Remembering George Michael (Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou) and His Greek Roots
December 25, 2016 marked the passing of the talented Greek-English artist, George Michael. He gave the globe a number of musical hits through his solo endeavors and with his duo Wham!, as well as supported many important philanthropic causes. As Newsweek Magazine stated: “George Michael’s legacy is at least twofold: he was both a musical icon and a figure of hope and heroism for his communities.” Born in England, with Greek Cypriot roots, his full given name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, thus George Michael became his “stage name”.
A long-lasting nickname from childhood, Michael was known by his family, close friends, and biggest fans, as “Yog,” a derivative of Georgios. The nickname Yog even turned out a fan club called “Yours Only George.” Another nickname he was known by was “The Singing Greek.” Michael would affectionately end his tweets on Twitter with a statement of love and then, “The Singing Greek.” Adding to his connection to his heritage, Michael founded an independent record label titled Aegean Records. Michael was also Nouno (Godfather) to James Kennedy (a musician and DJ of Bravo’s popular television show Vanderpump Rules) and James’ brother Harry. Their father Andros Georgiou was Michael’s childhood friend.
In touch with his Greek roots, at his performances in Greece, Michael shared moments with his fans of celebrating his culture. At his July 26, 2007 performance at Olympic Stadium in Athens, GR, Michael walked across the stage carrying and waving a Greek flag. Thanks to the documentation of YouTube users, you can watch this special moment and hear the crowd go wild as they chanted “Georgios, Georgios!” For a brief moment, he indulged the crowd and spoke to them in Greek, “Ευχαριστώ για τα είκοσι πέντε χρονια” (Thank you for the 25 years). After, he humorously said “Sorry that’s all the Greek you’re getting for now.”
Certainly an icon, Michael’s dedication to philanthropy and songs touched people everywhere. In the time after his passing, social media and television news were flooded with stories and memories of how he personally touched his fans and peers in the music industry. Be it a song that holds significance in your life… a cause he contributed to and supported… or the memory of the cross earring and that smoldering smile… Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou’s memory will indeed be eternal.
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