How George Michael changed my life: Famous friends reveal his lasting influence

30 June 2022, 11:37

Friends of George Michael has spoken out about the impact the star had on their lives. (Clockwise from left: George Michael and Geri Halliwell, Elton John, Andrew Ridgeley, Brian May and Robbie Williams))
Friends of George Michael has spoken out about the impact the star had on their lives. (Clockwise from left: George Michael and Geri Halliwell, Elton John, Andrew Ridgeley, Brian May and Robbie Williams)). Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Giorgina Hamilton

George Michael has left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten, and his closest friends and family are the first to say what an impact he made on their lives.

The Wham! star spent a lifetime bringing joy to his fans, giving huge amounts to charity and generally being an all-round lovely man.

Everyone who came into contact with George Michael had ringing endorsements about how kind, gracious and humble he was, and that he was also the first to send himself up and make a joke at his own expense.

Not only that, George also influenced many of the most famous singers of our time, with stars such as Sam Smith, Brian May and Robbie Williams praising the star and the impact he had on their careers.

Here we bring you some of the most beautiful stories from famous faces whose lives were impacted by George Michael's legacy:

  1. Geri Halliwell

    George Michael and Geri Halliwell become great friends after he reached out to her when she left the Spice Girls in 1998.
    George Michael and Geri Halliwell become great friends after he reached out to her when she left the Spice Girls in 1998. Picture: Alamy

    Geri Halliwell was very close to George Michael up until his death, with the star famously helping her get back on her feet after she left The Spice Girls in 1998.

    Speaking to the Daily Mirror 6 months after his death, Geri said:

    "He was everything. He reached out to me when I quit the Spice Girls and asked if I needed somewhere to stay. I was supposed to go to his home in St Tropez for a weekend and stayed three months. That was the first time I saw him as a person and not just a star. It was what I needed."

    Recalling how she felt at the time, Geri added: "He was so sweet to me. I was so lost when I left that band. It was 100% my entire life. I was broken. It was like a divorce. It was too much to deal with too young and I felt vulnerable. But he was so kind and made me laugh.

    "Kenny was in St Tropez too, and we’d go out for meals and sunbathe all day. He meant so much to me. Losing my father and suddenly having this older man in my life was amazing. He was a mentor, father figure and friend."

    On how she will remember George, the former Spice Girl said she will continue to talk about him and remind people of his legacy.

    "Everyone will have their own memories, but all I want to do is share mine. Let’s celebrate him. The artist, the man, and the great human being who will forever be in our hearts. I loved him because he was amazing," she said.

    "No matter how long we went without seeing each other, we’d always just pick it straight back up. That’s the best kind of friend anyone can have."

  2. Sam Smith

    Sam Smith spoke about the huge influence George Michael had on his life
    Sam Smith spoke about the huge influence George Michael had on his life. Picture: Getty

    Sam Smith spoke about their shock in the aftermath of George Michael's death and the influence the singer had on their life and music in an interview in 2017.

    Speaking to the Australian Herald, Sam said:

    "As I was releasing music he became even more of an inspiration. I looked up to him as a role model as a gay artist in pop music.

    "I’d watch his interviews all the time and how he held himself.

    "I loved how flawed he was. He was a superstar but he was a human at the same time, that’s inspiring to me. He wasn’t a robot.”

    Upon George's death in 2016, a devastated Sam took to their Facebook page, writing:

    "George Michael. Words can't express how much you and your music meant and means to me.

    "Please play his music as loud as you can today and celebrate one of the most magical, talented, bravest and important figures in music and life as I know it. Your music and message will live on."

  3. Robbie Williams

    Robbie Williams praised George Michael in a Smooth Radio interview: &squot;I just thought he was a god."
    Robbie Williams praised George Michael in a Smooth Radio interview: 'I just thought he was a god.". Picture: Getty

    On a visit to see us at Smooth Radio, Robbie Williams opened up about the influence George Michael had on him when he was starting out as a solo star.

    Robbie said George's music was 'eternal' and that the singer 'was a god' - no small praise!

    "I was equal parts inspired and terrified, not of George, but of the prospect of trying to be something like George," Robbie said.

    "I was on a few award ceremonies with him in Take That and when I had just left Take That. And when he arrived on stage, whether it be rehearsing or doing the actual performance, you were in the presence of such a magnetic personality, such charisma.

    "So I used to be at the side of the stage going ‘how on earth can I beat that? Because that’s godlike’. And of course, his music will last forever. His music is eternal. He inspired in a lot of different ways. I just thought he was a god."

  4. Sir Elton John

    George Michael and Sir Elton John had a friendship that lasted a lifetime.
    George Michael and Sir Elton John had a friendship that lasted a lifetime. Picture: Getty

    Sir Elton John would be the first to say he and George Michael had a turbulent friendship at times, but it only seemed to make the pair stronger in the long run.

    The duo fell out a few times in their lives, notably about Elton's criticism of George's album 'Patience' in 2004 and the star reportedly wanting George to go to rehab in 2012, however the two had a deep love and respect for one another and their friendship endured for a lifetime.

    "He was probably one of the most brilliant songwriters this country’s ever produced, and certainly one of the best vocalists ever, one of the best in the world," Elton said on his radio show The Rocket Hour in February 2017, a month after George's untimely death.

