Press release issued by the Virgin Music Group in November 1999 announcing the signing of George Michael to a North American recording contract and the release of his album Songs From The Last Century
George Michael Biography
As the history of popular music develops, one fact shines through: talent wins. You can’t cheat and survive for any length of time. You can’t hype and fool people more than once. You can’t hide behind image makers, or alluring videos, or the cut of this season’s clothes. Or you can – but then you die. To survive you must evolve, improve, have faith, still thrill. Longevity depends on making the best music.
George Michael has never thought of popular music as a career: it’s far more personal – more precious – than that. But he has always taken the long-term view, that ultimately an artist’s achievement will not be judged in terms of number one singles, or magazine covers, or prestigious awards, but by a large body of work, a collection of albums over time, a lifetime’s development in an artform that no longer depends on shock or rebellion or the quick burn-out to make a mark.
In 17 years, and at 36 years of age, George Michael can already look back on more than 67 million record sales worldwide. He’s notched up six US No.1 singles from his debut album, eleven British No.1 singles and six No.1! albums to date. He has also played at some of the biggest and most important concerts in history (Live Aid, the Nelson Mandela Freedom Concert, the Freddie Mercury Tribute), all in front of capacity audiences at Wembley Stadium and in front of many millions watching throughout the world. But that was the beginning, an early phase or two.
George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on 25 June 1963 in North London, and went on to meet his future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley at a nearby comprehensive school. They formed their first band, The Executive, in 1981, but soon realised their chosen path lay as a duo: Wham! was born. Within a year they had released their classic debut single. ‘Wham Rap’, but it was their second single, ‘Young Guns (Go For It!)’ which became the first in a string of Top 10 hits.
In the summer of 1984 George unveiled a glimpse of what was to come by releasing the classic ‘Careless Whisper’. His first solo single while still with Wham! became one of the signatures of the Eighties and one of the most-played radio songs of the decade. It was written when he was still only 17.
His growing maturity was further established with the release of ‘A Different Comer’, his second solo single, and another mature ballad of lasting worth. A few months later George and Andrew decided that Wham! should disband while still at the very peak of their success. This announcement was followed by a unique final concert at Wembley, an emotional farewell in front of 72,000. Their place was assured as one of the most exuberant pop bands of the Eighties. Equally certain was that George was set for a remarkable solo career.
Virgin Music Group Signs George Michael to a North American Recording Agreement
Deal brings artist fully into the Virgin Music Group Worldwide
November 22, 1999 – Virgin Music Group proudly announces that it has signed George Michael to a North American recording agreement. As a result of the agreement, Virgin Music Group will release the music of George Michael on a worldwide basis, including the Virgin Records America in the United States and Virgin Records Canada in that country.
The agreement complements an agreement entered into between George Michael and Virgin Music Group Worldwide in July, 1995. Michael released his first album under that agreement Older in May, 1996. Older has since sold over seven million units worldwide (exc. the US and Canada).
The first album from George Michael to be released under this new agreement by the Virgin Music Group will be Songs From The Last Century, his fourth solo record since leaving Wham! The album will be released internationally (exec. North America) on December 6, Canada will follow on December 7 and the US will release one week later on December 14. This is Michael’s second record to be handled by Virgin Music Group Worldwide outside of North America, and the first to be handled by the company here in the US and Canada.
Songs From The Last Century features songs written by some of the greatest composers of the twentieth century, including Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Johnny Mercer and Ewan MacColl (to name but a few) and features some of the finest contemporary musicians. The album was coproduced in New York this summer by the legendary Phil Ramone (Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel and Paul Simon) and George Michael, and recorded by three time Grammy winner Frank Filipetti. Among the ten tracks on the album are “You’ve Changed,” originally recorded by Billie Holiday, “My Baby Just Cares For Me ,” initially performed by Nina Simone, and “Wild Is The Wind,” made famous by Frank Sinatra. The first single in North America will be “Miss Sarajevo,” a song first recorded for the Passengers soundtrack by U2’s Bono and world famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
Comments Nancy Berry, vice chairman, Virgin Music Group Worldwide:
“George Michael is the quintessential pop star. His illustrious career both as part of Wham! and as a solo artist has reached tremendous international proportions. We are thrilled to be able to expand our relationship with George to include our North American companies, thereby providing him with the full worldwide efforts of the Virgin Music Group. As we ready for Songs From The Last Century , we aim to duplicate the success we had internationally with Older and move into the next century as one worldwide team.
- George Michael Interview on CNN Defending ‘Shoot the Dog’
- George Michael Interview on Q Magazine (December 1998)
- Yahoo Music Interview with George Michael at 25 Live Tour Kickoff (2008)
- George Michael: Artist or Airhead? (Musician, 1988)
- By George, He’s Back (8 Days Magazine, 1996)