample is from Michael’s 1985 hit, “Careless Whisper.” While the “Amazing” singer’s music will live on, his estate is making sure it won’t be exploited.
“His sound helped make him the most prominent British pop star of his generation,” the BBC said of Michael’s successful career, “but George Michael’s deep humanity and his successful battle to present himself from authentic way are what makes him a truly great artist.”
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