    Watch Elton John and George Michael's stunning 1985 duet of 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me' below:

    “It was an amazing friendship based on music to start with, and I remember sitting in the car just off of Hyde Park listening to a cassette of ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ and I said, ‘George, that’s the nearest record I’ve heard to a Motown record for years and years.’

    “It was such a great record, and he and I became great friends. I just want to remember him for his wonderful music and his kindness, which people are commenting on.”

    “He was the kindest, most generous man, and did it without wanting any publicity. I’ve seen him being so kind to so many people. I’ll miss him so much for his music but more than anything for his humanity.”

  5. Christy Turlington

    Christy Turlington, who starred in George Michael's music video for 'Freedom' in 1990 opened up about her time with George
    Christy Turlington, who starred in George Michael's music video for 'Freedom' in 1990 opened up about her time with George. Picture: Alamy

    Christy Turlington, who starred in George Michael's music video for 'Freedom' in 1990 has revealed she admired George for his 'struggle' and 'open heart'.

    The supermodel recalled her time with the singer in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2018:

    “I remember [George] being kind of shy,” she tells Rolling Stone. “He was a person who was certainly in control; his aura. He came in with a baseball hat. He didn’t have an entourage or anything like that. The whole production seemed pretty pared down, in retrospect.”

    "I remember George being incredibly focused and in control of everything, but also fun in the moments when we got to just hang out," Christy said. "By the end of the shoot, I couldn't not hear the song in my head!"

    "Thank you for your soulful music and open heart.” Christy said.

    When the interviewer asked about what she meant by “open heart,” she recalled the feeling of being on set with him that day.

    “It was about his vulnerability,” she said. “Without knowing him very well, certainly there was a sense that he was a person who struggled a lot having a persona and trying to maintain some kind of private life publicly.

    "There are some people who do it better than others, clearly, and I thought he was just very open-hearted about what he was dealing with in the moment at any phase of his life and career. And I think that’s something to respect. It’s something to learn from.”

  6. Don McLean

    Don MclEan (pictured) said he wished he had met George Michael before he died.
    Don McLean (pictured) said he wished he had met George Michael before he died. Picture: Getty

    George Michael famously recorded a cover of Don McLean's song 'The Grave' in 2003, to protest the Iraq war.

    At the time of the song's release, Don released a statement on his website praising George's bravery:

    "I am proud of George Michael for standing up for life and sanity. I am delighted that he chose a song of mine to express these feelings," he said.

    "We must remember that the Wizard is really a cowardly old man hiding behind a curtain with a loud microphone. It takes courage and a song to pull the curtain open and expose him – Good Luck George."

    Upon hearing of George's death on December 25, 2016, Don McLean made a heartfelt statement on his Facebook page:

    "I never met George Michael but I wish I had. I would have thanked him for the beautiful performance of my song “The Grave” which he did to protest the invasion of Iraq and the disastrous war which he knew would follow and still continues.

    "The authorities had everybody cowered in the shadows as we hoped for a ’60s style protest which never materialized. George Michael was fearless and had a great artist’s need to speak the truth even in cowardly times. We should remember what he did. I always will."

  7. Brian May

    Brian May said George Michael's vocals were 'staggering'
    Brian May said George Michael's vocals were 'staggering'. Picture: Getty

    Queen star, Brian May, was stunned by George Michael's vocal power when he sang 'Somebody To Love' at Wembley in 1992.

    George joined Queen on stage at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and Brian has since said George was 'staggering' and 'one of the great surprises, to most people, of the evening.'

    "I would have to say it was a thrill to work with George Michael," he said after the show.

    "Without any kind of falseness, he was one of the great surprises to most people of the evening, I know. It wasn't a surprise to me because I knew he could do it. I knew he had that in him.

    "In addition to the great delicacy which he has — the great control, great dynamics — he has enormous power. And from the moment he stepped into the rehearsal room and was doing Somebody to Love, we went, 'Whoa.'"I think in most people's feeling, he got closest to the range of Freddie himself."

    "Strange enough, the rehearsals were very memorable," Brian recalled. "The calibre of people we had there was so incredible, and the commitment, the feeling was so wonderful. It was great. It did feel good.

    "People like Mr Michael — it was staggering to work with people of that calibre."

  8. Andrew Ridgeley

    Andrew Ridgeley told Kate Garraway that he misses George Michael
    Andrew Ridgeley told Kate Garraway that he misses his 'dearest friend' George Michael. Picture: Getty

    In an interview with Smooth Radio's Kate Garraway in October 2019, George's Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley spoke about missing his friend.

    "You know, I think anyone who knew him, anyone whose life he had any kind of influence upon, misses him," he said.

    "And as my dearest friend of my youth and beyond, I miss him perhaps as much as anyone. You don’t expect your peers to start disappearing in what actually, in this day and age, is a relatively young age."

    In a later interview with Graham Norton, Ridgeley spoke about George's raw talent: “I was never jealous of my best friend. But I was envious of his talent."

    “I had achieved my ambition of being in a band and playing live and I wanted him to go on and realise his talent as much as he did.”

    The star continued: “Personally, it’s our friendship – it will endure, it is eternal.

    “For everyone else, he was an exceptional vocalist and songwriter. He was brilliant."