Why George Michael and Wham! succeeded because of Andrew Ridgeley

Andrew Ridgeley did something most can't do to help his band: He put his ego aside.
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George Michael is an icon. That's not breaking news, but it's still very cool to write. And this seems to be the year of George Michael as there is a Wham! biopic on Netflix (it's fantastic by the way) and there are all kinds of commemorations about it being 40 years since the duo of Michael and Andrew Ridgeley released their first studio album, Fantastic.

Of course, the duo would really take off in 1984 with the release of the singles "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," "Careless Whisper," and "Freedom," among others. But one of the things that made Wham! work was that while there was little doubt Michael was the star and was likely going to be even bigger in the future, Ridgeley was not so driven by his own ego that the duo couldn't work.

In fact, the reason the documentary exists is because Ridgeley's mother created fan scrapbooks and the documentary is structured around this. If a mother knew a son was highly upset about how a project was worked, the mother probably isn't going to keep heaps of information about that project, right?

George Michael and Wham! succeeded partly because Andrew Ridgeley had little ego

Ridgeley spoke with The Guardian recently about Michael taking over songwriting duties for Wham! (no offense to Ridgeley, but Michael's songwriting abilities were a big part of what made the band so popular and it's doubtful that would have happened had Ridgeley stuck with being a big part of the writing process). According to Ridgeley:

"(I didn't want to) impose a desire to demand to share even part of the songwriting duties, largely because he was so much better at it. It was important for us to make Wham! the biggest pop act of its kind, and that could only be served by Yog (Michael) assuming the songwriting duties."

Ridgeley, interview with The Guardian

While George Michael was in some ways a ground-breaking artist - some may not know just how difficult it was until fairly recently for a popular musical artist to come out as gay but Michael did in 1998 - it is likely there would have never been a George Michael except for Ridgeley's prodding of him to join a band with him when both were in their late teens. So no, history will not remember Ridgeley as fondly as Michael, but Ridgeley is still an important figure.

Ridgeley did release one solo record, Son of Albert, in 1990, but the reviews were not at all kind. Thankfully, due to his work with George Michael in Wham!, Ridgeley has made a pretty decent living for himself. More importantly, he seems to have been the kind of friend to Michael that we should all have in life.

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