Boy George (born George Alan O'Dowd 14 June 1961 in Eltham, London) is an English singer-songwriter, who was part of the English New Romantic movement which emerged in the early 1980s. He helped give androgyny an international stage with the success of Culture Club during the 1980s. His music is often classified as blue-eyed soul, which is influenced by rhythm and blues and reggae. His 1990s and 2000s-era solo music has glam influences such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Being involved in many art forms (songwriting, Djing, writing books, designing clothes, taking photography and many more), he released less music material in the last decade, although a new single, entitled "Yes We Can" is going to be released digitally on October 12th.
The band signed with Virgin Records in the UK and with Epic Records in the US, and released its debut album Kissing To Be Clever in 1982. The album's third single, "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?", reached #1 in sixteen countries and #2 in the United States. This single was followed by "Time (Clock Of The Heart)" (not on the UK LP), which reached the US #2, and "I'll Tumble 4 Ya", which reached #9. This gave Culture Club the distinction of being the first group since the Beatles to have three top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 from a debut album. Their next album, Colour By Numbers was also a success.
The single "Church Of The Poison Mind" (featuring Helen Terry) became a Top 10 hit, and "Karma Chameleon" became a #1 single in numerous countries around the world, including the U.S., where it stayed at #1 for three weeks, and the UK, where it was the best-selling single of the year, spending six weeks at #1. It stands as the group's biggest hit. "Miss Me Blind" and "It's A Miracle" were Top 5 and Top 20 hits respectively, and "Victims" was another Top 3 UK hit.
George became the main songwriter of the band for Culture Club's contributions to the movie soundtrack Electric Dreams. George and Roy Hay had already written "Love Lies Lost" for backing singer Helen Terry and a new tune "Passing Friend" for the upcoming Beach Boys album but the two Culture Club songs for Electric Dreams, "The Dream" and "Love is Love", was also written solely by George and Roy Hay. Moreover, the P. P. Arnold song "Electric Dreams" was credited only to George and Phil Pickett, who also co-wrote "Karma Chameleon". George was one of the lead vocalists on the Band Aid single "Do They Know It's Christmas". In early 1986, he guest-starred on an episode of The A-Team entitled "Cowboy George", in which he played himself.
In 1985, George developed a heroin addiction, which affected Culture Club's ability to perform and record. Their 1986 album From Luxury to Heartache dragged on for so long that producer Arif Mardin had to disband the sessions and leave it up to engineer Lew Hahn to record the final vocals. In July, he was arrested by the British police for possession of cannabis. Several days later, keyboardist Michael Rudetski, who played on From Luxury to Heartache and had co-written “Sexuality” and "What Have I Got To Lose" with George, was found dead of a heroin overdose in George's home. This followed a second death, friend Mark Vaultier who overdosed on methadone and Valium at a party Boy George was attending but got arrested en route on suspicion of carrying drugs. A tour of America was cancelled and the group had disbanded by late 1986.
Still battling his heroin addiction and subsequent dependence on prescription narcotics, George started recording his first solo album. In 1987, Sold was released and George enjoyed several hit singles including "Everything I Own" (UK#1), "Keep Me In Mind" (UK#29), "To be Reborn" (UK#13) as well as the title song (UK#24). Despite UK success, George never really managed to duplicate that success in the United States, especially because he was not able to go to America because of the previous year's drug charges, though he did score a moderate hit with the song "Live My Life" (#40 US) from the Hiding Out soundtrack. His second US album High Hat comprised of songs from two of his solo British albums released after Sold. The R&B song "Don't Take My Mind On A Trip", produced by Teddy Riley, became the only hit from High Hat, reaching top 5 on the R&B chart. His following release was a song to protest against the governing UK Conservative Party's legal restrictions on anyone working for a local authority promoting homosexuality, 'No Clause 28 (Emilio Pasquez Space Face Full Remix)' was an underground acid house hit.
In 1989, George formed his own label, More Protein and recorded under the name Jesus Loves You, (writing under the pseudonym Angela Dust). He released two other underground club songs "After The Love" and "Generations Of Love", and "Bow Down Mister". With "Bow Down Mister", he returned to the UK top 30 in 1991. Inspired by his involvement in the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON), George had written the song during a trip to India. A third single taken from it, "One On One" became popular in its single version, remixed by Massive Attack).
