George Michael and Aretha Franklin’s duet marks its 35th anniversary

Singers Aretha Franklin and George Michael released their hit duet I Knew You Were Waiting For Me 35 years ago. The song came out on the 23rd January 1987 and marked an important step in Michael’s development as a solo artist.

George Michael found success alongside Andrew Ridgely in Wham! and they created three albums of material between 1982 and 1986, toured the world and scored a stack of hits. In 1986 the band broke up and fans eagerly awaited more solo material from the singer.

Soul legend Aretha Franklin was also riding high, her 1985 album Who’s Zoomin’ Who? had included the massive hit Freeway of Love and she’d also topped the charts with the Eurythmics collaborating on the now anthemic song Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves. 

Michael’s solo career had begun long before Wham! announced they were splitting up. In the USA his band’s song Careless Whisper had been put out as a solo record, and the previous year he’d shared the delicate ballad A Different Corner months before Wham’s final album was released.

When he was asked to collaborate with Franklin, one of his musical heroes, he didn’t feel confident writing a song for them sing together. Instead the record company put forward a song that had been written by Simon Climie and Dennis Morgan.

The recording featured some well known artists, including producer Narada Michael Walden on drums, Walter Afanasieff – who would go on to produce Mariah Carey’s early work – is on keyboards, future American Idol judge Randy Jackson plays the bass, and Jeanie Tracy is one of the backing vocalists.

The song was a massive hit that kept Michael in the public eye while he continued to work on his debut album Faith. It was a number one hit in the UK, USA and Australia, and was Franklin’s only UK number one in her long career.

Songwriter Simon Climie went on to create the 80s pop group Climie Fisher, there 1988 hit Love Changes Everything was also written with Dennis Morgan. Climie went on to work with Rod Stewart, U2, Eric Clapton, Westlife and many others.

Who else did George Michael record duets with?

For an artist of his stature George Michael was definitely quality over quantity, during his career he record five albums of material, alongside three albums during his time with Wham!

While he was an accomplished songwriter, he recorded a lot of covers of others people’s work during his career too, and definitely loved a duet. Jody Watley, Lisa Stansfield, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Mary J Blighe and Paul McCartney were just a few of the artists he collaborated with.

In 1985 he collaborated with Elton John on the single Wrap Her Up which saw the two singers listing famous women they’d like to go home with. The same year George appeared at Live Aid with Elton singing Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, they’d score a hit with another live recording of the track in the early 90s.

George also appeared on the debut album from Shalamar singer Jody Watley performing the track Learn To Say No. He teamed up with country singer Toby Bourke for Waltz Away Dreaming and provided backing vocals for other artists including former Wham! collaborators Pepsi and Shirlie and Deon Estus.

He also teamed up with British artist Lisa Moorish when she recorded the Wham! song I’m Your Man. He joined Whitney Houston for a re-recording of her song If I Told You That, and put out a duet with Mary J Blighe where they covered the Stevie Wonder song As.

For his 25th anniversary Greatest Hits album he re-recorded his song Heal the Pain with Sir Paul McCartney and teamed up with Sugarbabes member Mutya Buena for This Is Not Real Love.  

At the Freddie Mercury tribute concert he performed Somebody To Love with Queen, as well as joining Lisa Stansfield for These Are The Day Of Our Lives. The performances were put out on CD and gave George Michael another hit record.

He also recorded a duet with Ray Charles, a cover of Stevie Wonders Blame It On The Sun, and teamed up with Tony Bennet to sing How Do You Keep The Music Playing? 

Harder to find is George Michael’s cover of the Dead or Alive track You Spin Me Round (Like a Record). he put the tune out under the name Infamy and oly a limited number of copies were released. It’s a duet with former Wham! backing singer Pepsi DeMacque.

OIP Staff


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