When a nervous George Michael, 21, sang a duet with Stevie Wonder and blew everyone away

10 June 2021, 16:53

In 1985, a young George Michael was just 21-years-old when he got on stage and sang a flawless performance of hit song 'Love’s in Need of Love Today' with none other than Stevie Wonder himself.
In 1985, a young George Michael was just 21-years-old when he got on stage and sang a flawless performance of hit song 'Love’s in Need of Love Today' with none other than Stevie Wonder himself. Picture: NBC

By Giorgina Hamilton

During a US TV special in 1985, Stevie Wonder brought out very special guest, George Michael, to help him sing ‘Love’s In Need Of Love Today.’

In 1985, a young George Michael was just 21-years-old when he got on stage and sang a flawless performance of hit song 'Love’s in Need of Love Today' with none other than Stevie Wonder himself.

When Stevie was playing the opening track from his seminal Songs In The Key Of Life LP, he turned to the then-still-emerging talent that was George Michael and gave him the floor for the finale.

See more: 7 times George Michael blew us away with phenomenal cover songs

The moment happened during a TV special to celebrate the famous Apollo Theatre in New York's 50th anniversary.

NBC threw a party to celebrate Motown's legacy and George Michael had the honour of being one of only three white artists asked to perform.

See more: George Michael impressing David Bowie and Seal with Freddie Mercury song is so powerful

When Stevie Wonder was playing the opening track from his seminal Songs In The Key Of Life LP, he turned to the then-still-emerging talent that was George Michael and gave him the floor.
When Stevie Wonder was playing the opening track from his seminal Songs In The Key Of Life LP, he turned to the then-still-emerging talent that was George Michael and gave him the floor. Picture: NBC
The moment happened during a TV special to celebrate the famous Apollo Theatre in New York's 50th anniversary.
The moment happened during a TV special to celebrate the famous Apollo Theatre in New York's 50th anniversary. Picture: NBC
NBC threw a party to celebrate Motown's legacy and George Michael had the honour of being one of only three white artists asked to perform.
NBC threw a party to celebrate Motown's legacy and George Michael had the honour of being one of only three white artists asked to perform. Picture: NBC

In what would be one of the young star's first forays as a solo star away from Wham!, George was joined by Rod Stewart and Boy George for the incredible evening.

See more: 21-year-old George Michael's duet of 'Careless Whisper' with Smokey Robinson is magnificent

Few singers could stand on stage with Stevie Wonder and hold their own but George managed it effortlessly and despite later humbly saying he 'didn't even know why he was invited', it wasn't the only incredible duet George performed that evening.

The young star also took to the stage with soul legend Smokey Robinson for a breathtaking version of his new single Careless Whisper, which would go on to be that year's no.1 single.

See more: George Michael behind the scenes: Pictures of the off-duty star in his early years

The Motown Returns to the Apollo gig was shown as a three-hour TV special on NBC and featured an impressive line-up of 60 entertainers included Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, James Brown, Patti LaBelle and many more.

The Motown Returns to the Apollo gig was shown as a three-hour TV special on NBC and featured an impressive line-up of 60 entertainers included Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, James Brown, Patti LaBelle and many more.
The Motown Returns to the Apollo gig was shown as a three-hour TV special on NBC and featured an impressive line-up of 60 entertainers included Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, James Brown, Patti LaBelle and many more. Picture: NBC
In what would be one of the young star's first forays as a solo star away from Wham!, George was joined by Rod Stewart and Boy George for the incredible evening.
In what would be one of the young star's first forays as a solo star away from Wham!, George was joined by Rod Stewart and Boy George for the incredible evening. Picture: NBC
George Michael later gave a fascinating interview explaining how the incredible duet with Stevie Wonder (pictured) came about and how he really felt on the fateful night.
George Michael later gave a fascinating interview explaining how the incredible duet with Stevie Wonder (pictured) came about and how he really felt on the fateful night. Picture: NBC

While it wouldn't be the last time George Michael and Stevie Wonder would duet together – the pair went on to sing 'Living For The City' at the VH1 Awards in 1997 – George gave a fascinating interview explaining how 1985's collaboration came about and how he really felt on that fateful night.

See more: When George Michael and Pavarotti sang a spine-tingling duet of 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me'

In the article featured in Smash Hits in 1986, George explained: "We were contacted two weeks before it happened and I was asked if I would like to appear.

"They phoned back and said they would like me to do ‘Careless Whisper’ with Smokey Robinson, and were there any other artists that I would like to work with from Motown?

See more: 8 times George Michael stunned strangers with private acts of charity

"At which my eyes lit up and I said ‘Stevie Wonder’, thinking there would be no chance of doing it, and they said ‘yes’.

"And then there was backwards and forwards talk about what numbers we should do and I very tentatively put forward an old Stevie Wonder song called ‘Love’s In Need Of Love Today’ and he said he was delighted that I’d chosen that one.

Watch George Michael and Stevie Wonder's duet below:

George Michael and Stevie Wonder sang 'Living For The City' at the VH1 Awards in Universal City, California in 1997.
George Michael and Stevie Wonder sang 'Living For The City' at the VH1 Awards in Universal City, California in 1997. Picture: Getty

"In fact, when we actually did it he worked this whole speech around it and it became the finale to the show. It was amazing. I was there in a daze, I just couldn’t understand why they had invited me.

See more: 19-year-old George Michael's phenomenal first TV appearance with Wham! - watch video

"That was great for me because it was a kind of black acceptance for Wham!. I mean the records on that label are some of the best records of all time.

"To be one of three white people involved (along with Boy George and Rod Stewart) on a show like that was just amazing."

In his 2019 book Wham: George and Me, George Michael's Wham! bandmate, Andrew Ridgeley, would explain that the Motown concert was the moment the artist was seen in a different light by the music industry.

See more: Moment George Michael first locks eyes with ‘future soulmate’ in audience while singing Careless Whisper

“George performed flawlessly, lacing Stevie Wonder’s classic ‘Love’s In Need of Love Today’ with his own distinctive style and character," he said.

George Michael's Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley would say in 2019 that the duet with Stevie Wonder changed George's career: "Suddenly it felt as if I wasn’t the only one who truly understood the scale of George’s talent."
George Michael's Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley would say in 2019 that the duet with Stevie Wonder changed George's career: "Suddenly it felt as if I wasn’t the only one who truly understood the scale of George’s talent.". Picture: Getty

"As he traded vocal lines with the great man himself, George confirmed my strongly held belief that he was every bit the equal of the people he was sharing the stage with that night."

See more: Young George Michael, 21, surprises Terry Wogan with wise and articulate interview answers

Andrew went on to say that he felt the night was an unveiling of George's abilities as a performer.

"Suddenly it felt as if I wasn’t the only one who truly understood the scale of George’s talent.

See more: Forgotten photos of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley at the height of their Wham! fame

"Everybody could see it … As the crowd rose to their feet for a standing ovation following his epic, gospel-infused duet with Stevie Wonder, there was little doubt that we were in the presence of greatness."