Boy George

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Boy George

George Alan O'Dowd (born June 14, 1961), better known as Boy George, is a famous gay singer, musician, and DJ who gained a degree of fame with his group Culture Club in the 1980s.


Early Life

George, the son of a builder (Jeremiah) and his wife (Dinah), was born in Eltham, London, England. George O'Dowd grew up in an Irish Catholic household in South London with four brothers and one sister.

As a teenager, he began experimenting with cross-dressing in a feminine style, often using long hair and make-up, a fact that did not seem to bother his family.

Musical Career

George's androgynous style caught the attention of music executive Malcolm McLaren, who arranged for George to appear as Lieutenant Lush in a theater concert with Annabella Lwin. Although George and Lwin's act didn't last long, it did introduce George to former DJ Mikey Craig, with whom he created a duo named In Praise Of Lemmings, with Craig playing bass guitar. Shortly after, Adam Ant drummer Jon Moss and guitarist Roy Hay came into the mix, and they changed the name of the band to Culture Club.

The band's breakthrough hit in the UK was "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?", which enjoyed wide exposure on the music station, MTV. This was followed by "Time (Clock Of The Heart)" and the debut album "Kissing To Be Clever". In 1983, the band had their biggest year, dominating the singles charts with "Church Of The Poison Mind"; "Karma Chameleon" (the biggest selling single of the year, which had six weeks at No.1) and "Victims". The corresponding album, "Colour By Numbers", was a massive seller and spawned a fourth and final single, "It's A Miracle" in early 1984.

George's striking looks inspired many a Boy George look-alike contest around the world, and George's face became the image of Culture Club in many fans' minds. He became a sort of alternative teen idol, and had the extravagant lifestyle to go with it. Part of his unique appeal was attributed to his wit and charisma; he is responsible for one of the 1980s' most famous quotes - I prefer a nice cup of tea to sex - and his distinctive, soulful voice.

By 1984 Boy George's fame was so widespread and immense that he became a household name in over 25 countries. Along with Diana Princess of Wales he was the most photographed person on the planet.

In 1983, a Boy George look-alike caused a sensation when he arrived at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Members of the press believed him to be Boy George, causing one of Puerto Rican press largest bloopers ever. It turned out to be a Boy George lookalike contest winner from Chicago, who was enjoying his award: a trip to Puerto Rico.

At the end of 1984, George appeared, orange-haired, on the Band Aid single to benefit Ethiopia's children, performing the second line of the song after Paul Young sang the first. The band flew in on Concorde from New York especially for the recording at the SARM studios. They arrived 12 hours after everyone else, meaning that George was the last to record his vocals and they were absent from the official Band Aid photograph.

In 1986, he guest-starred on an episode of The A-Team titled "Cowboy George."

But with all that success, trouble also loomed. For a long time George denied his homosexuality, then later declared himself to be bisexual. His sexual lifestyle became the target of much tabloid newspaper speculation, and eventually he stated he was simply gay. During this time also, he became a drug addict, and an American friend who was visiting his London mansion was found dead after a night of using heroin. His brother went on UK national television and blew the whistle on him, in a desperate attempt to get him to leave the world of drugs. George had recently collapsed on stage at a benefit concert. He finally quit using heroin in 1987, after an ultimatum was given to him by his doctor: either he'd stop using drugs, or he'd die in less than three months.

At the same time, Culture Club was dissolved, and his solo hit "Everything I Own" became a No.1 hit in the UK. Many of his following releases were produced to protest the UK's anti-homosexual bill of Clause 28. In 1989, George formed his own label, named More Protein, and a band named Jesus Loves You, a tribute to the Christianity that helped him overcome his drug problem. Much of Jesus Loves You's material was life-celebrating stuff, including the hit "Bow Down Mister", which was attributed to George's belief in the Hare Krishna movement.

Life after Culture Club

In 1992, George saw a resurgence in his career with his cover version of the song "The Crying Game", which was featured on the movie of the same name and was a top twenty hit in the US. He then produced Cheapness And Beauty a few years later. From that album, he released his version of the Iggy Pop song "Funtime", which coincided with his autobiography Take It Like A Man.

Boy George continues to remain a global pop icon and one of the world's most successful music DJ's, despite radio stations around the world (especially US & Britain) giving him little play thus limiting the impact of his new music. He once again started touring the world as a DJ in the late 1990s and starred in the London musical Taboo. This musical has been a huge success in London's West End.

