In case you haven’t heard the sad news, singer George Michael passed away suddenly on Christmas morning at his home in Oxfordshire. Fans around the world are currently mourning the untimely death of Michael, who was only 53 years old. But here in Beijing (and around China) the news has struck a very personal chord for many.
Some of you might not know this, but Michael actually played a pivitol role in ushering foreign music into China. In the 1980s, Michael's band Wham! was one of the most popular acts in the world. In 1985, Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley made the unprecedented move to travel to Beijing, where they performed in front of 15,000 people at Beijing Workers’ Stadium in a truly game-changing concert.
The concert was a historic one for many reasons, but mainly because Wham! was the first foreign act to perform in a very newly opened China. During their groundbreaking trip to China, the group also performed in Guangzhou at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.
These performances were such a big deal that it took a whopping 18 months to arrange the two concerts. And the fact that the shows happened at all is still rather mind boggling. Around the same time, the government actually refused to allow many other popular Western bands – such as Queen and the Rolling Stones – to perform in China.
Before these historic concerts, music like Wham!’s was largely unknown in China to the point that many concert goers didn’t know what to make of the group’s poppy tunes, flashy outfits and controversial lyrics.
Clearly, things have changed a lot in the past 30 years. But one thing’s for sure, Michael’s visit to Beijing in 1985 was an incredibly important one. It's one that is sure to be remembered for generations to come.