George Michael: Portrait of an Artist

George Michael (Photo: ugc)
George Michael (Photo: ugc)

There’s no doubt that George Michael had an incredible career.

The singer-songwriter, who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, became a star in the early 1980s as one-half of Wham!, who were hugely popular thanks to catchy hits like Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, and Club Tropicana but were never taken particularly seriously by the critics.

Not that they seemed unduly bothered by that. George’s bandmate and old school friend Andrew Ridgeley recently told The Guardian: “The only people that mattered were the people who were buying records. It was a source of bemusement that the music press had turned on us, but we also understood that the music press took itself very seriously.”

George Michael (Photo: ugc)
George Michael (Photo: ugc)

However, it still took some of the cynics by surprise when George went solo and realised the world-conquering album Faith in 1987. In the US, it spawned four number one singles and went onto sell a staggering 25 million copies worldwide.

The critics were now forced to take him seriously, especially as he continued to rack up hits.

Then in 1998, he was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public toilet in Beverly Hills. It could have spelled the end of his career, but instead George was able to take control of the narrative by refusing to be shamed – he even released a video, Outside, satirising the incident.

So, with an army of loyal fans and a fascinating life story, it’s no surprise that in the years since his death in 2016, at the age of just 53, he has attracted the attention of documentary-makers.

This year alone, we’ve had Wham! on Netflix, which explored his boyband days, and Channel 4’s Outed, which focused on how he dealt with the 1998 arrest.

Now though, we are getting the even more ambitious George Michael: Portrait of an Artist, which aims to be the definitive take on his life and work.

Directed and produced by Simon Napier-Bell, the former manager of Wham!, it explores how George rose to fame and how he managed to stay at the top for so long.

However, there was an undoubted cost to superstardom, and the film explores how George struggled with his sexuality and the pressures of fame.

To explore his life and artistry, the film draws on an eclectic line-up of contributors, ranging from Andrew Ridgeley and Stevie Wonder to Piers Morgan and Richard Madeley, as well as a candid interview with George’s partner, Kenny Goss.

They’ll be sharing their memories of the man and his music and revealing why they think his legacy continues to endure.

And it seems the contributors are pleased with the end result. Stephen Fry, who is among the interviews says of the documentary: “The wonderful, tender, crazy, tormented, wise, intensely lovable George breaks through the screen to win you all over again. Such angelic talent, such devilish mischief, such a fragile soul. This film, like George himself, pulls you from laughter to sobs.”