George Michael: A Look Back at His Pop Culture Milestones
From an '80s fashion revolution to "Last Christmas."
Christmas feels a lot colder with the loss of George Michael, who passed away at the age of 53.
Michael, who emerged on the pop scene as half of the duo, Wham!, formed with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981, left an indelible imprint on pop music. He later found success as a solo artist, selling over 100 million albums, winning two Grammys as well as three Brit and American Music Awards.
Below, look back at some of his major moments in pop culture and on the charts.
He Brought Rap Into the U.K. Pop Music Scene
When Wham! arrived on the scene, Michael rapped in the single, "Wham Rap! ("Enjoy What You Do"). Rap was still very much an American phenomenon, but this song brought the sound to the U.K. with a somewhat political message challenging Britain's left wing and the "right to work" platform as the duo embraced unemployment and asked "Do you enjoy what you do?"
He Started A Fashion Revolution
Wham! had their first No. 1 hit in 1984 with "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go," but the song encouraged more than hanging on like a yo-yo. The charismatic and handsome singer wore shirts designed by Katharine Hamnett and brightly covered gloves, igniting a fashion trend that extended to teens across the globe.
He Did His Part in "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
In 1984, Michael joined the biggest stars of the decade — including organizers Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, along with Bono, Sting, Boy George, Simon LeBon and Paul Young — to record "Do They Know It's Christmas?" His line — "But say a prayer/pray for the other ones" — is a standout moment on the track.
He Created A Christmas Classic
What do Taylor Swift, Jimmy Eat World, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ashley Tisdale, Avril Lavigne and the cast of Glee all have in common? They covered "Last Christmas," a song released as a double A side of the "Everything She Wants" single. To this day, nothing tops the 1984 original.
He Teams Up With Aretha Franklin for His First Grammy Award
When Michael joined Aretha Franklin for a duet on the song, "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me," the results were magical. Written by Simon Climie, later known as Clime Fisher, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well as the U.K. chart — Franklin's only No. 1 in the U.K. Featuring future American Idol judge Randy Jackson on the track, the song went on to win a Grammy Award.
He Encouraged People to "Explore Monogamy"
"I Want Your Sex" was initially released on the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop 2, but was then included on his breakout solo album, Faith. The video — an ode to his monogamous relationship with then-girlfriend Kathy Jeung — generated controversy for its racy theme, and had censorship issues while the video took heat for its sexual themes. In 2002, MTV2 placed it at No. 3 in its countdown of MTV's Most Controversial Videos Ever to Air on MTV.
He Encouraged a Generation to Have Faith
He needed some time off from that emotion, and was rewarded as "Faith" was recognized by Billboard as the record of the year. The record had such staying power it was later covered by both Limp Bizkit and Lake Street Dive, respectively.
Madonna Presents Him With The Video Vanguard Award
As a member of Wham! and later with the release of his solo album, Faith, Michael was honored one year after Michael Jackson as the recipient of the Video Vanguard Award in 1989. He was presented with the award by Madonna, who praised his "classy videos."
He Didn't Let the Sun Go Down on Him
Originally performed as a duet with Elton John at Live Aid in 1985, Michael repeated its success in 1991 when he brought the singer out as a surprise guest at Wembley. The 1991 single "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" shot to No. 1 in the U.S. and the U.K. — besting its best chart performance of No. 2. Did anyone else sound classier saying, "Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Elton John"?
He Joined Queen for An Iconic Tribute to Freddie Mercury
One year after the passing of Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury, George Michael joined the band for a truly epic version of the group's "Somebody to Love." The performance was widely praised as one of the best of the tribute, so much so there was talk of Michael joining the band as the new lead singer. The single shot to the No. 1 position on the U.K. charts in 1993.
He Slowly Embraced His Own Sexuality
Years before he officially came out to the world, Michael recorded this beautiful song on his 1996 record, Older, dedicated to his Brazilian lover Anselmo Feleppo, who died of an AIDS-related brain hemorrhage. He consistently dedicated the song to him until his death.
He "Shoots the Dog" Opposing the Iraq War
In 2002, Michael made his voice heard in opposition to the Iraq War with "Shoot the Dog." The song was critical of then-president George W. Bush and Tony Blair. The video featured an appearance by Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.
His 2008 Appearance on 'American Idol' Inspires at the Finale
In 2008, Michael wasn't looking well, but he took to the American Idol stage like a pro to perform "Praying For Time," from his album Listen Without Prejudice, Volume 1. Carrie Underwood performed the song on the special, Idol Gives Back, but Michael's version on the Season 7 finale was magical. This was vintage Michael, and a goosebumps-inspiring performance.
His Appearance With James Corden on 'Comic Relief" Kickstarts Carpool Karaoke
Michael's 2011 appearance on Comic Relief with James Corden — where he jokes that Corden "doesn't want to be seen in public with a gay man" — snowballs into the two men singing the Wham! hit "I'm Your Man" in the car. It's a brief moment, but we now have Michael to thank for the popular sketch, which has gone on to feature appearances by Mariah Carey, Madonna, Adele, Selena Gomez, One Direction and more.
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.