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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25, 1963

I can't believe that this is the last Tuesday Timeline entry that I'm going to be doing for the month of June. When you look at it like that, it seems almost sad.

You know what, screw sadness. I'm all about happy, happy, happy. So instead of looking at it as the last Tuesday Timeline for the month of June 2013, let's view it as the first Tuesday Timeline of the summer! Because almost everyone I know loves the season of summer.

I myself consider myself a fan of summer. Well, okay, maybe I could do without the shirt-soaking humidity...but everything else about the summer I'll happily take.

So, today's date is June 25, and like all Tuesday Timelines of the past, we'll start things off by talking about some major events that took place on this date throughout history.

So, sharpen your pencils and take accurate notes, because this is the history lesson of the day.

253 – Pope Cornelius is beheaded at Centumcellae

1741 – Maria Theresa of Austria is crowned Queen of Hungary

1788 – Virginia becomes the tenth state to ratify the United States Constitution

1876 – Battle of the Little Bighorn; George Armstrong Custer dies

1910 – Igor Stravinsky's ballet “The Firebird” premieres in Paris, France

1928 – Peyo, creator of The Smurfs, is born in Brussels, Belgium

1940 – During World War II, France officially surrenders to Germany

1947 – The Diary of a Young Girl (better known under the title of The Diary of Anne Frank) is first published

1949 – The cartoon short “Long-Haired Hare”, starring Bugs Bunny, is released in theatres

1950 – The Korean War begins with the invasion of South Korea by North Korean troops

1967 – The first live global satellite television program, “Our World”, is first broadcast

1978 – The rainbow flag is first flown as a symbol of gay pride at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade

1981 – Microsoft is restructured to become an incorporated business in its home state of Washington

1991 – Slovenia and Croatia declares its independence from Yugoslavia

1993 – Kim Campbell is chosen as leader of the Progressive Conservative party of Canada, and becomes the first female Prime Minister of Canada

1997 – An unmanned Progress spacecraft collides with Russian space station Mir

2009 – The entertainment world lost a couple of legends as actress Farrah Fawcett passed away at the age of 62 and “King of Pop” Michael Jackson died at the age of 50

2012 – The final steel beam of 4 World Trade Center is lifted into place in a ceremony

So, that's what happened on June 25 as far as events go. Now, let's take a look at who happens to celebrate a birthday on June 25.

A very happy birthday to June Lockhart, Eric Carle, George Murdock, Carly Simon, Jimmie Walker, Tim Finn (Split Enz), Mario Lessard, Anthony Bourdain, Paris Themmen, Ricky Gervais, Doug Gilmour, John Benjamin Hickey, Jackie Swanson, Lucy Benjamin, Angela Kinsey, Scott Maslen, Carlos Delgado, Linda Cardellini, La La Vasquez, Busy Phillips, and Lauren Bush.

Oh, and there's one more person who is celebrating a birthday today...and as it so happens, it's a milestone one!

This person was born fifty years ago today on June 25, 1963.

And, in his five decades of living, he has been through it all. He's had several chart-topping singles, both as a part of a pop duo, and as a solo artist. His music videos were almost the equivalent of watching an episode of “America's Next Top Model”. And, let's just say that the way that he came out of the closet was something out of a TMZ expose...before TMZ was even created.

Despite it all, and despite some recent health scares, this man has persevered, and has cemented his place in pop music history in both North America and his native UK.

Now, his birth name was such that you'd need a translator to pronounce it. And, I'm afraid that I can't even type the full name out without butchering it, so I am having to look up the name on Wikipedia, of all places.

According to this man's birth certificate, he was born Georgios Kyriacos Panagiotou. And, that's quite a mouthful to stamp on the face of a compact disc or even pronounce.

It is any wonder he decided to change his name to “George Michael”?

That's right. Today is the day that George Michael turns the big FIVE-OH! So, why not devote this Tuesday Timeline entry to the singer who achieved fame as a solo artist, and who had success as one half of the duo that he formed with childhood friend Andrew Ridgeley.

