The late George Michael has reached number one for the first time since 1996 as his classic hit ‘Last Christmas’ tops the charts, 36 years after its release.
According to Official Charts, the iconic track, originally released in 1984 as part of Wham! with Andrew Ridgely, has become the first number one of 2021.
Written by George Michael when the star was just 21 years old, 'Last Christmas' is still clearly the world’s favourite Christmas song.
More than three decades after its release, the track has finally successfully climbed to number one in the charts after an impressive 9.2 million streams over the past week.
Prior to reaching top spot Official Charts says it has been the best-selling song (with 1.9 million sales) to never reach number one status.
This is the first time in 24 years that George (born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou) has topped the charts, with his last number one being Jesus to a Child in 1996.
'Last Christmas' is a love song that portrays someone’s first Christmas after a break up and was inspired by a visit to George’s childhood home with Ridgely.
In 2017, Ridgely wrote about how the song came about, saying that “We’d had a bite to eat and were sitting together relaxing with the television on in the background when, almost unnoticed, George disappeared upstairs for an hour or so.
"When he came back down, such was his excitement, it was as if he had discovered gold which, in a sense, he had.
“We went into his old room, the room in which we had spent hours as kids recording pastiches of radio shows and jingles, the room where he kept a keyboard and something on which to record his sparks of inspiration, and he played me the introduction and the beguiling, wistful chorus melody to ‘Last Christmas'
“It was a moment of wonder. George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music.
“Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts," Ridgeley recalled.
‘Last Christmas’ was recorded in the August of 1984 at London’s Advision Studios which was decorated to make it feel more Christmassy.
A one-man project, Michael insisted on playing every instrument on the track, not even allowing his Wham! bandmate Ridgely to interfere.
Sound engineer Chris Porter called it “a painstaking effort” given that George couldn’t actually play most of the instruments.
'Last Christmas' has now set a new record for the longest time taken by a single to ever reach number one after 36 years. This position was previously held by Tony Christie's '(Is This The Way To) Amarillo' which reached the top spot 33 years and four months after its release.
Ridgeley took to Twitter to express his excitement about the song's record achievement, calling it a fitting tribute to George's songwriting genius, one that the artist would have been immensely proud of should he still be alive today.
I am delighted, somewhat amazed & profoundly pleased that WHAM!’s iconic Christmas classic Last Christmas has finally achieved the accolade of becoming a No 1. It’s a fitting tribute 2 George’s songwriting genius and 1 of which he would’ve been immensely proud & utterly thrilled.
— Andrew Ridgeley (@ajridgeley) January 1, 2021
In a statement, Michael’s family have also expressed delight at the news of the Wham” classic reaching number one in the charts, saying that they are “overjoyed”.
“After such a difficult 2020 for all of us and at the time of year that was so special to George we are so grateful to everyone who made this possible and know how much it would have meant to him,” the statement read.
Shocked fans of pop superstar George Michael were devastated when he tragically died in London at age 53 on Christmas Day in 2016.
On that fateful day, Ridgeley had just sent George a message to wish him a wonderful Christmas just five minutes beforehand, when the tragic news of his oldest friend’s reached him.
Saying that he ‘shed an ocean of tears’ George’s Wham! bandmate recalls how his sheer sense of loss literally cut his legs from beneath him and that “on my knees, I cried like I’d never cried before.”
Ridgeley remembered how much George loved Christmas, saying that in the days of Wham!’s success he would host an annual Christmas Eve get-together.
“George liked to be generous, not only to his friends – who each Christmas received hampers packed with seasonal goodies – but, in particular, to those in hardship.
“From major gestures, such as supporting the families of striking miners in the early 1980s (not born of political ideology but as a basic response to the hardships of others), through to many smaller acts of kindness, George’s humanity was a large part of that which made him,” wrote Ridgeley.
Since its release 'Last Christmas' has been covered by 90s Danish pop-star Whigfield and more recently by Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor, Kylie Minogue and Ariana Grande.
In the mid-80s Barry Manilow took Wham! to court over the song, claiming that the melody had been lifted from his own 1978 hit ‘Can’t Smile Without You’. The case was eventually thrown out.