Andrew Ridgeley Says Wham! Bandmate George Michael's Death 'Hit Me Like a Punch to the Gut'
In a new memoir, Andrew Ridgely opens up about his former bandmate's shocking 2016 death: "I felt crushed by sadness"
In a new memoir, British pop star Andrew Ridgeley pays tribute to his late bandmate George Michael.
Throughout Wham! George Michael & Me, Ridgeley looks back on his life-long friendship with Michael, from becoming pals at school and breaking out as British music royalty to watching Michael find solo success. While much of the memoir honors Michael’s life and musical legacy, Ridgeley also recalls the heartbreaking moment he learned of his close friend’s death on Dec. 25, 2016.
In the book, Ridgeley reveals he had sent Michael a text message on Christmas Day to thank him for a gift and to wish him a happy holiday; just five minutes later, Ridgeley received a phone call from Michael’s sister Melanie.
“I honestly thought she was calling to wish me a happy Christmas, or maybe she was with George and the family, and they were ringing to arrange a get-together. There was certainly nothing to hint at the awful news that followed — that George had passed away,” Ridgeley writes in his book.
Ridgely reveals that he was overcome with sorrow.
“The news hit me like a punch to the gut. It was as if my world had been pulled out from underneath me,” he writes. “I put down the phone and, doubled over in grief, began to sob. … I felt crushed by sadness.”
Michael was 53 when he died; he died of natural causes and suffered a dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and fatty liver, the coroner revealed in March 2017.
Ridgeley says he struggled with the cause of death for some time.
“The circumstances of how he had died seemed unclear, which made the grieving seem even terribly raw — there was no way of getting any real closure,” he says in the book. “A heart condition was eventually recorded as the cause of death, but there were still a number of questions. He seemed to be in good health at the time and there are conflicting reports surrounding the night that preceded his passing. It now seems as if we may never know what really happened.”
Ridgeley met Michael (real name: Georgios Panayiotou) when they were schoolmates in England. They formed a band in their teens, hustled for years and broke out with the Wham! single “Young Guns (Go For It)” in 1982, then went on to become one of the most celebrated British bands of the ’80s, thanks to hits like “Club Tropicana,” “Careless Whisper,” “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and the holiday favorite “Last Christmas.” They disbanded in 1986, and Michael launched his solo career.
“Despite the pain of his death, George is still very much alive in my memory today,” Ridgeley writes in his memoir. “A few years on from that tragic Christmas, I’ll sometimes catch myself thinking of our friendship and those years together as young kids in Wham! … And more often than not I’ll remember the laughs we enjoyed together when we were on our own in a bar, or backstage, or traveling, chatting over a beer, or messing around just in each other’s company. When it was just the two of us.”