From March 1990 to April 1991, George presented a weekly chat and music show on the Power Station satellite channel called Blue Radio. In 1992, George had a hit with a version of the song "The Crying Game" (produced by the Pet Shop Boys), which was featured on the movie of the same name, and reached the top twenty of the Billboard Hot 100. Although he had had solo hits in the UK, this would be his first and only big US pop hit since Culture Club's 1986 single "Move Away".
George made many recordings between 1990 and 1994, but none surfaced. A pop and world music-oriented album was scheduled for release by Jesus Loves You in 1992, named "Popularity Breeds Contempt", but never came out. Only three tracks with their respective remixed versions survived, ending up on the "Sweet Toxic Love" EP, released in the last year of the 1990 year (which only reached #65 in the UK Chart). The album (the tentative title of which, "Popularity Breeds Contempt", also survived as opening line spoken at the beginning of the 1993 collection called "At Worst: The Best of Boy George and Culture Club") was shelved, as it were, in favour of the recent growing interest in rock for George.
He released a rock-driven Cheapness and Beauty in 1995, but the album was not successful, although "Same Thing in Reverse" did become a minor US hit. A follow-up to Cheapness And Beauty, tentatively named "Too Spooky" was recorded in spring 1996 but it was shelved. Some of the tracks from those sessions appeared later on The Unrecoupable One Man Bandit Volume One, which was at first sold on the internet only and then distributed by several minor labels. Another project from the time was a new group that would include Boy George and two long-time musicians, John Themis and Richie Stevens. Initially named "Shallow", it was later re-named "Dubversive". The project took place in 1997 and was to include trip-hop, dub and reggae. The project was shelved, this time due to a lack of interest by record companies because of the group's lack of commercial appeal. Some songs from those sessions surfaced later on the 2002 Culture Club Box set and some others appeared on eBay in 2004.
On some other labels, several dance-oriented tracks were released in various countries. For example, "Love is Leaving" went top 3 in Italy and "When Will You Learn" reached the top positions in the Switzerland charts. "When Will You Learn" was also nominated for the Best Dance Recording, at the Grammy Awards. In 1999, Boy George collaborated on songs with dance-oriented acts. For example, "Why Go," a slow-paced track with Faithless, from their Sunday 8 PM LP, was later released in a remixed form in some European countries and Australia. A track was done with Groove Armada, named "Innocence Is Lost", but was only released on a promo 12" in 1999.
Despite his lack of solo success, Boy George remained a figure in the public eye. Although he never reached the same level of success as in the 80's and early 90's, he has a second career as a notable music DJ. He started DJing in the early 1990s and came to the attention of legendary rave/house promoters Fantazia who asked him to mix 1 of the discs on the 2 volume in their new compilation series Fantazia The House Collection 2. This compilation was a success in the UK, going gold. The album was also sold to Sony for European-wide release. London mega club Ministry of Sound hired him to compile one of their first CDs, and it promptly sold 100,000 copies. He then completed some compilations for them, five of them being the Annual I to V. In 2002/2003 he starred in the London musical Taboo, based on his life (George didn't play himself, opting instead to take on the persona of Australian-born performance artist Leigh Bowery). Boy George was nominated for a Tony Awards for the "Best Musical Score" and Taboo was a great success in London's West End, though a heavily altered Rosie O'Donnell-produced run in New York was short-lived (100 performances only, versus the two-year run in England).
In 2002, Boy George released U Can Never B2 Straight, an "unplugged" collection of rare and lesser known acoustic works. It contained unreleased tracks from previous years as well as some ballads from Cheapness And Beauty and the Culture Club album Don't Mind if I Do. It received the best reviews of Boy George's solo career, many of them highlighting his strong song writing abilities. The record was only released in the UK and Japan, and received almost no promotion from Virgin Records, only rising to #147 on the UK album charts.