George Michael...this is his life!

So, George was born on June 25, 1963 in East Finchley, North London, and grew up in Kingsbury, North West London. When he was in his early teens, his family relocated to Radlett, Hertfordshire, and George was enrolled as a student at Bushey Meads School in London, where he would first meet a boy by the name of Andrew Ridgeley. The two became instant friends, both bonding over their shared dream of making it big in the music industry. In fact, George Michael would often perform cover versions of Queen songs on the London Underground to make a little extra money on the side while he was in school.

When both Ridgeley and Michael turned eighteen in 1981, the duo decided to form a musical partnership together, and they came up with the name “Wham!”. Their first release in June 1982 was a single entitled “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)”, and the single was actually one of the first British singles to utilize the fairly new technique known as “rapping”. Two mixes were used for the single...a clean “Social” mix, and an “Anti-Social” mix, which had some dirty lyrics. Unfortunately, the duo's single didn't really make much of an impact on either the UK or US charts. But, as time passed, “Wham!” made their way to the top of the charts.

Their debut album, “Fantastic” was an instant success in the United Kingdom, as the album spawned three Top 10 US hits. And, their success in the United Kingdom was enough for both Michael and Ridgeley to be included on the 1984 Band-Aid relief single, “Do They Know It's Christmas”.

UNRELATED TRIVIA FACT: “Wham!” wasn't the only group to sing on the Christmas record. Bananarama was also present at the recording. Who would have thought that nearly thirty years later, Andrew Ridgeley would be in a romantic relationship with Bananarama member Keren Woodward? This has nothing to do with George Michael, mind you, but it's an interesting fact, nonetheless.

But 1984 was a very big year for George Michael, and for “Wham!” for that matter. That was the year that the band released their second album, “Make it Big”. And, make it big, they did. Would you believe that from the release of the album's first single, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” that the boys of “Wham!” began to develop a North American following? The song topped the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and it prompted everyone to go out to boutiques all over the world, searching for the perfect “CHOOSE LIFE” T-shirt. Even my then twelve-year-old sister was very much into “Wham!” as I frequently heard that song, “Careless Whisper” and the song below blasting from her record player.

SONG: Everything She Wants
ALBUM: Make it Big
DATE RELEASED: December 27, 1984

PERSONAL NOTE: The reason I chose to use “Everything She Wants” for this entry is because it's really the only song by “Wham!” that I absolutely love.

Of the four singles that were released stateside from “Make it Big”, three reached #1 status, and one peaked within the Top 3. I'd say that's a smashing success, wouldn't you? It certainly put “Wham!” on the same level as “Duran Duran” and “Tears for Fears”.

However, as time passed, it became very much apparent that Andrew Ridgeley's presence in “Wham!” was fading, as the media turned most of their attention towards George Michael instead. Back in 1985, he was considered to be one of the biggest sex symbols of the whole world. Personally, I always thought his hair resembled a gigantic Frosted Flake, but that was just my opinion. Regardless, women all over the world swooned over him (well, minus my sister, who actually preferred Andrew Ridgeley). And, George Michael was beginning to release solo singles while still involved with “Wham!”. Although “Careless Whisper” appeared on the “Make it Big” album, only George Michael sang the lyrics on the record, officially making it his first solo single. He released another single in 1986, “A Different Corner”, which also did quite well on the charts.

By 1986, the writing was on the wall, and late that year, Ridgeley and Michael parted ways, as “Wham!” went Ker-Blam. However, the band still managed to release one parting single, 1986's “The Edge of Heaven”.

By 1987, George Michael's solo career was well on its way, though nobody really predicted just how huge it would become. His first solo project after “Wham!” ended was a duet that he did with legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin (I Knew You Were Waiting For Me). And, throughout the spring and summer of 1987, George Michael cut his hair, grew a beard, adopted a new wardrobe of jeans, sunglasses, and a leather jacket, and began recording new material for his first solo album, “Faith”.

