Andrew Ridgeley — the other half of ’80s pop duo Wham! — has remained mostly out of the public eye since the unexpected death of George Michael on Dec. 25, 2016. But at the 2017 Brit Awards, Ridgeley stepped into the spotlight to deliver a touching tribute to his friend and former bandmate.
Joined by Helen “Pepsi” DeMacque & Shirlie Holliman (who toured with Wham! as backing singers Pepsi & Shirlie), Ridgeley talked about the band’s early days and Michael breaking out into solo stardom.
“We were the best of friends,” Ridgeley recalls of befriending Michael in 1975. “We monkeyed around recording sketches and jingles in George’s bedroom… On Nov. 5, 1979, I phoned George and said ‘It’s now or never.’ Then we formed our first band.”
Holliman remembered their fruitless early attempts at getting signed, sending demos off to labels that were returned with “no thank you” notes. Eventually, they scored time in a studio and managed to record a demo of “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)” and the verse and chorus of “Careless Whisper,” which just barely managed to get them signed.
As Wham! toured the world, DeMacque recalled the joy of listening to his “stunning, pitch perfect voice” every night. Through tears, Holliman said, “George was like a brother to me and I will always be so proud of his incredible achievement.”
Ridgeley wrapped the trio’s teary tribute by asserting Michael’s place in the all-time pop pantheon. “His is a legacy of unquestionable brilliance which will continue to shine and resonate for generations to come. George has left in his songs, in the transcendent beauty of his voice, and in the poetic expression of his soul, the very best of himself. I loved him, and in turn we, you, have been loved.”
Following their emotional words, Chris Martin took the stage to duet with George Michael on “A Different Corner” via vintage video footage.