30 years a star: George Michael’s biggest moments
(CNN) — Powerful covers, unforgettable duets and a few scandals sprinkled here and there — George Michael’s life was anything but boring.
Here are some of the most memorable moments from the career of the singer who died Sunday at the age of 53.
Wham!, the band that shot him to fame, was formed in 1983, and some of its biggest moments came just a year later.
“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” released in May 1984, was Wham!’s first number one single in the UK and US, topping the Billboard chart and spending another 24 weeks there.
Two months later, “Careless Whisper,” Michael’s first solo single, debuted, also reaching the pole position on Billboard. The song spent three weeks topping the UK charts.
The next year, Wham! became the first Western pop group to perform in China, spending 10 days in the country, which was slowly beginning to open up again to the outside world after the Cultural Revolution.
“No one had ever seen anything like that before,” one concertgoer told the BBC last year. “The singers were all moving a lot and it was very loud. We were used to people who stood still when they performed.”
That summer, he and Andrew Ridgeley, the other half of Wham!, performed an unforgettable duet with Elton John at Live Aid, one of the first mega concerts to help bring awareness to the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s
But the band wouldn’t make it past the ’80s — and when news of the breakup surfaced, the decision caught Ridgeley by surprise, People magazine reported at the time.
In 1986, Wham! had its final show — which drew an audience of 72,000 fans at London’s Wembley Stadium, according to Michael’s website — and released its final album.
The next year Michael collaborated with one of his favorite musicians, Aretha Franklin.
The pair had a hit with “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” with the song topping charts and winning a Grammy — his first.
Michael began the ’90s on a high note, taking home a second Grammy for his debut solo album, “Faith.”
And he released more of greatest singles — “Praying for Time,” which topped the Billboard charts and “Freedom! ’90,” which cracked the top 10.
Not so free
His music career didn’t reach those heights again during the ’90s, though he continued make headlines.
In April 1998, he was arrested in Beverly Hills, California, for soliciting sex in a public restroom.
Days later, he came out on CNN.
“I spent the first half of my career being accused of being gay when I hadn’t had anything like a gay relationship,” Michael said in that interview with CNN. “So I spent my years growing up being told what my sexuality was … which was kind of confusing.”
Michael said he decided to keep his sexuality out of the public eye because was unhappy with the way he was treated in his younger years, before he actually realized he was gay (he said he didn’t have his first gay relationship until he was 27.)
“But you know, this is as good a time as any.”
The new millennium
Michael continued to get into trouble with the law the following decade, being arrested for drug possession on various occasions and serving a prison sentence for driving under the influence of drugs.
Though he made headlines for scandal, he also made news for his activism, often participating in benefit concerts for AIDS and other causes.
Musically, he continued to innovate, transitioning from pop to soul and other musical genres.
His final album , “Symphonica,” was released in 2014. The album, which was well received critically, includes mostly live songs with a full orchestra.