From 2002 to 2004, under the pseudonym "the Twin", Boy George experimented in electronica, releasing limited edition 7" singles and promo records. Performed in small venues such as the Nag Nag Club, the material was considered innovative, but not commercially marketable. This period, however, was a very creative and liberating one for George; for "the Twin," could sing whatever he wanted. The limited releases included four 500 to 520 copies 7", one limited 12" (for Sanitized) and a promo cd, 1000 copies 13-track album Yum Yum. Two years later, it was released via digital outlets like itunes. An album recorded in the Spring of 2003 was also shelved. A collaboration with electronic combo T-Total, the album was a collection of covers of songs by Jefferson Airplane, David Bowie, John Lennon, Dusty Springfield, T.Rex, and the Eurythmics among others. It is suggested that Boy George's numerous abandoned projects are due to his broad interest and need to explore other creative mediums such as photography, writing, and fashion.
During 2003, he presented a weekly show on London radio station LBC 97.3 for six months. He wrote the foreword for a feng shui book called "Practical Feng Shui" by Simon G. Brown (published in 1998). He also appeared as a guest on the British comedy-talk show The Kumars at No. 42. In March 2005 he was the guest host for an episode of The Friday Night Project, for Channel 4 television.
On his "More Protein" website, George did announce another unreleased album, named Straight, for mid-2005. It was to include tracks like "Panic" and "Talking Love". Fortunately, four tracks were released as a sampler with the book of the same name in 2005. A reggae-ton oriented EP was also planned for August 2006 but was never released. Some recent tracks were shared by George himself in late 2006 and early 2007 on his YouTube account, his three myspace pages and sometimes on his official site.In January 2007, Boy George released "Time Machine" on Plan A Records. "Time Machine" was co-written by double Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter Amanda Ghost who also co-wrote "You're Beautiful" with James Blunt.
On 20 October 2006 it was announced that he will write some tracks for Kylie Minogue (News.com.au story)with Amanda Ghost. The songs eventually were not included on her 2007 album. It was not the first time that George wrote songs to other artists; in the past, he shared compositions with the Beach Boys, Caron Wheeler, Charlotte Church, Mica Paris and many others. He also wrote many of the tracks for the artists on his own dance oriented music label, More Protein, such as Eve Gallagher, Zee Asha, Lippy Lou, and E-Zee Possee.
Boy George has run his own fashion line for some years, namely "B-Rude". B-Rude has shown at fashion shows in London, New-York and Moscow He is working right now on a forthcoming solo LP, which apparently will be including some ragga, reggae, pop and acoustic songs. On 24 December 2006, George appeared on a one-off BBC TV programme "Duet Impossible" where he performed with himself from the 1980s and joked about his street cleaning.
Later in 2007, two electronica/dance collaborations were released in limited editions. In the spring, the track "You're Not The One" was remixed from an old demo and released with the dance combo "Loverush UK" reaching the top 20 in the UK dance chart. It was a digital-only release, available in many digital retailers like iTunes. Also on iTunes, a new collaboration with trip-hop/electro band Dark Globe, called "Atoms", was released on 19 November. The single contains eight versions, from the slow original to electro remixes by Ariya and Henrik Schwarz. That EP would have included new remixes of tracks like "Turn 2 Dust", remixes of covers like "Don't Wanna See Myself" and "Go Your Own Way", and most of the versions included would have been remixes done by German producer Kinky Roland.
On 25 February 2007, George was special guest DJ at GLBT nightspot, The Court Hotel in Perth, Western Australia. On 4 March 2007, George performed as a DJ at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney for the Mardi Gras Festival. On 11 May 2007, George performed as a DJ at the launch party for the Palazzo Versace in Dubai, UAE. George cancelled his planned 2007 October tour via an announcement on his official website. In 2007: George toured as a DJ, visiting Florence, Stuttgart, Rotterdam, Toulouse, Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Syndey, Dubai, Skopje, Niagara Falls, Montreal, Toronto, Cagliari, Blackpool, Coventry, Munich, Naples, Mantova, Lyon, Follonica, Paris, Kristiansand, Noli, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Amsterdam, Beirut, Budapest, Skanderborg, Baia, London, Mykonos, Geneva, Lausanne, Stockholm, Manchester, Brussels, Bologna, Hongkong, Letterkenny, Aix-en-Provence, Reims, Moscow and Genova.