And, right off the bat, the new album sparked controversy even before it hit store shelves on October 30, 1987. A few months prior to the album's release, the first single was issued as part of the soundtrack for “Beverly Hills Cop II”. The single was “I Want Your Sex”, which could best be described as a song about passion, love, and perhaps the biggest subject of all, monogamy.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, except for the fact that Casey Kasem refused to read out the single's full title whenever it was played on his countdown show.

And, except for the fact that MTV had to play the sexually suggestive video after hours.

And, except for the fact that radio stations refused to play the single at all.

Okay, so maybe the single wasn't exactly the smartest choice to issue as the album's first. But despite all that drama, it still managed to peak at #2. Go figure.

Still, I think that had George Michael issued THIS single as the album's first release, it would have made all the difference.

ARTIST: George Michael
SONG: Faith
ALBUM: Faith
DATE RELEASED: October 12, 1987

It didn't take long for “Faith” to make it to the top of the charts. In fact, the follow-up singles (“Father Figure”, “One More Try”, and “Monkey”) also reached #1, making “Faith” one of the biggest selling albums for not only 1987, but 1988 as well. I even think that “Faith” was still a top ranking album throughout 1989 as well, but I can't be certain. As of 2013, “Faith” has reportedly sold over twenty five million copies worldwide, and is frequently appearing on critic's list as being one of the best albums of the 1980s.

But even though George Michael ended up having a wildly successful run of hit singles, and a financially successful world tour in 1988, the idea of being a sex symbol and an idol for millions of teenage girls bothered him, and when he released his next project, “Listen Without Prejudice: Vol. 1” in 1990, he had decided that he would not release any music videos for the new album. He eventually did agree to release a promotional clip for “Freedom '90”, but refused to appear in the video, leaving supermodels Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Cindy Crawford to lip-synch the lyrics instead. He would later use many of the same models for his 1992 single “Too Funky”.

It wasn't until the late 1990s that we would understand why George Michael felt uncomfortable being regarded as a heartthrob for millions of women.

I think the signs started becoming clear roughly around 1994, when George Michael performed the song “Jesus to a Child” at the MTV Europe Music Awards, which instantly became a number one hit in the United Kingdom. The song itself would not be released as a single until the fall of 1995. Now, back then, the song was shrouded in mystery, as the only thing that the general public knew was that the song was dedicated to a man named Anselmo Feleppa, who had died a year prior to George Michael writing the song. Anselmo Feleppa's cause of death was complications from AIDS, and George Michael was reportedly very worried.

As he should have been...considering that Feleppa and Michael were lovers at one time.

Of course, the public learned the truth one day in April 1998 when George Michael was arrested after soliciting a male undercover cop in a men's public washroom in a Beverly Hills park. Shortly after that, Michael announced that he was, in fact, gay. He even recorded a single entitled “Outside” shortly after that incident, poking fun at the arrest.

Truth be told, I think that while the arrest may have been the most humiliating experience of George Michael's life, it may have also been the one thing that he needed to have happen the most. George had always suspected that he was gay since he was young, and initially, he only told a few close friends (including Andrew Ridgeley and one of his sisters) that he was bisexual. But the older he grew, the more he realized that he was gay, and by 1998, I think that he may have sort of wanted to get caught, because once the secret that he had kept for years was out in the open, he began to breathe a little easier. He could finally be true to himself for the first time ever, and I can only speculate that the arrest was simultaneously the worst thing and the best thing to ever happen to him.

These days, George Michael is still recording music and performing concerts. Although he's had some health scares in recent years (in 2011, he was hospitalized with severe pneumonia, effectively canceling his tour dates until early 2012, and in 2013, he was involved in a car accident in which he sustained a head injury), George Michael has proven to the world that he is still a star in the music industry. And, for the first time in his fifty years, I think he is absolutely one hundred per cent comfortable with who he is, and I think that's to be celebrated.

Happy 50th, George Michael!

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