During 2003 he presented a weekly show on London's LBC radio for 6 months.

George has been reported by fans who have met him in person to be an avid autograph signer.

In August 1994 a British court tossed out a paternity suit filed against Boy George by a California woman.

Harper Collins published the autobiography of Boy George, Take It Like A Man, in 1995. In it, George spoke of his relationship with Kirk Brandon, singer with Spear of Destiny, who began a High Court action against George. Friends and family who knew both men during that time, admit that Brandon was being ridiculous. It was well known around the late '70s punk scene just how 'close' the pair really were, although Brandon was never comfortable with that side of his sexuality.

George, taking the witness stand, faced a "malicious falsehood" charge brought against him by Brandon, now married and a father, who denied that he once had a sexual relationship with George. The irate accuser insisted that although the two young men had shared a bed for a time, there had been no erotic activity between them as is said in the book. Justice Douglas Brown found Brandon's testimony unconvincing.

George's witnesses testified that Brandon and he had conducted what was called "a brief, passionate and turbulent physical homosexual affair" in the months between 1980-81. In this period, Boy George was 19-20 years old. The witnesses said they'd seen the two behaving happily like "a couple", and the trial judge found such testimony to be "overwhelming evidence" that there had been, in fact, such a relationship.

Brandon, currently without funds, now owes 200,000 pounds for representing himself in court against Boy George and three publishers: Virgin Records, EMI Virgin Music and Sidgwick and Jackson. Even so, he says, he's not through suing. He'll try again rather than accepting the judge's decision. He is not prepared, as observers have noted, to "Take It Like a Man."

The judge told Brandon that although he felt him to be a decent and talented man, that he felt Brandon had lied about his relationship with George. In court, tears filled Boy George's eyes when Justice Brown said, "Mr. O'Dowd was clearly not malicious in stating that which he knew to be true...the allegations of malice are quite hopeless and should never have been brought."

During the trial, Boy George had claimed that Kirk Brandon had been the love of his life and that he still loved him. After the verdict, however, he said that he now feels nothing for Brandon, whose "lies" had hurt a number of people.

In his book, George also told his side of his secret relationship with Culture Club drummer Jon Moss. He alleged that Moss had broken off his engagement to be with George, but Moss was never comfortable with the relationship. At the time, the other band members denied knowing about their secret affair, despite many of the band's lyrics being aimed at Moss, especially the songs "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" and "Karma Chameleon." However, in retrospect, they admit it was more a case of not wanting to accept it. Roy Hay, the band's keyboard and guitar player now says "I didn't want to go there! I wanted to be in a rock group––not a bloody gay drama."

In July 1998, a reunited Culture Club performed three dates in Monte Carlo and then joined Human League and Howard Jones in a "Big Rewind" tour of the US. The following month, the band appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and made an appearance in Britain, their first in 14 years. Later that year, the band had a Top Ten hit in the UK with "I Just Wanna Be Loved".

In 1998, Boy George began writing a weekly column in The Daily Express and hosted a weekly radio show on the Galaxy Radio Network.

In April 2002, Madonna wrote a note to George demanding that he remove a modified version of her 1990 song "Vogue" from his West End musical Taboo. Madonna was reportedly displeased that George had taken the liberty not only of using her song but of changing the lyrics - to "Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, that Madonna, dyes her hair."

"I thought she was having a joke," George recalled of the note. "I used to think she was an icon but she's more i-sore to me now."

Current activity

Radio Stations in Britain and the United States have appeared to have placed an unofficial ban on Boy George's new releases but he remains a true global pop icon and successful DJ.

Boy George has also sung "Bow Down Mister" with the Indian songstress Asha Bhosle.

He has also recently appeared as a guest on the British comedy-talk show The Kumars at No. 42.

In 2005 he published "Straight" in Britain, his second autobiographical book. He lives in Manhattan.


(London newspaper, 1984: "I'm not gay, and I'm not a transvestite.") (at other times he has characterized himself as "bisexual", "very confused", "not confused", and "not really all that keen on sex". He has also stated "I have never penetrated a woman in my life."


See also Culture Club


  • Bright, Spencer and George, Boy (1995) Take It Like a Man: Autobiography of Boy George. London: Harpercollins. ISBN 0060173688
  • George, Boy (2005) Straight. London: Century. ISBN 1844133907
  • George, Boy and Brown, Draganna (2001) Karma Cookbook. London: Carroll & Brown. ISBN 1903258162

External links

de:Boy George nl:Boy George sv:Boy George


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