George has played a special residency at the Shaw Theatre in London (in which all shows were sold out) from 23 January 2008, followed by a full UK tour. Boy George will be headlining this years RETROFEST to be held in Scotland August 2008. April 2008, The Biography Channel featured a documentary on the life of Boy George. The North American tour which was planned for July/August 2008 had to be cancelled because he had been denied a United States visa due to a London court case scheduled for November 2008. On 2 July, 6 concert dates in South America were announced. A 30-dates UK tour is scheduled for October/November 2008.
A new single, called "Yes We Can", is announced for 12 October on many digital outlets like itunes. The dance-pop single is considered to have a more commercial sound than many recent projects.
After heavy press coverage in July 1986, Boy George was arrested for heroin possession. Police had code named the project as "Operation Culture" involving the raids of houses and arrests of ex-boyfriend Jon Moss, friend Marilyn, Culture Club backing vocalist Helen Terry, friend Mimi and drug suppliers Ginty and Steve. In 1995, Kirk Brandon, an ex-lover during Boy George's punk days had filed a lawsuit against him for "malicious falsehood" claiming to falsely mentioning a love-affair between them in Boy George's autobiography, Take It Like a Man. George won the suit and Brandon was ordered to pay £200,000 to Virgin Records, EMI Virgin Music and the book publishers for legal costs. Brandon had himself declared bankrupt, which resulted in Boy George paying £60,000+ in legal fees (Boy George with Paul Gorman (2005), Straight, London, Arrow Book).
On 7 October 2005, Boy George was arrested in Manhattan on suspicion of possessing cocaine, (BBC Online Report) and appeared in court on 1 February 2006 (BBC News report). On 17 June 2006, a Manhattan judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Boy George after the former Culture Club singer failed to appear in court. On 14 August 2006, Boy George reported for garbage duty, picking up trash for the New York City Department of Sanitation as part of his community service. As a result of the media coverage, he was allowed to perform his community service inside the Sanitation Department grounds. This garbage duty was assigned by the court for 'wasting police time,' after he admitted to falsely reporting a burglary in his Manhattan apartment.
On 30 April 2007, Boy George was arrested for allegedly assaulting and falsely imprisoning a Norwegian man in his home in East London. On 8 October 2007, Boy George was sued by an American club promoter from Warrington and ordered to pay £31,000 in compensation for loss of earnings. Boy George had cancelled his appearance after being arrested for possession of cocaine, only providing ten days' notice. On 13 November 2007, Boy George was charged with falsely imprisoning a 28-year-old man. He was ordered to appear before a court on 22 November. The Sun newspaper reported in April that a Norwegian man, Audun Carlsen, 28, claimed he was chained and threatened at O'Dowd's London flat, where he had gone as a photo model.
In 2005, Century published Straight, his second autobiographical book, this time written with author Paul Gorman. It stayed in The Sunday Times bestseller list for six weeks. This latter autobiography starts off there where the former had stopped, though the two works are different in style, due to their different co-authors, and all of the chapters do have a title in the 2005 book, while the 1995 autobiography only featured numbered sections.
Gorman has also ghost-written Cry Salty Tears, the memoirs of George's mother Dinah O'Dowd, which was published by Arrow Books, in January 2007. The same year also saw the re-issue of an expanded version of Straight, which was updated so as to include the events that occurred in the two years since its first publication.
In Take It Like A Man, George told his side of his secret relationship with Culture Club drummer Jon Moss (also Kirk Brandon). He stated many of the songs he wrote for Culture Club were directed at Moss. He also alleged that Moss had broken off his engagement with a woman to be with George, and that Moss was never comfortable in a same-sex relationship, although Moss was bisexual.
(¤) not released in the UK
(*) as 'Jesus Loves You' in the UK, 'Boy George' in the U.S., and 'Jesus Loves You-A Project by Boy George' in other territories (other tags had 'Jesus Loves You feat. Boy George', but this officially applies to Love Your Brother only)
(**) as 'Jesus Loves You featuring Boy George'
(***) as 'Dubversive featuring Boy George'