The beginning of his solo career, during early 1987, was a duet with Aretha Franklin. “I Knew You Were Waiting” was a one-off project that helped Michael achieve an ambition by singing with one of his favourite artists, and it scored number one on both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 upon its release.
George Michael performing on stage during the Faith World Tour in 1988
For Michael, it became his third consecutive solo number one in the UK from three releases, after 1984’s “Careless Whisper” (though the single was actually from the Wham! album Make It Big) and 1986’s “A Different Corner”. The single was also the first Michael had recorded as a solo artist which he had not written himself. The co-writer, Simon Climie, was unknown at the time, although he would have success as a performer with the band Climie Fisher in 1988. Michael and Aretha Franklin won a Grammy Award in 1988 for Best R&B Performance – Duo or Group with Vocal for the song.
Main article: Faith (George Michael album)
During the autumn of 1987, Michael released his first solo album, Faith. In addition to playing a large number of instruments on the album, he wrote and produced every track on the recording, except for one, which he co-wrote.
The first single released from the album was “I Want Your Sex”, during the summer of 1987. The song was banned by many radio stations in the UK and US, due to its sexually suggestive lyrics. MTV would broadcast the video, featuring celebrity make-up artist Kathy Jeung in a basque and suspenders, only during the late night hours. Michael argued that the act was beautiful if the sex was monogamous. Michael even recorded a brief prologue for the video in which he said: “This song is not about casual sex.” One of the racier scenes involved Michael writing the words “explore monogamy” on his partner’s back in lipstick. Some radio stations played a toned-down version of the song, “I Want Your Love,” which was mainly the word “love” replacing “sex.”
When “I Want Your Sex” reached the US charts, American Top 40 host Casey Kasem refused to say the song’s title, referring to it only as “the new single by George Michael.” In the US, the song was also sometimes listed as “I Want Your Sex (from Beverly Hills Cop II)”, since the song was featured on the soundtrack of the movie. Despite censorship and radio play problems, “I Want Your Sex” reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 in the UK.
The second single, “Faith”, was released during October 1987, just a few weeks before the album. “Faith” would become one of his most popular songs. The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and maintained that position for four consecutive weeks. It also reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart. The famous video provided some definitive images of the 1980s music industry in the process—Michael in shades, leather jacket, cowboy boots, and Levi’s jeans, playing a guitar near a classic-design jukebox.