Driving offences and drugs brought George Michael back into spotlight

By any measure George Michael has had a glittering chart career - but brushes with the law and tales of his drug use have increasingly made more impact than his musical output.

As a solo star and member of Wham! he has sold more than 100 million records and has had 11 number one singles in the UK, with tracks such as Careless Whisper and Faith.



The 47-year-old's fame has been global, including seven number ones in the US.



But the hit machine has slowed, chart positions have faltered and incidents of drug possession, driving offences and personal problems have been the chief reasons for his occasional returns to the spotlight.



Two years ago Michael entered a period of semi-retirement, quitting live performances and seeking a "quieter life" out of the public eye.



But less than a month later he was back in the glare when he was cautioned for possession of class A, which included crack cocaine, and class C drugs.



His last appearance in the top 10 was in 2004 and a Christmas single released last December climbed to just number 14 despite a devoted fanbase.



Michael - born Georgios Panayiotou - found fame as a teenager in the early 1980s after forming Wham! with schoolfriend Andrew Ridgeley.



The pair enjoyed hit after hit, including Club Tropicana, Young Guns (Go For It) and Last Christmas.



But they decided to bow out at the top, pulling the plug on their partnership with a final chart-topping single The Edge Of Heaven in 1986 and triumphant Wembley shows.



Michael then embarked on a hugely successful solo career, plus occasional collaborations with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Sir Elton John and Queen (singer-less following the death of Freddie Mercury).



His album Faith - which has been remastered and is due for release later this month - was a massive success in 1988.



But lengthy legal battles followed as he tried to free himself from a deal with record label Sony which effectively prevented new recordings (only to re-sign with them a few years later).



Things began to unravel further when, after years of refusing to be drawn on speculation about his sexuality, he was arrested in public toilets in Beverly Hills, California, in 1998 for engaging in a lewd act.



The incident forced him to disclose his homosexuality and his relationship with American Kenny Goss.



He later said his late 20s had been a very depressing time for him after he lost his partner, Anselmo Feleppa, to HIV and his mother died some time later.



He said: "I had my very first relationship at 27 because I really had not actually come to terms with my sexuality until I was 24.



"I lost my partner to HIV then it took about three years to grieve; then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed."



He parodied the arrest incident in the video of 1998 single Outside, which reached number two, but he struggled to reach such heights again.



He did not help his cause when his satirical take on the relationship between Tony Blair and George Bush, Shoot The Dog, was released in 2002. He was branded a "washed-up pop pervert" by a US newspaper.



A further run-in with the law came in October 2006 when he was found slumped over the wheel of his car. The following May he pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs and was banned from driving for two years.



He has talked about his regular use of cannabis and an interview last year said he had cut down to "seven or eight" spliffs a day, from the 25 he once smoked.



In the same Guardian interview he talked openly about cruising Hampstead Heath, which is close to his north-west London home, for casual sex.



He added that he still continued to sleep with his partner: "Kenny gets his, believe me."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor