Wham! were an English pop duo consisting of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, formed in London in 1981. They became one of the most commercially successful pop acts of the 1980s, selling more than 30 million certified records worldwide from 1982 to 1986. Influenced by funk and soul music and presenting themselves as disaffected youth, Wham!’s 1983 debut album Fantastic addressed the United Kingdom’s unemployment problem and teen angst over adulthood.
Their second studio album Make It Big in 1984 was a worldwide pop smash hit, charting number one in both the UK and the United States. Associated with the MTV-driven Second British Invasion of the US, the singles from the album—”Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “Everything She Wants” and “Careless Whisper”—all topped the US Billboard Hot 100. In 1985, Wham! made a highly publicised 10-day visit to China, the first by a Western pop group. The event was seen as a major watershed moment in increasing friendly bilateral relations between China and the West.
Michael was keen to create music targeted at a more sophisticated adult market rather than the duo’s primarily teenage audience, and therefore, Michael and Ridgeley officially announced the breakup of Wham! in the spring of 1986. Before going their separate ways, a farewell single “The Edge of Heaven”, and a greatest hits album titled The Final would be forthcoming, along with a farewell concert entitled The Final. Announcing the breakup, Michael said: “I think it should be the most amicable split in pop history.”
In January 1991, Ridgeley joined Michael on stage for a few songs at the encore of his performance at the Rock in Rio event at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On November 21, 2009, there was a Wham!-themed night on television’s The X Factor in the UK. Michael later appeared on the show’s final episode, performing a duet of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with finalist and eventual winner Joe McElderry. In 2012, Michael said that there was no truth in speculation that he and Ridgeley were set for a Wham! reunion to mark the 30th anniversary of the group’s first album.
Michael died from heart and liver disease at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire on Christmas Day 2016. He was 53.