The article “Political Flap Breaks Up The Rock Group Wham!” by Jonathan Takiff was published in the Philadelphia Daily News on March 12m 1986.
Provoked by the threatened takeover of their management company by a South African conglomerate, the British rock group Wham! has broken up.
Appearing on British television, front man George Michael announced he’d rather sever his longstanding ties with Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley than toil contractually for South African-based Kunick Leisure. The company is 34 percent owned by Sun Hotels International, operators of the Sun City entertainment complex in the “independent homeland” of Bophuthaswana.
Sun City has become the subject of an intensified international boycott by pop artists and human rights organizations, who perceive the resort as a propaganda tool of the South African government and its apartheid policies.
While Michael is considered a fluffy pop figure in the VS., his stance at home in Britain is much more politically attuned. He has appeared at fundraising functions for leftist labor groups and was one of the guiding lights of the British charity record project Band Aid, which in turn spawned the USA for Africa, Live Aid and Farm Aid activities.
For more than a year, Michael and his partner Ridgeley had been rumored to be heading for a divorce. Ridgeley is little more than a pretty Columnist Carol Towarntcky is on special assignment t t. face in this “blue-eyed soul” duo, while Michaels supplies all the songs, lead vocals and production skills. At the Wham! performance last September at Veteran’s Stadium, Ridgeley didn’t even bother to plug in his guitar.
Yet, up until his announcement of the group split-up, Michael flatly denied it was coming, saying his “friendship” with Ridgely was “what counted in the group chemistry,” and that “Wham’s image” was “more saleable” than his own.
In the last two years. Wham! is reported to have sold more than 30 million records. Another album and single bearing the Wham! name already completed will be released as scheduled, but no further joint appearances will be scheduled.
Michael’s move was precipitated by other grumblings in the British music industry about Kunick Leisure. Last August, the company paid $10 million to acquire Allied Entertainments, an element in the empire of Britain’s top rock concert promoter, Harvey Goldsmith. An organizer of Live Aid and presenter of top acts including Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie promoter Goldsmith reportedly has been threatened with a boycott by some rock artists because of his sell out to the South Africans. But Michael is the first artist to have gone public about this issue.
Several artists have, of course, been publicly condemned for doing business with the South Africans. The list includes Sun City headliners Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt.
- George Michael Interview in New Musical Express (NME, 28 June 1986)
- Wham! You’re On Your Own, George (Sunday Times, 1986)
- George Michael: Artist or Airhead? (Musician, 1988)
- ‘George Michael, Seriously’ from Rolling Stone Magazine (1988)
- Wham! Interview: The Odd Couple (Sounds, 1983)