Boy George, 60 years as a pop icon

Boy George, 60 years as a pop icon

Boy George

London nightclubs and the new romantic, global success with Culture Clubs, secret love stories, addictions and a comeback. Birthday-portrait of an artist who never gets bored

(Photo: Koh Hasebe / Shinko Music / Getty Images) He has always enjoyed walking down the street and being stared at. Gay icon, performer, dj, singer, fashion designer. Boy George had a thousand lives in one. A confident, braggart guy, without fear of being the hot blade in the butter of respectability. This, at least, the image he gave because, in reality, especially between the fabulous '80s and' 90s, it was a concentration of fragility which, once it came out like a Pandora's box, led him to prison, to abuse. drugs, but also to decline after a sparkling success. Today, June 14, he turns 60 and, if you take a look at what he did, he could easily have twice as much: he went from London clubs, which launched the new romantic in full post punk, to dancefloors as a DJ, he didn't miss a few trips to the tabloids for the follies caused by drugs. Then the redemption that no longer cared for the paparazzi who followed his every move. In short, Boy George no longer caused a scandal like that time, in Sanremo, in 1984, he made the front pages because at Nice airport they didn't want to let him pass. Reason? According to the airport authorities, the passport contained a photo of a man, but they had a woman in front of them. Ladies and gentlemen here is the life, death and resurrection of Boy George.

Born to be a pink sheep

George Alan O’Dowd aka Boy George exhibitionism has always been in his blood. The boy from Eltham, a district of south London, spent a lonely childhood before becoming one of the pop icons of the 80s, despite a large family of parents and five siblings. More than a black sheep, however, he has always defined himself as a pink sheep. So much so that, as soon as he was given the opportunity, he cut the umbilical cord to the sound of eccentric looks with which he participated in the evenings of the Blitz, the nightclub from which the new romantic cultural movement came to life.

Other than Bow Wow Wow

During the raids at the Blitz Malcolm McLaren - the Deus ex machina of the Sex Pistols and the launch of voguing (before Madonna) thanks to the hit Deep in Vogue - he was intrigued by the presence of Boy George who, in the meantime, he had also ended up in the iD style magazine dressed as a nun with, in his hands, a crucifix that, he said, had been given to him directly by the Vatican. McLaren placed him, under the stage name Lieutenant Lush, as support vocalist for the fledgling band Bow Wow Wow. His presence was not well digested by the other singer Annabella Lwin: the clash was around the corner and the singer left the formation to create his own. So he joined Jamaican bassist Mickey Craig, Anglo-Jewish drummer and percussionist Jon Moss and Anglo-Saxon guitarist and keyboardist Roy Hay. A melting pot that could only take the name of Culture Club. A well-placed demo and debut album, Kissing to Be Clever, in 1982, served. The first two extracts White Boy and I'm Afraid with Me, did not get the expected consensus. He then focused everything on a reggae song that, shortly thereafter, gave the band global success: Do you Really Want To Hurt Me, which reached the top of the UK top 10 and was among the most listened to in the States. Boy George liked everyone, young and old, grandmothers and grandchildren. The consecration came with the second album Colors by Numbers and two songs destined to remain in the history of music Karma Chameleon (on fleeting loves of one night) and the splendid ballad Victims (hymn to homosexual love) in which George talks about his secret relationship with drummer Moss. A love story that went on until 1985. And it had to remain hidden at the behest of the drummer himself. For this, many of the songs of the British formation referred to the clandestine passion between the two components, which generated frustration and engulfed the frontman in a whirlwind of drugs until the separation from Moss. The result? Subsequent albums, Waking Up with the House on Fire and From Luxury to Heart, were disappointing, George's drug addiction became deleterious and the band broke up. The Culture Clubs no longer existed.

Falls and Rises

Boy George's turbulent human and professional life began to be subscribed to tabloid magazines. If on the one hand his solo career and the Sold album achieved some success, on the other there were the problems with justice and addictions that almost led to his death. Despite these ups and downs, he managed to found the More Protein label by setting up Jesus Loves You, an acid jazz, techno and dance music project. The Martyr Mantras album even involved electronic stars Paul Oakenfold and Massive Attack. The results were not like those of Culture Clubs, but Boy George was recovering and that path represented a new path in life.

The return to the mainstream

In 1992, worldwide success returned with the hit The Crying Game included in the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning film The Soldier's Wife by Neil Jordan. After that experience he began a career as a DJ for all of Europe. Five years later, the Culture Clubs reunited to give life to the Storytellers Live concert, which was followed by the release of the Greatest Moments compilation. The new album Don’t Minf If I Do and a celebratory tour for the band's 20 years also arrived. But after all the celebrations the band broke up again.

The relapse

Boy George did not sit idle and went to the musical with Taboo, like Leigh's eponymous club Bowery, an artist who died prematurely who was a friend and a beacon for him. The same singer, in the show, played the role. The show was doing great with a lot of Tony Award nominations in the Best Original Score, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Music categories. The singer jokingly (?) Called himself GOD (from his real name George O'Dowd). Despite the positive feedback, however, George was fighting an unequal battle against his drug addiction: he was arrested in 2005 in Manhattan for a false report of burglary and possession of cocaine. And three years later, in London, he was convicted of assault and drug possession, ending up in prison for four months.


“Have I lost the crown? Will I ever be king again? " , this was a verse from King Of Everything, the single that heralded the return of Boy George. And that again showed the frailties behind the desire to make it. Now Geroge is a different man thanks to Buddhism and a more balanced (vegan) life. He lives in his Victorian gothic house in Hampstead, where Marty Feldman (the Igor of Frankenstein Junior) used to live, has lost pounds, made peace with everyone (even with ex-lover Moss) and completely detoxified. He brought together the Culture Clubs for a tour that celebrated their 30th birthday, he devoted himself to painting, but also to TV as a judge of The Voice in the UK and Australia. He who knows how he will live these 60 years. Probably, behind the mischievous look and rousing laugh he is already planning a way to return to the fore again. Why pink sheep loses its fur, but not its vice.

Boy George in San Diego, California, 2016 (photo: Getty Images)
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