Martin Kemp remembers George Michael: ‘He was such a lovely man’

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Martin Kemp has said it feels “weird” to not receive Christmas hampers that George Michael sent him for 30 years as he paid tribute to the singer.

Michael died on December 25 2016 in his Oxfordshire home at the age of 53.

Radio presenter and Spandau Ballet star Kemp, 60, spoke about his memories of his late friend, which are to be heard in a Greatest Hits Radio special called ‘George Michael: 5 Years On,’ alongside other famous faces.

Martin Kemp smiling, with his hands in his pockets.
Martin Kemp at Global’s Make Some Noise Appeal Day (Ian West/PA).

He said: “George absolutely loved Christmas. Christmas in the Kemp household didn’t start until December 14 when two giant hampers would be delivered through our door from Harrods.

“Two massive baskets full of wine and cheese and food and meats and everything you needed to have a great Christmas.

“This didn’t happen just once or twice. This happened for 30 years. It’s very weird today that we don’t get those hampers.”

Michael’s generosity was not limited to Christmas. Kemp recalled that Michael once took around 20 friends on a holiday to Richard Branson’s Necker Island, where they went scuba diving and built sandcastles.

“I will never forget it. But he was like that, he was so generous. Not just with his money but also his time.

“He would listen to you if you had problems. He was just such a lovely man,” said Kemp.

Martin Kemp and his wife, Shirlie, posing in front of a Christmas tree.
Martin Kemp and Shirlie Holliman attending the Last Christmas premiere held at BFI Southbank, London (Ian West/PA)

Kemp’s wife, Shirlie, was part of the Pepsi & Shirlie double act, alongside Helen “Pepsi” DeMacque.

The duo performed as back-up singers with Wham!, made up of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, on some of their biggest hits in the 1980s.

Kemp said he thought Wham! hit Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go would “sink”.

He added: “We go up to (George Michael’s) bedroom and on the tape recorder he plays the demo of ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’.

“I say all the things that are right that you should say, like: ‘This is brilliant, it’s going to be a great song. You’re going to do really well with it, it’s going to be a smash.’

“Then I say goodbye to him, get my jacket and I go. Sit next to Shirlie in the car and I said to her, ‘Shirl, he just played me the new song Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.

“‘Listen, I think it’s going to sink. I think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.’”

Kemp was proved wrong when the song went on to become the band’s first UK and US number one, with two million copies sold in the US.

George Michael: 5 Years On airs on Greatest Hits Radio on Christmas Day from 5-7pm.

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