Born in Windlesham, Surrey, Ridgeley grew up in Bushey, Hertfordshire, and attended Bushey Meads School, where he met George Michael. Their common musical interests led them to form Wham!. After approaching various record labels with a homemade tape (which took ten minutes to record in Ridgeley's living room), they found a record label willing to sign them, Innervision.
Following Wham!'s break-up in late-1986, Ridgeley moved to Monaco and tried his hand at Formula Three motor racing. Meeting with little success, Ridgeley moved to Los Angeles for the hopeful singer/actor crossover but returned to England permanently in 1990.
CBS Records (later Sony Music), having taken up the option on Wham!'s contract that specified solo albums from Michael and Ridgeley, released a guitar and drum driven solo effort from Ridgeley, Son of Albert, in 1990. His brother Paul played drums. Singles included "Shake" and "Red Dress". CBS Records passed up the option of a second album.
After retiring from active music-making, Ridgeley still remained active in music-writing under various pseudonyms.
Ridgeley began surfing in the early 1990s. While surfing with his brother off the coast of England, both men contracted a waterborne illness from the raw sewage being discharged from a nearby pipe. After recovering from his illness, Ridgeley gave an interview to The Times. He went on to become a prominent environmentalist in the cause of water quality at English surfing beaches and riverways, working with the UK charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).
Ridgeley is a partner in an English business that makes surfing equipment. He frequently lends his name and donates money to help pass laws against the discharge of raw sewage in UK offshore waters. Ridgeley's and SAS's efforts enjoyed success in recent years, having influence upon numerous safe sewage laws that have virtually eliminated E. coli illness and deaths in the UK.
Because of his appearance, he was given the nickname "Osama bin Laden" by his golfing friends.